Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.
Clearing the decks and my back up of the Internet
January 20th, 2008

During the last few weeks Shao Ping and I have been re-organising our home. Following that downpour in December we decided that it was not such a good idea to have so much stuff downstairs. Our neighbour Dale who helped us to quickly move a lot of stuff upstairs agreed. We had created a rather nice study downstairs where we had our books, records, CDs and files. It was a nice place to escape. There was a sofa and a good desk.

But when that water started flowing in and we had to start shifting all the stuff closest to the floor upstairs it was essentially a pain. Now, we really do not want to go through that again so the books are coming upstairs. Maybe that downpour will not happen again. Maybe it will. Given climate change I am not willing to take that risk. I am yet to sort out the records. I am going to sell some on eBay. Many of them are bootlegs by David Bowie.

Yesterday I went through boxes of old files. I even found stuff going back to my days in the ANZ bank as a young bloke. My training assignments, notebooks and guides were all there. I ended up in the audit department and that was quite enjoyable as I was able to travel far and wide as myself and other auditors inspected groups of branches in diverse regions. I would find myself in one horse towns that normally I would not get the chance to visit.

I thought I had cleared out most of that material before our move to Singapore years ago but there it was. I spent all of yesterday going through the files and most of them went into our paper recycling bin. Even old assignments from university, and paper work from my time at the Interactive Multimedia Learning Laboratory at the University of Wollongong. Time to let go. I kept a few files that were either typical or special but that was it. About 6 packing boxes of stuff was reduced to a small box. The rest will be recycled. I still have two more filing cabinets to go. Some of the old newspapers and historical documents I will take to school.

At one stage I was employed by the university to train at least two teachers from every school in the region how to use the Internet. The trained teachers would be the Internet Contact Persons for that school. Every Tuesday and Thursday a group of teachers would come to the university and I would teach them how to use Netscape, Alta Vista, gopher searches, etc and the various ways one could go ‘back’.

Now, you may find this difficult to believe but I always carried a back up of the Internet with me on a number of floppy discs when my training took me to sites other than the university. I had used the software WebWhacker to completely download some web sites including Volcano WorldThe Nine Planets and a couple of others. I copied the folders to a set of floppy discs. Of course I could not do that today as these web sites have increased dramatically in size. Back in 1996 and 1997 it was possible.

I was conducting a training session at the University of Wollongong’s Shoalhaven campus at Berry on the south coast of NSW. We were using some Windows PCs running Windows 3.1 if I remember correctly. Might have been Windows 95 but I doubt it. There was a great storm and a lightning strike broke our connection with the Internet.

We decided to have a tea break and I placed the contents of the floppy discs on the server. The participants copied those folders to the computers and they simply clicked on the index.htm file for each web site’s folder to explore that web site. As a result they could learn how to use the Netscape browser. They could learn all of the buttons and most of the menu items. They could still learn how to download images and text. Just about the only thing they could not do was conduct a search.

Later that day the connection to the Internet was restored and the participants could learn about searching the Internet using Alta Vista, WebCrawler, Infoseek and others. I always enjoyed showing the teachers how to filter and refine the Internet searches. Another neat trick was showing them the power of exploring directories by altering the url of a site. The workshops were always enjoyable. The only time I was reasonably distracted was when one participant insisted on using the mouse “upside down”. When they rolled the mouse towards themselves the cursor went up the screen and vice versa.

I found some old publications from back then. Later today I will scan a couple of them online and write a quick blog. I hope you will be amused, enlightened and perhaps a little intrigued.

I would love to read some of your stories from the early days of the Internet. Ten years ago is really not that distant but in terms of the Internet it seems to be ages ago.

This afternoon, my sister’s husband Kieran will be coming around to help us shift the bookcases upstairs. Then we shall all retire to the pool in our backyard and later a barbecue. Isn’t life good?

2 Responses to “Clearing the decks and my back up of the Internet”

  1. Sue Wyatt Says:

    Hi John – With only three years till retirement, I am also starting to clean out filing cabinets and getting rid of books no longer in use. I am finding copies of worksheets made with gestetners and even some using a gel and carbon – those were the days. I often mention to my students about the early days of computers when we used cards to put information on to feed our programs into the computer, used ticker tape to put in info and then having our computer the size of my classroom. They don’t think of how much technology has changed in the last 30 years.

  2. John Larkin Says:

    Hi Sue
    Thank you for the comment. I have two more filing cabinets to sort through and then I will call it a day. I will box some materials and store them at school I think.

    I feel it is important to clear things out now and then. Sometimes we hold on to the past too closely. That is not always a healthy thing. As well, clearing out the old can help make space for the new.