Old high school was not low-tech, it was no-tech Walt's Way
Back when the world and I were both young, the high school I attended changed little since my dad went there 30 years before. About the only new technology was color chalk for the blackboards (which actually were black then).
Computers were around; they just weren't anywhere around the school or, for that matter, anywhere in our telephone area code.
The brainiest guys roamed the school halls with plastic shirt-pocket protectors stocked with slide rules, pens and mechanical pencils - much like dinosaur nerds.
We were without so many tools that today's students take for granted, it's a wonder that we ever made our way to graduation.
Of course, there were items that we had that would baffle and bore students of today. One of these was a room full of typewriters used by the students in what was called the commercial curriculum.
There was a near-constant stream of clickety-clack, tippity-tap sounds coming from that room because this was before electric typewriters made an appearance in our school.
Some of the girls in those classes were able to type at a remarkable rate of speed, considering what they had to work with and how hard they had to press the keys. As a side benefit, they strengthened their fingers to the extent that they could poke holes in new bowling balls.
I could never hope to match any of my classmates in the speed and accuracy with which they pounded words onto paper.
Using a computer, I laboriously type this column with the benefit of spell check and grammar check. Those commercial students could type it in a fraction of the time with fewer errors, and better jokes.
The chemistry lab was put in a few years after Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774. (Please don't ask me what people breathed before oxygen was discovered.)
It didn't have the equipment that is basic in the high school chemistry labs of today. We did have primitive microscopes, but we probably could have gotten the same results by using a magnifying glass.
The audio-visual technology throughout the school was one step up from the teachers doing hand-shadow puppets with the aid of a bright light bulb and a darkened classroom.
Barely one step up was a primitive device called a film strip. It was as if someone spliced a couple dozen of his most boring vacation slides into one continuous roll.
Sometimes the film strip was high-tech, which meant that it was timed to go along with a record placed on a primitive sound device known as a record player.
The unfortunate teacher could never quite get the film strip and record in sync, so you would see a slide of Pluto (which was still a planet then) and hear the narrator talk about the geography of the Grand Canyon.
On the next rung of the short stepladder of audio-video equipment were found the film projectors. These added an element of chance to a class. You were never sure if the film reels wound unwind into spaghetti-like piles on the floor or the bulb would burn out first.
Actually, it was a win-win situation. These films were likely made by Edison. They were all at least 20 years old, so the actors looked almost as ridiculous to us as people of my generation would look to today's youths.
While current high school students can do research with the click of a computer mouse, our method was more physically demanding. We had to walk to the library, blow the dust off an encyclopedia and start turning the pages, braving the risk of paper cuts.
Teachers then had it much harder to come up with tests and quizzes for us students. First, they had to type the tests and submit them to the secretary in the principal's office, who was a master of the art of operating a Ditto machine or spirit duplicator.
The machine churned out copies in a pale purple produced by a solvent on waxy paper. You could always tell when it was around final exam time because the secretary would be a bit unsteady on her feet due to inhaling the pungent fumes.
However, technology is not always an improvement. Back then, we would get hand-graded report cards every nine weeks. Now, parents can get daily updates on their students' grades via the computer.
I am grateful that technology was not available when I was in school. If it was, I would have been grounded for nine weeks at a time instead of just once at the end of each marking period.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)