The Story of My Life so Far - Part 63 - Digital Techniques and Computer-Assisted Instruction

in story •  last year

This is the story of my life so far: 68 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France

The story starts here
Previous episode: Part 62

During the 3 years I was in Halifax, in 1979-1982, I was in a Canadian Forces establishment, probably in the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School, in the Electrical Division.

During the first year, I was a teaching "digital techniques" to Canadian sailors

Teaching "digital techniques" to Canadian sailors

Digital techniques included Boolean algebra and logic gates.

For the first two months, I sat on the back of the classroom, following two courses of digital techniques, taught by a civilian instructor, so that I could learn what I was going to teach.

Then, I started to teach the course myself.
I had not had much experience teaching before. I had only done alphabetization for immigrants, mostly from North Africa, in France for a few month, volunteering at our church in Saint-Ouen.
However, I realized that I could teach effectively.

One of my pet peeve was spelling. Each time one of my students was making a spelling error when he was writing on the blackboard, I would ask him to correct it. Sometimes they would ask if it was a class of digital techniques or a spelling class!

However, after several months of teaching multiple times the same material, it began to be quite boring.

So, after a year of teaching, I was moved to a new entity to develop Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) courses.

Developing Computer-Assisted Instruction courses

We were two officers in the new CAI lab: Don, a Canadian lieutenant-commander and myself.

Don was a reserved officer, who had just started working full time for the Canadian Forces, specifically to start this CAL lab. He was an expert in Computer-Assisted Instruction.

The hardware we had at the CAI lab was just a dumb terminal, probably a VT-100, connected to a minicomputer located in Ottawa through a leased serial line.

We were using a specialized CAI programming language, CAN8, that was the 8th version of the CAN languages. Initially, I thought that, as these languages had been invented in Canada, that explained why they were called CAN. I learned later that in fact CAN was standing for "Completely Arbitrary Name"!

We were also using sometimes the legendary text editor and macro programming language TECO, that, according to Wikipedia is a direct ancestor of Emacs, which was originally implemented in TECO macros.

At the Electrical Division, I had met a francophone Canadian officer, Ron, who was working in a hardware lab.

In his lab, Ron had an IMSAI 8080 microcomputer, that was his personal property.

IMSAI 8080

Every day, during lunch hour, I would go to Ron lab and we would play with his microcomputer.

This was my practical introduction to personal computers. Until then, I had only dreamed of owning such a piece of equipment.

Ron introduced me to one of his acquaintances, a guy who was literally building microcomputers in his garage. So, I decided to buy one of those computers in September 1980.

Continue to Part 64

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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8
Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16
Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20 - Part 21 - Part 22 - Part 23 - Part 24
Part 25 - Part 26 - Part 27 - Part 28 - Part 29 - Part 30 - Part 31 - Part 32
Part 33 - Part 34 - Part 35 - Part 36 - Part 37 - Part 38 - Part 39 - Part 40
Part 41 - Part 42 - Part 43 - Part 44 - Part 45 - Part 46 - Part 47 - Part 48
Part 49 - Part 50 - Part 51 - Part 52 - Part 53 - Part 54 - Part 55 - Part 56
Part 57 - Part 58 - Part 59 - Part 60 - Part 61 - Part 62

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Some people just be droping spammy comment, why nit read an understand the post first.

@vcelier it very nice sharing your life story with us, Ron must have been a very good friend before he allows you to touch his microcomputer ..unlike me that i dont allow people even touch my PC lol

Also this the first time am knowing the full meaning of CAN as....Completely Arbitrary Name"!....thumps up..

Am waiting for the next episode

Truly fascinating. I love the geek humour of CAN.

Your life story has been amazing as you have been sharing it here..Its full of adventures,courage,patience and lots of experience...May you have many more years to come and you keep inspiring young ones' out here for the better things :)

Wow this nice great post.... thanks for sharing.....

You've lived an amazing life, impacting on others and leaving a legacy is the greatest gift to humanity. I wish you many more happy and fruitful years. Cheers

great story well written

See all your stories posted very beautiful
I like your post. I am your disciple. You can follow me
Talk to all your life

really interesting story sir thanks for sharing.

this great story I appreciate your life thanks for sharing...

Great story!

Thanks for great story..i appreciate this life...

It is amazing how technology has grown exponentially right?
"I had only dreamed of owning such a piece of equipment."
Such computers now would literarily be considered old fashioned by the average ninth grader now. Makes me wonder sometimes what the future holds for us.
Looking forward to part 63.


Looking forward to part 63.

Don't look forward too much: part 63 is this post!


That is right. Thank you for caring to reply correctively.

i read your story first time it very interesting and i m surprised that its your real life story i appreciate you

Hi Vincent, well, educating is a great responsibility and sometimes it becomes exhausting, but it is also a beautiful and rewarding task, especially if your students are enthusiastic about learning. Of course in this case you got bored by the repetitive (it was always the same material), but at least you had that experience. On the other hand it is interesting to see how your story also takes me to the history of computing and the early years of personal computers

Good! and what about the price for a personal computer at this time?
When did IBM launch PC market? In my memory, it is just the years after.


Don't be so impatient! You will have the answers to your questions in the next few episodes.

Oh no, I am worried now that you'll correct my spelling errors, haha. Followed you, reading some other parts!

That's really cool that you ended up teaching to sailors, even without experience!

Huge congratulations. Your age is amazing, but the most important thing is that you feel young in heart, as that is what matters the most.

I admire your story and your work, there is not much people doing what you do so good.

Keep up the good work, i look up to you.

Best regards,
Anna, @arhitekt