My Top Five

My Top Five

In honor of the fiftieth issue of My Mac, I would like to share with all of you my top five in the categories of Hardware and Software. To make my choices more original, they were rated based on their ability for use in the classroom.

HardwareThis is a Macintosh-only category

5. ImageWriter II ­ This printer is the workhorse in schools across the country. Virtually indestructible, it became a legend in the dot-matrix world. Printer manufacturers used the ImageWriter as the standard by which to judge their printers against. School technologists knew the only time they had to work on the machines was when the ribbon went dry.

4. Classic ­ If there ever was a perfect machine for word processing in schools, the Classic was it. Full screen display of ClarisWorks; a memory large enough to keep things speedy, and the super floppy drive made this machine ideal for classroom writing. Not to mention its incredibly small foot print which made it ideal for usage as a lab in the classroom computer.

3. iMac ­ Even without a floppy, the iMac is a wonderful classroom computer. Starting with its small footprint and outstanding screen, to its two outlet headphone jacks, this is a machine any school could love. The built-in Ethernet allows for quick connection to school networks. Its only downfalls: its mouse and the lack of a handy reset switch.

2. LC ­ The computer that bridged the gap. When the LC first arrived, it could be ordered with an lle card allowing for easy transition for districts with tons of Apple ll software. Its less recognized, but more important quality, was its low profile. While desktop DOS machines overwhelmed computer labs, the LC stood out in its diminutiveness. Class sizes were increasing in the late eighties-early nineties, and available room was in short supply. The LC was an easy and reasonable choice.

1. 575/580 ­ I know some of you will disagree with this choice, but this machine was the answer for many schools across the country. With the ‘040 chip, slide-out motherboard, stereo sound, and built-in CD-ROM, the 575/80 became the staple classroom and lab Macintosh. Only three wires (power, keyboard, printer) to deal with in most cases. The nearly indestructible Apple Design Keyboard and in the case of the 575, the Trinitron monitor made for a great long-term technological solution. In the four years I used one in my room, it never failed and crashed on only a few occasions.

5. MacLink Plus ­ Some of you will question this choice but think about it. A vast majority of students have Wintel machines at home. With MacLink Plus, virtually any file is translated into ClarisWorks with ease. In addition, it allows for the file to be saved in its original format. No more excuses about the home printer running out of ink.

4. Kidspix Deluxe ­ For the primary and intermediate grades, it is a wonderful learning/experimental tool. For the rest of us, it’s just plain fun to mess around with. The interface with its careful eye for how younger ones recognize shapes and icons to its simple slide show presentation capability allows any child the opportunity to be creative.

3. Claris/AppleWorks ­ When it comes to the best all-around software tool for schools, Claris/AppleWorks wins hands down over Microsoft Word. Beginning with its cleanly elegant word processor with visible margin borders, to its anyone-can-use spreadsheet, Claris/AppleWorks has made life for teachers and students that much easier.

2. HyperStudio ­ Roger Wagner exemplifies thinking outside the box. He took the idea of HyperCard and gave it a life all its own. For all its power, it remains ridiculously easy to use. Its greatest gift has been and will continue to be its ability to allow students to demonstrate understanding of concepts through animated stacks.

1. Oregon Trail ­ When it comes to programs that educate and entertain, The Oregon Trail is the standard that all others are rated against. The program is set up so that the focus remains on traveling the trail successfully. Students who spend too much time hunting are penalized. Each year that I have taught American History, this educational game was one of the highlights. Ask any student across America what animal was used to pull the wagons across the west and they will boldly state, “OXEN!”

I don’t know about you, but things are getting a little stale on the advertising front. It’s time for Cupertino to come up with something fresh, especially with Sears coming on board as a retail outlet (one can only hope that Best Buy is dumped for good). So, in honor of Sears, an American icon, I propose using another All-American, Hank Hill, to pitch the iMac.

The front yard of the Hill Home, Arlen, Texas. Hank is carrying an iMac box.

Hank: “Hank Hill here. After spending the day dealing with complexities of selling propane and propane accessories, it’s nice to come home to calm and sanity”.

CIA wanna-be Dale Gribble appears carrying the remains of a Wintel box, wires streaming everywhere.

Dale: “Hank, I tell you it’s a conspiracy against the common man”. He throws the machine over the fence. “No more computers for me”.

Hank: “Dale, come join these fine people in my house”. The camera follows Hank and Dale into the Hill home.

“Like I was saying, home should be calm and simple.” He sets down the box and Dale opens it. Hank lifts out the iMac and sets it on the desk.

“I’m a firm believer that the most complicated piece of equipment in the home should be the your refrigerator’s water/ice machine in the door.” Refrigerator is in the background. Dale unwraps the keyboard and hands it to Hank, who opens the side door and plugs it in along with the phone cord. Dale inserts the power cord while Hank inserts the phone line into the wall-jack.

Dale: Ready when you are, Hank.

Hank: You see everyone, simple as pie ala-mode. Apple, of course.

The start up guitar strum is heard. The screen darkens, a red apple icon appears. Dale asks, “Hank, can I check out the CIA website?” Hank replies, “Dale, you’re not listed, now go home.”

Rambling Thoughts
It was refreshing to finally hear Apple receiving its due from Wall Street. What took these so-called experts so long to figure out what we’ve all known for a while… Apple means profit.

For all of you using Virtual PC 2.0 on an iMac or B/W G3, Connectix has issued an update to 2.1.3. The key ingredient is that external floppy drive is now recognized instead of having to use the clunky shared files utility.

If you feel that the start button is the only useful piece of the Windows desktop, then get a hold of Action GO MAC 2.0. This latest version is even more useful that its predecessors.

The Columbine shooting hit rather close to home as I have at least a dozen former students attending the school. Most, if not all the schools computers were destroyed, many of them Macs. Apple should quietly, and without any fanfare, replace all the machines free of charge. Connectix should include Virtual PC on each machine. These kids deserve the best.

I will be spending the balance of June reformatting my school’s computers. I’ll let you know the time differential between Macs and Wintels next month. Enjoy!

Mark Marcantonio

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