Any Doubt About Change?

If you have any doubts as to whether we’re getting better about doing whatever it is we’re doing, take a look into the past, appreciate that the efforts then were ground breaking at the time, and then look at where we are today.

That was a moment that I had yesterday morning.  I had read an article talking about MS-DOS software being available in the Internet archive.  I loved MS-DOS software.  Yes, it was slow to load from a floppy disk, you had to make sure that you had backups in case the disk went bad but the stuff just worked.  You didn’t really have to consider video drivers or connected devices.  The block graphics looked so high tech and operation was done through the keyboard which was working already.

I clicked through to read the story “Now you can play 2,400 MS-DOS classics in your browser“.  This led to a collection of classic programs in the Internet Archive where you run them right in your browser.  That was kind of all right.  I’m using Firefox and Ubuntu – let’s give it a shot.

I scrolled through the titles – holy smokes, we were a little forgiving towards violence and stereotypes in software titles and implementation.  Am I ready to wear out another keyboard playing with these?  Hmmm.

I fell into a link called the “MS-DOS Showcase“.  It was an interesting collection of titles but one leaped out at me.

Mario Teaches Typing

1992.  It doesn’t seem that long ago!  Uh oh.  Just did the math.  That was a long time ago.

This was a marriage of education and entertainment.  Can anyone remember the term “edutainment”?

I can’t remember the exact details but we had a whole group of people who wanted it licensed for school use.  If I recall correctly, one school had already bought licenses. 

At the time, we were clinging to the notion that everyone needed the ability to type to be computer literate.  (The concept of 21st Century skills was still years away).  The popular understanding was that we should teach the way that we learned.  Everyone who learned to type learned by doing repetitive activities until they got it.  This game took that technique into the world of Mario but added computer logic behind it.  Interacting with the program involved focussing on certain keys and there was a gaming concept of jumping, hopping, and collecting rewards.

Those like me who are even longer in the tooth learned how to type by having a typing book off to the side of the, gasp typewriter, and we were using keyboards where all of the letters were replaced with blank keys.  These were the educational versions of the typewriter!  With Mario’s edition, you did have your regular keyboard but you didn’t need to look at it – you were so fixed on the awesome graphics and gaming and trying to beat scores.

Anyone up for a game of retro-typing?

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3 Replies to “Any Doubt About Change?”

  1. I feel about typing the way some people feel about cursive – I wish we still taught it. 🙂 I will be sharing Mario with my own kids (whose parents made them do Mavis Beacon typing drills).

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  2. I’ve been having lots of conversations with colleagues about whether or not typing is a necessary literacy. I find touch typing a very useful skill; I’m just not sure that everyone needs to touch type in the same way (home row, etc.).

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