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Updated high school computer course

Kenneth John Odle 2 years ago
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@ -252,6 +252,42 @@ I hope you really like that meal, because you're going to be eating it every day
\section{High School Computer Class}
I went to high school in a very small,\footnote{We had one stoplight when I left there in 1990. I visited a few years ago, and they are now up to three stoplights. Progress.} very rural, very midwestern small town. My graduating class was 55 people, 51 of which actually managed to show up to graduation. (I showed up to graduation with a black eye, but that's another story for another zine. Also, our class president got on a plane the day after graduation, flew to California, and moved to a pot farm. That's the story, anyway.) We only had two high school science teachers: Mr. Fusko, who taught all the biology classes and Mr. Dick, who taught chemistry, physics, and advanced mathematics.\footnote{His real name; I'm not kidding. His first name was Joe, which means that I learned a lot of chemistry, physics, and advanced mathematics from Joe Dick. He was the nicest guy in the world, though. I can't remember the name of the math class I had with him my senior year. It was probably Finite Math, but who knows? I don't remember anything about matrices, but it damn sure wasn't an accounting class.}
Mr. Dick also taught computers.
This was the mid 1980s, and my very small, very rural, very redneck filled high school had a computer lab. In reality, it wasn't an \textit{actual} computer lab. It was just a room where they took all the student desks out, replaced them with chairs and tables, and plopped computers on them. Our high school had been built in the 1960s, when computers took up an entire wing of a building. Nobody thought to design a classroom with more than four outlets in those days, so there were wires everywhere.
Still, it had computers in it, and that's what counts.
I don't know if I actually was able to take a computer class with Mr. Dick or not. I remember spending a lot of time in that room, but as a nerdy kid with a crappy family and not much of a social life, it's only natural that I would have migrated here during my free time before school, after school, during lunch hour, or whenever I decided to skip class (which was often). I remember that this room had a \textit{lot} of Trash-80s in it, with they dark silver metallic cases and black highlights, but it also had five or six CP/M machines in it, with their off-white cases and their neon green displays. (Does anybody remember CP/M? Does anybody remember laughter?\footnote{You may remember this from a Led Zeppelin song, but I always remember the version by \textit{Dread} Zeppelin. It's one of the few cases where I feel the cover is better than the original.}
Anyway, if I did take a computer class with Mr. Dick, it was a very pale experience compared to my seventh grade experience,\footnote{See the first issue of this zine.} because I don't remember it at all. No doubt there was a curriculum\footnote{Not a bad thing when well done, but years of experience teaching have proven to me that these things are largely designed to take any and all fun out of learning.} for the class, complete with quizzes, assignments, tests, and long lists of vocabulary to memorize. It would have been completely dreadful and I would have hated it, and would have naturally forced all remnants of it from my memory, so that I would have room for terrible memories of terrible jobs.
Here's the flip side though. Let's assume I \textit{didn't} have a computer class with Mr. Dick. In that case, what I have are very fond memories of a room that I should not have had access to but was welcome to. For a very narrow spot in the space-time continuum, there a place where I was welcomed and people were okay with me just wandering around and pushing buttons.\footnote{I have for a very long time wanted to write a science fiction story about an alien race who loves pushing buttons so much that they build devices that are essentially just buttons to push that do absolutely nothing. Imagine a PlayStation controller without the actual PlayStation.}
Considering the huge problem that the modern tech industry faces with inclusivity and diversity, I feel pretty lucky to have had the opportunity that I need. We need to create more of these places. Maker spaces are becoming a thing, and I hope that they are as warm and inviting as I remember that earlier space to be. Tech should open a lot of doors for a lot of people who normally find themselves locked out of opportunities, but tech is \textit{expensive} and these costs are gatekeepers in too many instances.\footnote{Which is one reason that I am interested in getting a Raspberry Pi and playing around with it, but in this case, I lack time, not money.}
If Oprah were really interested in changing the world, instead of handing out cars to a few hundred members of her studio audience, \footnote{Watch it while it lasts: \href{}{\texttt{}}} she should be handing out Raspberry Pis and Arduinos to hundreds of thousands of poor kids. But her viewers understand cars, not Raspberry Pis and Arduinos, and Oprah does not what is good for society, but what is good for her bottom line. (The real privilege in getting a free car from Oprah is that you are able to actually take time off from your job and your life and go to Chicago to attend a taping of her show. But nobody really thinks about \textit{that}.)
It saddens me that we are now at a price point where technology should be able to transform the lives of millions of people, and free them from the situation they are in now. I know a lot of people say that kids are so much more comfortable with technology now, but this really isn't a great thing. When I was a kid, you used technology to change your life. There wasn't a lot of technology, so it basically boiled down to learning how to use an extremely slow computer to do tasks you'd rather not do, and using a VCR to record shows so that you could watch them at a late time, and duplicating cassettes and creating mix-tapes. As I grew into young adulthood, and started teaching, I saw more and more how kids could use computers to do a lot of that. Mix-tapes were replaced by mix-CDs.
Now it's the other way around: technology manipulates you. Websites (I'm thinking of Amazon here, as they are the best at it, but plenty of other websites do this as well) now \textit{tell} you what you want to buy. You can buy things on subscription, so that you don't have to think any more. Streaming services control what you watch or listen to. No longer can you just walk into a record store or a video store and get what you actually want. People have become addicted to their phones in a way I'd never imagined possible. (If you are ahead of me at a red light, and the light turns green, but you don't go because you don't notice it because you're looking at your phone, believe me—I \textit{will} let you know that the light is now green and you can proceed through the intersection. Oh yes, indeed will I let you know.)
Advertisements are everywhere, on every app, on every streaming service. They are constantly telling you that you need this product or this service, and it becomes very difficult to screen that out, so much so that even drunk purchasing is being a substantial part of the economy.\footnote{\href{}{\texttt{}}, \href{}{\texttt{ \\ amazon-is-prime-territory-for-drunk-shoppers-2019-03-25}}, \href{}{\texttt{https://www.techtim \\}}.} Before, you had to leave your house to get manipulated into buying something, now you don't even have to leave the house. You can literally shop yourself out of house and home without ever leaving your home.
What was promulgated as a potential servant, ever willing and able to come to our assistance, has now become our master. For more about this, I've created a YouTube playlist that you can watch here:
It's amazing how in many ways, we've far surpassed the technological capacities we imagined earlier, but rather than freeing up our time to improve ourselves (in true \textit{Star Trek} style), we are merely slaves to our own creations. I shudder to think how ``Hotel California'' has become a daily reality for so many of us.
\chapter{A Scanner Clearly, or More Thoughts on Being an Archivist}
In the first issue of this zine, I wrote about a basic workflow for archiving books through scanning them into pdf files. While I covered about everything I wanted to cover on the computer end of things, I barely talked at all about the physical labor that goes into scanning a book. For those who are interested, here's what happens behind the scenes before you even get to the computer.
@ -447,6 +483,8 @@ And that's it. Just about anything you type often on the command line can be tur
\chapter{What's to Like About Linux?}
% \includegraphics[scale=0.23]{Unix_timeline_en}\footnote{From \href{\_timeline.en.png}{\texttt{\_timeline.en.png}}}
I have an app on my phone called ``The Stoic'' that shows quotations from various Stoic philosophers. As I was working on this issue, this popped up:



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