Brainwashing Machine? Or what?
February 9, 2010 8:09 PM   Subscribe

What is the terminal-type thing I used in a New York State elementary school in the mid- to late-70s and early 80s?

I was reminiscing earlier today about early schooling; mimeographs (ooh! purple-blue nose from huffing that fresh ditto!) and filmstrips (with the tinny cassette accompaniment and the BOOP to advance the slide) and I remembered something I haven't given a thought to in thirty years.

I don't remember much, but I remember sitting at a largish machine, similar to a microfilm reader-- it also could've been a CRT, my memory is fuzzy. One wore big headphones, and responded to a series of questions-- I'm not sure whether this was diagnostic testing couched as "fun," or some sort of educational paradigm. The user input was a few chunky buttons-- this was pre- TRS-80's and Commodores.

This was roughly 1976-198x. I cannot, unfortunately, remember any of the content of the modules.

I searched some retro computing sites, found nothing-- I don't even know what to look for.

Pictures would be super rad, mint, awesome.
posted by exlotuseater to Education (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That sounds exactly like the hearing/vision testing we went through yearly in elementary school. It was more than "what letter do you see?" and I remember involving early-computer-style cartoons (almost Pac-Man-like) and it feeling like a game, and the gigantic, pillowy headphones we wore. This was in the South, in Catholic school, in the early '90s, though--but most of our teaching equipment seemed pretty outdated, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same machine.
posted by sallybrown at 8:35 PM on February 9, 2010

Best answer: Your description kind of reminds me of something in kindergarten called System 80. There's some info about its development and workings in this document (starting around page 6). I think it was about phonics or related stuff. Here's a 1975 picture of a kid at one such machine.
posted by PY at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2010

Response by poster: SYSTEM 80 FTW. PY, you are exactly right. the picture with the 5 buttons-- that. is. it. You made my day. Ask MetaFilter is amazing. Second answer, within 40 minutes.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:53 PM on February 9, 2010

Response by poster: I even remember teachers saying "you want to go use a System 80?" and it was like a treat.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:54 PM on February 9, 2010

Response by poster: also, from PY's first link: "the original System 80 was developed via an active, six-year, in-house research program under the sponsorship of the Borg-Warner Corporation. System 80 emphasized the need for individualized instruction by allowing the individual child to set his or her own pace of learning. It was widely used by American school systems in the 1970s for both reading and math instruction. The modern LLS computer program is based on this instructional design, and LLS was created to provide teachers the ability to assess student performance for phonemic awareness and phonic skills in a rapid manner that took advantage of classroom computers."

Borg-Warner. heh heh.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a picture of me using one in my Kindergarten yearbook in 1986. I had no memory what it was for though.
posted by yeti at 6:37 AM on February 10, 2010

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