501: My First Memory of an Educational Technology: BASIC on an Apple II computer

February 1, 2010 Justin Miscellaneous

My first memory of an educational technology was using the BASIC programming language in first grade. There were only a few Apple IIe machines, and the nearest ones were in the next classroom, so the teacher sent us over in groups of 5 or 6 at a time to work on the project. I even remember the first program my teacher had the students create:

30 GOTO 20

The result was seeing the screen filled with endless “BOO-HOOs” line after line — the “LITTLE BO-PEEP” line was only noticed with a quick eye — and a group of gasping, excited 7 year-olds.

That was my first exposure to an educational technology, and my first introduction to programming. I don’t recall any instruction in BASIC after that, but not long after this exercise, my parents bought me an Atari 1200XL and a BASIC programming manual. I started learning more about how programs follow logical patterns, how algorithms can be used to achieve desired results, how to perform simple mathematical calculations, and even how to create the most simple games. What was extremely helpful were the issues of 3-2-1 Contact magazine I received which contained BASIC programs other readers had written. Whenever a new issue came in the mail, I would boot up the computer and feverishly copy the lines of code out of the magazine, anxious to see the results.

It’s kind of funny that I ended up becoming a programmer by profession. It makes me wonder if my career would have turned out differently if my teacher had decided not to have her students type up those little three lines of code 23 years ago.


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