My first e-learning experience (1981)

We had a Z80Â -based computer in our house in the early 80s. This is the model, the Ithaca Intersystems DPS-1:


To boot, you’d click up the two rightmost switches in sequence after turning the key.

I used it for simple programming in a language called MUMPS.

My first e-learning experience came unexpectedly. Accused by my 7th grade teacher at Our Lady of Jasna Gora of a crime I didn’t commit, I was sentenced to write the Preamble of the Constitution out 25 times as a punishment.

“Can it be typed?” I asked.

“I don’t see why not,” said the teacher.

“Can I do it on my computer?” I asked.

“You can do it on whatever you want,” he said.

It was 1981. He didn’t know any better.

I went home, turned the key and flicked the big orange switches. One MUMPS loop later, I leaned back in my chair, swaddled in the comforting screech of the dot matrix printer, pumping out my assignment.

E-learning was cool.

Seth Godin: Blow up your Home Page

The general 30,000 foot view from Seth Godin:

The problem with home page thinking is that it’s a crutch. There’s nothing wrong with an index, nothing wrong with a page for newbies, nothing wrong with a place that makes a first impression when you get the chance to control that encounter. But it’s not your ‘home’. It’s not what the surfer/user wants, and when it doesn’t match, they flee.

You don’t need one home page. You need a hundred or a thousand. And they’re all just as important.

On the practical side? Realize that the reason why no one is happy with your homepage is that you are sending everybody to the same page. Start deep-linking people in, whenever possible.

Send newbies to the index. Send the daily visitors to the news feed. Send the people to whom you sent your last marketing campaign to a page constructed particularly for them.

When someone says “I couldn’t find that from your homepage,” investigate the obvious question: how did they get stuck going to the homepage in the first place?

Systemantics Thought for the Day: Loose Systems Less Hostile to Human Life

From John Gall’s Systemantics:

Since most of modern life is lived in the interstices of large systems, it is of practical importance to note that:


and are therefore generally somewhat less hostile to human life forms than tighter systems.

As an example of a System attunned to the principles of Systems-design enuciated thus far, consider the system of the Family. The Family has been around for a long time. Our close primate relatives, the gorillas, form family units consisting of a husband and wife and one or more offspring. As Jane Goodall has shown, gorrillas take naps after meals (Every day is Sunday for large primates). The youngsters wake up too soon, get bored, and start monkeying around the nest. Father gorilla eventually wakes up, leans on one elbow, and fixes the youngster with a penetrating stare that speaks louder than words. The offending juvenile thereupon stops his irritating hyperactivity, at least for a few minutes.

Clearly, this is a functioning system. Its immense survival power is obvious. It has weathered vicissitudes compared to which the stresses of our own day are trivial. And what are the sources of its strength? In brief: extreme simplicity of structure, looseness in everday functioning, “inefficiency” in the efficiency-expert’s sense of the term, and a strong alignment with basic primate motivations.