“31,000 student hours later, we still love Apple Computer” (Sep, 1979)

When I was kid I had a subscription where I would get disks full of software from MECC every month. I loved their stuff.

“31,000 student hours later, we still love Apple Computer”

– Dr. Kenneth Brumbaugh. Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium

When the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium recommended Apple Computer to the state’s school districts—well, it started something big.

Today there are hundreds of Apple Computers in use in 35% of Minnesota’s elementary and secondary schools, and nearly all of the colleges and universities in the state. Most communicate with the Consortium’s CYBER 73 mainframe in a state-wide educational computer network.

The educational computer Dr. Kenneth Brumbaugh, Manager of User Services, heads the team responsible for supporting instructional computing.

“MECC evaluated personal computers and chose Apple because it was the one that met our rather rigid specifications.

“And, we employ a conventional timesharing system, with remote terminals. But that means high phone costs. And limited user access. Apple solves that. It gives schools a stand-alone computer for about the price of a terminal. Also, Apple interfaces directly to our CYBER, so we can download programs to any Apple in the state. That also means we can serve as the communication link for the wealth of new programs student: and teachers are writing themselves. For us, Apple is an excellent educational computer.

The kids-and the teachers-love Apple “One big reason we chose Apple is that it is so easy to program. Now, with Pascal, Apple can provide even more programming flexibility.

“For example, MECC has written a note-recognition program to help teach music that takes advantage of Apple’s unique built-in speaker. And Apple’s color graphics make programs far more interesting than conventional black and white terminals can.

“To date, we’ve logged over 31,000 student hours on Apple Computers. We even have schools trying out computers for home study. The kids love the Apple. And so do the teachers.”

Is Apple for you?

For the name and address of your local Apple dealer and your free copy of Apple’s new Curriculum Materials Kit, call 800-538-9696l In California, 800-662-9238. Or write us at

10260 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014.

  1. CL says: July 20, 20109:17 am

    Can you believe it? I recognize him from this video:

  2. Kosher Ham says: July 20, 201010:00 am

    I wonder if apple is going to publish something similar for the Ipad today.

  3. Charlie says: July 20, 201010:16 am

    That’s a cool video, thanks. I know people who used to DISCO type parties when I was in college, but with hard drives.

  4. Andrew L. Ayers says: July 20, 201010:48 am

    While the push for Apple computers in schools did get schools to invest in computers, which was a good thing, it was also bad from the point of view that they went with Apple; not that at the time there was much of a choice. The fact is that after schools nationwide had heavily invested a ton of money in Apple computers (and software, and peripherals), they became “stuck” with them. When the IBM PC (and more importantly, clones) came out later in the 1980s, the software for the Apple didn’t work with them, nor did any of the other equipment. It became an albatross around the necks of school administrators everywhere, because the choice to invest in a locked-in single-vendor technology (which, as I said, they didn’t have much of a choice about back then), meant that they couldn’t transition to hardware and software that was becoming cheaper and more powerful (with more vendors, choices, and compatible parts) every year (ie, the PC-compatibles).

    Apple IIe computers (and later, Macs) were thus left to basically rot in schools for years after most everyone else (business and families) had either switched or started to switch to cheaper PCs and all of their interchangeable and cheaper equipment. I remember being in high school where the labs still had old Apple IIe computers in the early 1990s; it probably wasn’t until later in the decade that they were literally forced to switch, if they wanted internet access; plus, the prices had come down so low that it didn’t make sense to keep all that old technology around any longer.

    Some of this blowback was also the cause behind Apple almost failing as a company.

    I tend to wonder, though, whether those choices (had those making them could have seen the future of the clones) made differently, would have made for a better or worse education for the students? Had the schools instead waited 5-7 years longer, they could’ve had a classroom of PC compatibles, that could’ve been continually upgraded, and the software used wouldn’t have necessarily had to fall by the wayside (in many cases) because of those upgrades…? Difficult to say, ultimately.

    But it does point out that when you choose technology, it might be best to choose the technology which uses fairly open standards (OK – it took Compaq to open things up; but IBM almost gave away the blueprint of how to do it), and has wide support from a variety of vendors and 3rd parties (especially 3rd parties selling cloned devices). Until I see a cloned iPad, or OSX running on a white-box PC with Apple’s blessing (yeah, right – on both!), we might be doing our schools and students a disservice pushing to saddle them with Apple equipment and software (yes, I know the Mac OS is based on BSD, but that “openness” only goes so deep – really, OSX is not BSD, or NextStep, or anything open – at all anymore) a second time (ultimately all for the sake of “look how cool it looks”).

    The proper thing to do would be to advocate for bog-standard PCs running Linux and other GNU/Open Source software, IMHO. But you’ll never see that happen, because that makes sense. At best, you’ll see (well, you already see) PCs running more Microsoft products; products that crash, products that become virus-ridden just by looking at them, products that attract malware in droves, products that need upgrading for more dollars every year, products that don’t adhere to open standards.

    Then again – that does sound familiar in a way…

  5. Andrew L. Ayers says: July 20, 201010:52 am

    Oh man! I just looked at that ad again, just after posting my long diatribe. First I noticed the AppleSoft BASIC code on the chalkboard – but then, my eyes scanned the page…

    Cubicles! Cubicles in a classroom! ARGGHHH!!!

    Talk about a setup for the students possible future office life – ugh!

  6. Rick Auricchio says: July 20, 201010:56 am


    – Though the program at the right doesn’t produce the result on that boy’s screen, COLOR=6 does display that blue color.

    – Those are 9″ Sony black-and-white CCTV monitors anyway; affordable color monitors were a couple years off.

