I graduated high school in June 1981 and despite having spent the past six years programming and teaching others too, I was told that I could not major in Computer Science because I was bad at math. I said goodbye to computing at graduation because who would ever see a computer again???
I came home from my freshman year at Berklee College of Music for Xmas 1981. My Mom told me to find a summer job. Summer camp jobs were my best bet and I applied to several during the holiday break. No camp would hire me to be a music counsellor since I didn’t play the guitar. While sitting in the office of Deerkill Day Camp, a family owned camp now led by a third generation, I was told that I was disqualified from being the music counsellor due to my guitar deficit, but the camp director/owner saw on my ersatz resumé that I had programmed computers in high school.
He pointed to a minicomputer in his office (it may have been a Hazeltine) and asked me to write a program in BASIC to do something I cannot remember. I hadn’t touched a computer in more than six months, but my program worked. I was told that Deerkill was thinking of starting a computing program for its campers and that I would be its director.
Voila! I had a career!
In January 1982, at age 18 1/2, I was hired to create one of the world’s first computer programming camps for kids anywhere on earth. I had a staff, a budget, and was considered a senior administrator. We had a dozen or so Vic-20s in a horse trailer by a man-made pond and a goat (if memory serves).
The program was such a success that the following year they told me that the camp had expanded my facility. They built a porch onto the horse trailer and we got Commodore 64s with an “octopus” which connected a dozen computers to one floppy disk drive. Booting software was a two-person operation since one person had to turn the knob on the octopus to direct the data stream to the right computer and the other person hit return to begin loading the software.
The computers on the porch had to be brought in at lunchtime and at the end of each day. Hundreds of boys and girls K-8 learned to program each summer in the horse trailer. I also taught BASIC and Logo programming in the camp director’s house during the winter and in an elementary school in New City, NY. Soon after I began teaching teachers. I worked at Deerkill Day Camp for four summers and dream of returning every year.
*The photo above was just posted by the camp for #tbt.
Gary Stager is the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute for educators July 11-14, 2017, coauthor of Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, and curator of the Seymour Papert archive site, DailyPapert.com. Register today for Constructing Modern Knowledge 2017!
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.