10 ed-tech tools of the 70s, 80s, and 90s

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor
May 10th, 2013

We don’t know about you, but sometimes the eSchool News editors are amazed to hear about the ed-tech students use to learn in schools these days: mobile gaming apps, 3D printing, and robots?  Many of the editors still remember the prestige of walking to the front of the class and writing on the chalkboard with colored chalk.

To celebrate technologies of the past, the editors of eSchool News have compiled a list of the education technologies we and our teachers used back in the day–you know, before the internet even existed.

Can you think of an ed-tech tool not on the list? What was your favorite classroom tool when you were in school?

(Next page: Ed-tech of the 70s, 80s, and 90s)

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16 Responses to “10 ed-tech tools of the 70s, 80s, and 90s”

May 17, 2013

In 2010 I did a short series of comic strips entitled “The History of Tech in Schools” on just this topic. They can be viewed at ; ; ;

    May 17, 2013

    Jeffrey747, I would love to see that history of tech in schools, but the webpage says it is not available anymore. Can you tell me where I can access it, please? Thank you!

Bob Lowney
May 17, 2013

I found the following in the This Week in HIstory column of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper on 12-09-12:

The Agricultural High School in Driver (VA), seen as one of the more progressive institutions in the state, is planning to install a moving picture machine that will teach geography, history, and reading. The principal of the high school states that the machine will revolutionize schoolwork. In addition, the school has secured a Grafonola, which will be used to cultivate a love of good music through folk songs.”

I remember the 16 mm film projectors that always seemed to break the film halfway through. And the purple ditto machines which left that lovely alcohol smell on freshly ran papers.

May 17, 2013

The transition from the Mimeograph to the laser copier took place during the 1980’s. For teachers. Copiers were just something in the office. This was a major thing in educational technology.

Teachers still don’t have enough status to have a wired phone in their room, though. That would be progress : -)

    May 23, 2013

    Electric typewriters with self correcting ribbons! Even better.

    Speaking of chalk, how about that cool gadget in Music class with the metal fingers that held chalk to draw staff lines? I saw one at a local university last year, still in use!!!

    I know, a nerd, but how about punch decks? In the 70’s I was learning RPG 2 and running over to one school building to punch out the cards and then running over to the intermediate to load and run my “Jobs”. Had at least two occasions where the rubber band on the deck snapped and the cards spilled all over the floor. Gather them up, go to the end of the line.

May 19, 2013

hmmm, film-strip projectors, 16mm films (60s and even some into the early 90s
slide rules (still taught in 60s)
colored chalk…. (chalk boards with engraved grids for math)
poster board with markers
The TI- calculators of the late 90s — ’85, 86, link, color displays from Casio
opaque projectors (forerunner of today’s document cameras)
Distance learning studios — mid-late 90s. (fax, banks of screens, video cameras)
Mimeograph and duplicating machines,
Thermo based copy machine in office (’60s). smoke, charred pages…
May 20, 2013

The VHS VCR – This upgrade from the 35mm filmstrips and 16mm films were easier to use, as long as they did not get eaten. You could even fast forward to a certain time in the tape. Of course, the DVD was even better, for many reasons. I still have a few professors who want to keep using VHS tapes in their teaching.

May 22, 2013

Film loop projectors- mini movies in cassette form. Part of teacher training was learning effective ways to use them, film strip projectors and 16 M&M projectors. We even learned to repair the films when they snapped, which was frequently. Teachers could always be identified in the line at the grocery store by the purple stain on their hands from the ditto machine. Colored in 40 million little circles when report cards were computerized.

May 23, 2013

It is true that reminiscing about past technologies invokes wonderful examples and in reading the article, I too laughed with bemusement. But at one point, the stark reality also hit:Why technology has taken soooo long to root itself into transforming classrooms and instruction. It continues today. Ron Canuel, President and CEO for the Canadian Education Association, a non-for-profit centre focused on transforming public education.

May 24, 2013

My favorite memory was the film projector with the tape. We loved when the teacher let us be the one to turn the film when the tape beeped!
Another oldie but favorite was the microfiche machine. Looking at those was the coolest part of library.
Not really technology…but we loved tracing letter stencils for the teacher bulletin boards too.

June 13, 2013

In 1962 my math teacher brought a Monroe Calculator into the classroom to aid in solving cubic equations. The algorithm he taught involved several division steps where the divisor, dividend, and quotient all had about five decimal places. This electric machine was about the size of a typewriter and entirely mechanical. Performing a multi-digit calculation would set in motion simultaneously many cogs and wheels running continuously for 5 to 15 seconds, making a sound aptly called “number crunching”.