Monday, July 12, 2021

SRA, Golden Books, and Card Catalogs

I took this picture in the hallway of our office.  What a great collection of classic educational materials....

A Library card catalog,  a SRA box and a Golden Book
A Library card catalog,  a SRA box and a Golden Book

Sitting on a classic elementary school card catalog, there is a box of the SRA materials with an old Golden Book and just the corner of an old World Book Encyclopedia.  Does that bring back memories or what?

This is part of the RetroEdTech collection curated by the Mayor of VocabularySpellingCity and housed in the VocabularySpelllingCity offices.  For more info on each items:

Card Catalogs - Card catalogs were the key to every school and public library.  Users could look up books by either author or title and then find them on the shelves. They conceptual organization was the Dewey Decimal System and each library had its own physical layout and maps to where to find the books.  (Quoting from Wikipedia). The Dewey Decimal Classification organizes library materials by discipline or field of study. Main divisions include philosophy, social sciences, science, technology, and history. The scheme is made up of ten classes, each divided into ten divisions, each having ten sections. The system's notation uses Arabic numbers, with three whole numbers making up the main classes and sub-classes and decimals creating further divisions. The classification structure is hierarchical and the notation follows the same hierarchy. Libraries not needing the full level of detail of the classification can trim right-most decimal digits from the class number to obtain a more general classification.[39] For example:
500 Natural sciences and mathematics
510 Mathematics
516 Geometry
516.3 Analytic geometries
516.37 Metric differential geometries
516.375 Finsler Geometry
As I read about the Dewey Decimal System today, I think of the original web directories such as Yahoo and DMOZ and wonder whether they used or leveraged the Dewey System. BTW, Yahoo's directory shut down in 2014, DMOZ in 2017 per Wikipedia.

Golden Books - The Golden Books are a great collection of kids books both story books and informational text. The Poky Little Puppy was the most popular and a particular favorite of mine.  We had the 45 record of it which I remember listening to time and time again. 

SRA - Did personalized instruction start with those SRA reading cards and boxes that were so popular in the 1960s and 70s?  Probably not since the old one room school houses and many other educational systems presumably had systems for perssonalized or student-paced instruction. But SRA was probably a major milestone in that it was broadly used and had a defined widely used system for student paced and individualized reading. The SRA box, properly called the Reading Library Kits from  Scientific Reading Associates, was a widely used system developed by Don Parker for personalizing learning and having students take some ownership of their reading.    I'd like to research this more but here's a few notes from Audrey Waters Hacked Education Blog on SRA.

The cards were purposefully designed as an alternative to whole class instruction, so that students could focus on activities aimed at their particular (reading) level and move forward at their own pace. “I wanted, somehow, to individualize instruction,” Parker says in his story. Individualized instruction is often branded as “personalization....

The SRA Reading Laboratory Kit was first published in 1957, with a suggested sale price of $39.95 per box. IBM acquired SRA in 1964. It sold SRA to Maxwell Communications Company in 1988, and when the latter tried to stage a hostile takeover of CTB/McGraw-Hill the following year, the SRA assets became part of a new company, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.
McGraw-Hill continues to publish the SRA Reading Laboratory – in print and as software – to this day. Over 127 million children have used the product.

If you like this nostalgia, you might like reading about dictionaries and Encyclopedias.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Edison Gold Moulded Records - Very Early Record Players

 Here's a question that almost nobody seems to wonder about it except me.  What came first, the first voice recording or the first telephone call?

The first call - at least as far as most history books go - was by Thomas Edison in 1876 who summoned his assistant with the famous line: "Watson, come here, I need you.".  

The first recording seems to have been in the decades before in France but it might not count since the recording was not intended to be played back. It was intended by the inventor to be traced and looked at, a little like a photograph of the voice.

If we only focus on Edison, he made his first phone call a year before he first recorded and played back his first sounds.  

A decade later, Edison launched his business selling his recording and playback devices.

In 1902,  the Edison Gold Moulded system went on a sale and in 2015, I bought myself one along with some of the wax cylinders. It is sadly not in working condition.  

Introducing my Edison Gold Moulded Record Machine. It basically has a cyclinder with the recording on it which spins, a needle that follows a groove. The needle connects to a metal tube which progressively expands like the end of a trumpet which amplifies the sound like a cheerleader’s megaphone. Incredibly simple!

Edison Gold Moulded Records
Edison Phonograph Cylinders

I started reading about it on the University of California website. Here's a little info:

The "Gold-Moulded" process, developed in 1902, significantly ameliorated these limitations (ed: uneven quality, limited number of quality copies etc). The process involved creating a metal mould from a wax master; a brown wax blank could then be put inside the resulting mould and subjected to a preestablished and precisely calibrated level of heat. As the blank expanded, the grooves would be pressed into the blank, and after cooling, the newly moulded cylinder could be removed from the mould. The "gold" from its namesake is derived from the trace levels of the metal that were applied as a conductive agent in creating the initial mould from the wax master. With Edison Gold-Moulded cylinders, playback speed was standardized at 160 revolutions per minute (RPM). The number of grooves on gold-moulded cylinders remained the same as for brown wax cylinders, at 100 TPI, or threads per inch.

Want to see: