In the years since 1974, when I started to get seriously involved with computers, there have been many programs that have met my needs. Many, if not most, have disappeared. That’s not a big surprise; the computers for which they were written are long gone, too. However, most of the programs have been replaced by newer and mostly better versions. My computing needs have been met nicely. I don’t use Applewriter any more, but OpenOffice.org does what is needed…quite well, thanks.

However, there have been really nice programs that have just dropped off the grid. Either the company that owned the copyright went out of business or the company was bought out and the new owner didn’t support it. The software was buried, abandoned, orphaned.

Maybe the software didn’t sell millions of copies. Maybe it was niche software that teachers used for a lesson or so, but didn’t get used all year long, making it hard to justify for lab set or site license purchases. Some of these programs also didn’t fit the standard curriculum sequences. They were definitely not drill-and-kill software, though.

I miss some of these programs, for sure. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Rocky’s Boots – a logic puzzle “game” my students really liked. The program allowed a student to explore some practice rooms and eventually construct logic “circuits” that caused a boot to kick a target object. Higher order thinking skills and some basic understanding of logic and even the fundamentals of computer logic circuits were the result. Good stuff.
  • The Factory – another high order thinking skills program challenged students to develop “products” through a sequence of punch and stripe “machines” in an assembly line.
  • Bannermania – In a time of dot matrix printers, getting good-looking signs wasn’t easy. Bannermania made wonderful banners, signs, posters in color (if you had it), and even worked very well on laser printers to make signs on overlapping pages that aligned easily.
  • HyperCard – the original card stack with hyperlinks programming environment. Apple Computer included it as part of the base software of early Macintosh computers. Students could easily create the buttons, connections to other cards and do their own graphics. We did a haunted house project that was loosely based on the “adventure” game idea. My students loved it. HyperStudio took over the educational market primarily because it added color and sound when Apple gave up on HyperCard development. Macintosh and Windows users can apparently get a freeware tool called HyperNext. (I’m going to check it out and will report on my experience…Have any of you used it?)

Do you have similar good memories of software we no longer have available?

What are the programs you used that you most miss today?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a modern version available?

Is this one of those opportunities that an open source software developer can take to fill a void?

One example of such an “adoption” is the creation of Pingus, an effective work-alike for the very popular Lemmings game.

What missing software tools would you like to see some developer create for education?

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