    – I worked at 10260 Bandley (aka “Bandley 1”) in 1979-80, my first in a long series of Apple buildings. I recall the day Apple turned down Visicalc, the first spreadsheet program.

  7. Jules says: July 20, 20102:10 pm

    Andrew Ayers,

    You do realize that every Mac sold today can run OSX, MS Windows, and many flavors of Linux? Once installed, these can be run independently by choice upon startup, or simultaneously through emulators (including a decent open-source version from Sun). The modern Mac hardware is far more open than anything else out there.

  8. Rick Auricchio says: July 20, 20102:42 pm

    I saw the cubicles; probably some art director’s idea of melding computer lab and classroom. Never mind the horrible ergonomics being demonstrated.

  9. Greg says: July 20, 20103:33 pm

    Jules: I’m a Mac user myself, but I have to question your statement that the hardware is ‘more open than anything else out there’. Depending on the model, they are often designed with far less user customisability in mind and far fewer off the shelf options than similar machines from other manufacturers.

  10. Andrew L. Ayers says: July 20, 20104:17 pm

    Jules: I will consider the Mac open when I can build one in my shop from components picked up elsewhere which were manufactured by third parties. I will consider the Mac open when I can easily run OSX x86 on a standard PC or other third-party platform. Since Apple doesn’t sanction either, I doubt it is going to happen any time soon. The closest we ever saw to this happenning was back in the late 1990s with various PowerPC clones; it seemed like a way for Apple to stay on its feet (and it probably helped) – but when Jobs came back, he nixed that idea, killing the idea of clones. I think I will stick with my commodity hardware and Linux for now.

  11. Andrew L. Ayers says: July 20, 20104:26 pm

    Jules: I appologize; some of my information is incorrect – I wish to refer you and other readers to the Wikipedia article here:


    As can be seen, though, from that article and the references it cites, Apple’s platform in various incarnations has had ups and downs with regards to cloning. Even so, we can likely safely say that today, you won’t be cloning or running unauthorized software on today’s Mac. That doesn’t sound very “open” to me.

    /personally, I only consider something truely open if it is GPL’d with source code and schematics available; a Linux-based commodity hardware PC is a compromise of necessity, unfortunately.

  12. Toronto says: July 20, 20107:15 pm

    The designs of the various generations of SPARC processors are “open”, in that they can be built by anyone (“Anyone” including TI, Fujitsu, LSI, Hyundai, etc.) And much of Sun’s software is “open” as well, for certain definitions of the term. But there’s never been a SPARC based home PC.

    When the IBM-PC came out, it wasn’t really “open” either. It used a unique bus design, the OS had all sorts of restrictions as to what hardware you could talk to, and it was very expensive to buy – even the 64k cassette version (if it really existed.) The unholy alliance of IBM and Microsoft caused all sorts of problems for early clone makers (anyone remember using “Flight Simulator” as a clone compatibility test?)

    Apple made a lot of mistakes in the adolescence of the company. Sometimes I’m amazed it survived. But don’t slag it for lack of ‘openness’ or for decisions made by school boards and governments.

  13. Yoda says: July 20, 20107:47 pm

    I went to Catholic school and we had Commodore 64s; the nuns taught us touch-typing on them (Or tried to – third-graders’ hands are still too small for that). Now I wonder if the reason why was that all the educational software at the time was written for the Apple II.

    Later on we got a C64 at home. No dedicated monitor of course, just an RF switch on the back of the living room TV – IIRC even ads showing computers in home settings had exactly that.

    Charlie – Discs full of software! Cool – all I got was the cheap type-in programs that took endless debugging to run right 🙂

  14. StanFlouride says: July 20, 20109:33 pm

    I’d completely forgotten that Oregon Trail a MECC game!
    Thanks, CL for posting that link

    (and thanks to all the rest of you geeks for all the rest that I recall but barely remember).

  15. DrewE says: July 20, 201010:49 pm

    Andrew: I think you may be suffering from some selective memory (or understanding) about the Apple II line.

    The Apple II’s were, practically speaking, as open as the IBM PC was. There were legal clones (most notably the Laser 128’s) and illegal clones. Apple made available a great deal of technical documentation on the machines–I have, for instance, a copy of the technical reference guide for the //e that contains (among other things) a schematic of the circuitry excepting the power supply, a description of what each of the ASICs does, timing diagrams, and notes on the peripheral slot interfaces. I also have a supplement that contains commented source code for the monitor ROM.

    It took some time for the PC clones to become significantly less expensive than the contemporary Apple II’s. Many peripherals were equally usable on both systems, such as printers and external modems, and thus were not cheaper for PC’s. (Macs, on the other hand, were somewhat more costly than the PC clones from the get-go.)

    Finally, why does it matter if the hardware of a computer used in education (especially elementary and high school education) is the same as that used by businesses? I’d think the most important computer skill to learn would be typing, and that can be taught with most anything with a keyboard–including, as in my case, purely mechanical contraptions that require no electricity at all.

  16. Rick Auricchio says: July 21, 20101:16 pm

    “I also have a supplement that contains commented source code for the monitor ROM.”

    I was the one who made the monitor rom changes from Apple ][+ to Apple //e.

    As for Mac clones, remember that Apple makes much of its money from the hardware, not the OS. Steve Jobs recognized this, which was a major reason for killing the clones.

  17. aufdeutsch says: August 2, 20104:55 pm

    ah, I remember all of that. Played Number Munchers, the great Oregon Trail and more. Me and my MN roots I guess.

  18. Ni says: December 27, 20111:19 pm

    I used to work in that building, when it inhabited by CKS Interactive in the mid ’90s. How fun to see it here.

  19. Ni says: December 27, 20111:21 pm

    …. by ‘building’ I mean the Bandley Dr address at the bottom of the poster 🙂

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