I really was excited about this Things of Science unit since I have made a career of programming computers. So a Things of Science unit on computers from 1968 should have fascinated me.

Historically, perhaps it is still interesting. But of all the units I have scanned and documented up this point, this is the only unit I cannot recommend anyone try to recreate. The other units, for example the one on hydroponics, would be just as useful and interesting in a high school biology class today as it might have been in 1968.

You can see then how the computer unit might not have aged as well….

Nonetheless, there is a lot here. The booklet clocks in at 32 pages — a monster of sorts for these units. Again, I got the unit off eBay without its “things”. And that is too bad — while the punchcards that appear to have been a part of the unit might have been a kind of novelty, there appears to have been programs (in FORTRAN, I believe) that are referred to in the booklet.

With the punch cards and FORTRAN in this unit, it is rather fascinating to me to realize that my high school’s computer class, when I was a sophomore (1979), taught something along more or less the same lines. I remember being told on the first or second day of Computer Science class that we would need to purchase a brick of punch cards. We would be punching the programs onto the cards and the school would send them off to the district computer somewhere to execute our programs and would return them, a week later or so, along with the printed results. And, yes, we would be learning FORTRAN.

On week two of class, we walked into the classroom Monday morning to see eight Apple ][ computers arranged on as many desks. “Now,” the teacher said, “in fact you will need to purchase instead two of these.” And he held up a pair of 5 1/4″ floppy disks. We would learn BASIC instead.

And, as I understand it, our teacher was taking BASIC at the local junior college just ahead of coming in and teaching us the same. In fact, one of the students in the class was enrolled in the same evening JuCO course.

For your historical consideration, the (large) booklet from this unit:

Things of Science #329 — Computer