Whatever happened to …

PCGlobe?

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This was one of the first curricular pieces of software that this Computer Science teacher installed on the Unisys Icon network in my classroom.  Sure, it was a DOS application but it ran nicely in the DOS emulator that sat on top of the QNX operating system.  It only required 16 colours and CGA graphics.  For nostalgia, check out:  http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=971

Once installed, I ended up sharing the computers with the Geography teacher for a unit so that his students could explore the software (and the world).

In my Computer Science class, we worked it for every angle that I could think of.  

  • It was one of the first applications we used that actually put the trackball to use as a mouse emulator in DOS;
  • With the hands of a surgeon, we could name a country (middle European worked nicely) and try to put the cross hairs over a country to get the details from the application.  You could see it move from pixel to pixel.  Switzerland was always a favourite;
  • We borrowed a print atlas and encyclopaedia from the library and compared the answers from there to the electronic version for accuracy and depth of information;
  • It was probably the first in-depth application of a database that students experienced electronically.  Sure, they had worked with the goofy 10 entry examples in class but here we had the world;
  • The database actually led to a project.  Dividing students into groups, they used some of the information there (and from the traditional atlas) to build our own “comprehensive” database, stored it in ASCII format, and then wrote some programs to query that database.  It led to some authenticity to their coding;
  • We talked about the importance of a database administrator for keeping the database accurate.  Sure, the database was good the moment that it went into production but population and even countries and their borders would change by the time it shipped.  It’s even more important today.  Check out the two screen captures below from Google Maps and Bing Maps of downtown Amherstburg.  Provincial highway 18 used to run through the town; now it’s Country Road 20.  One for the nostalgia fans!

  • It served as inspiration for one of my first computer curriculum writing projects – “PCGlobe Across the Curriculum”.  We milked the information there for every idea and cross-curricular concept that we could;
  • We had used PCGlobe 3.0 and 5.0 and they worked nicely.  A later version, PCGlobe Maps-N-Facts, wasn’t purchased.

At the time, it was a truly ground breaking application, opening doors for ideas and implementation is classrooms other than Geography.

I think it’s also a perfect example of something being made obsolete by followup technology.  The internet with its back end ability to make changes, political and geographically, almost instantly made installing a static atlas just a fond memory.  Now, “See how borders change on Google Maps depending on where you are“.

Today’s teachers will either:

  • remember using PCGlobe as a tool in their classroom – it might even have been used at an education faculty;
  • or, remember using PCGlobe as a student.

So, a few questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • what does an atlas/encyclopaedia look like in today’s connected classroom?
  • when you need the information traditionally delivered by an atlas/encyclopaedia, where do you look?
  • has your district licensed a product that you use regularly for this purpose?  If so, what is it and would you recommend it for others?
  • in today’s world with changing political situations, who do you trust for the latest, non-biased results?

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