Computers and Education: Pseudo Era

I have long said that I type faster than I write. This has been especially notable when it comes to tasks that require both speed and accuracy, like taking notes in class. While it’s not uncommon these days to see a college classroom filled with glowing laptops of various sorts, using a computer for education is not a new thing for me. In fact, it started pretty much as early as Mario taught me to type. Over the course of my educational career, I’ve had the chance to use some, shall we say, interesting computing platforms.

Brother Power Note

I started using a computer to take notes as early as elementary school. The first “computer” I used in this respect was a Brother Super Power Note. I’m not sure how this brick of a computer came into my possession, probably via a family friend that had finished using it. The biggest thing I remember about it was the black-and-green LCD display, which had an odd interface that looked like a three-ring binder. I have a memory (more of a fragment, really) of me sitting at a counter along the periphery of some elementary school classroom with this thing plugged into the wall. Thus began my journey, which continues to this day, of searching for seats with easy access to power outlets.


In middle school and early high school, things improved a bit. If nothing else, the “computer as learning accommodation” thing was not as unheard of. As such, I actually got some official support from the school. This came in the form of access to an AlphaSmart, a basic word processor that wasn’t much more than a keyboard with a tiny LCD screen that showed about three lines of text at a time. It saved notes as a regular TXT file, which had to be regularly offloaded to a more capable desktop computer. My big memory of this one is of me tapping away in biology class while the other students scribbled in their big binders. That, and the odd gray-green color of the plastic housing. Since these were school property, I couldn’t really take them home, but I think my parents were able to get me one on a more semi-permanent loan.

IBM Workpad z50

The Workpad z50 was the closest thing I had to a “real” laptop in high school. It even ran a version of Windows! True it was Windows CE, but it finally included Microsoft (Pocket) Office! It was light, portable, and had a large (at the time) color screen. It still wasn’t a standalone computing platform, but it felt the closest to one I had been able to use so far. I remember having a lot of fun customizing the look and feel of the OS. I wonder what happened to this one? Last I remember, it was in the bottom of my brother’s closet, refusing to turn on.

To be continued tomorrow…