In the summer of 1990 I was getting ready to head off to my freshman year at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. Over the summer I got a letter from the school stating that they would be trying a new "integrated curriculum" that fall for a sub-set of the entering freshman class. The concept behind the integrated curriculum was that the subjects like chemistry, math, mechanics, thermodynamics, statistics and others would all be merged together to get more focused on how to use all of that to solve problems. That sounded cool, but the hook for me was that all of the classes would be taught on brand spanking new NeXT Computers. I quickly filled out my reply card and sent it in the mail that day.
Flash forward 22 years and we got a similar letter in the mail, this time for my daughter who is about to enter 8th grade. Her school is also experimenting with a new approach to the curriculum: all based on using the iPad. Both the NeXT and the iPad owe a large part of their existence to Steve Jobs. I found it fascinating to do a little comparison of the specs:
|Official Name||Next Station||iPad 2 (I know about the new one of course – but this is what she is getting)|
|Price (at introduction)||$4,995 (half the cost of the original NeXTCube)||$499 – $829|
|Processor||Motorola 68040 @ 25 Mhz||Apple A5 @ 1 GHz with dual core|
1120 x 832 4 color (black, white, 2 shades of gray)
4,096 color graphics was a $3,000 option
|1024 x 768 16.8M Color|
|Memory||8 MB – 32 MB||512 MB|
|Storage||105 MB – 4 GB ($$$$$$$$)||16 GB – 64 GB|
|Weight||13.2 lbs (just the box)||1.3 lbs|
85 key mechanical keyboard
2 button mouse (the last / only that came with a Steve Jobs product)
|OS||NeXTSTEP (still say it had all the good stuff just now making it into OSX)||iOS (the future of all Apple's OSs)|
The table above is, to me anyway, the surest sign of progress in the last 20+ years.
The integrated curriclum at Rose was an interesting experiement. I "dropped out" after a few months and switched to the regular curriculum. There was just way too much homework with the integrated projects. No one was able to keep up. I still got the use the NeXTs (when the IC guys weren't on them, which wasn't often, but they had to sleep – a little – now and again) and I imagine that has a lot to do with my fascination with all things Apple to this day. Educators are drawn to tech like moths to a flame. Here's to hoping they can figure out how to use it for more light than heat.