Time to take another trip back in the time machine...
Recently I was working on a project that involved setting up a 56kbps X.25 leased line (I know, very embarassing!), which it turns out is not supported by AT&T in Northern California anymore. This got me thinking back to my high school days. You see, growing up in Cupertino was a nerds dream. All of the parents worked in some sort of high tech venture and pushed for the best of everything in regards to their kids education. (Four options for the educational path of my Asian friends: 1. Doctor 2. Lawyer 3. Engineer 4. Disowned/Disembowelment) Sometimes it seemed like Apple computer delivered units by the dump truck load. High home values led to higher property tax revenues, which in turn led to really decent school funding.
Through some sort deal, the school received a grant from NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View to provide us with network connectivity. So we had our leased line installed and down plopped a Sun 3/60 workstation (with Black and White frame buffer nonetheless and running in text mode) that served the school as an e-mail and ftp server. All the things that kids take for granted today... DNS, HTTP, graphical user interfaces (it wasn't even running X-windows, since it was stripped down to be a server), high speed networks, firewalls, and tons of other stuff wasn't even thought about. This machine was the infamous walrus.mvhs.edu machine before the Fremont Union High School District pulled the rug out of the mvhs.edu domain name and took control of the IT infrastructure across the district.
What did the kids get out of it? Live shell access on a real live Sun box, tons of storage for all the ROL and Scream Tracker files you could download from ftp sites all over the world, oh and you could use Gopher. I'm pretty sure that the goal wasn't to have the students do that, but hey, we didn't get into that much trouble. Gopher sucked then and still pretty much sucks, but hey, we had it. Before ICQ, YIM, AIM and the other instand messengers, there was IRC. What we had was amazing, unfettered and unmonitored network access. Whether they realized it or not, they were treating young adolescents as responsible adults, which was appreciated. With DSL, Cable Modems, 3G cell phone networks and other ways of getting fast IP connectivity these days, I'm not sure if kids these days understand the giddy feeling you got from watching the hash marks fly across the screen on your ftp session to Finland. Getting called out of Mike Ivanitsky's Chemisty Honors class to do some mundane unix task was truly an amazing feeling. (BTW: R.I.P. Mike Ivanitsky, you were a decent teacher, I just hated Chemistry).
Just think about it, it was your tax payer dollars at work to get me to learn SunOS. What do I do now? I manage large clusters of Solaris and *nix systems for the government. Pretty good ROI.
I fear that schools in Nigeria may be more adept at unix like systems than kids in the US. Kids, there is more to computing than MS Office and Facebook.
(Image Courtesy of hack.org)