Programming Lab History

S ome of the long and twisted story of Redwood's computer programming lab has been lost over the years. However, I am fortunate enough to have had first-hand experience with the lab's past. In 1992, the "279 Lab" was actually located in room 207. Back then the lab was held together by shoestrings, gum, and a network genius we called Justin.

I hope the irony is obvious.

T he lab was possessed. Luckily, we managed to excise the demons (well, actually, we discovered that the old wiring in the room couldn't handle all of the electricity needed, but the priest was much more interesting). The lab consisted of aged 386's (Windows 3.1 loaded in a record time of 3 minutes), of which Ski Free was a favorite game (though our teacher, Mrs. Farrin, hated it).

Mrs. Farrin's Llama

T ime went on, people changed, and so did the computers. Our beloved teacher, Mrs. Farrin, retired, 486's were introduced into the lab (which moved to room 279), and Justin faced graduation with dread. With the lab on the verge of death (no one else knew a thing about Novell), Windows 95 and a new teacher named Goldsmith saved the day.

Mr. Goldsmith

T oday, the lab consists of many high-speed Pentiums all running Windows 95. The wiring is good, the air fresh (even though the heater runs through summer), and the carpets clean. There are even rumors that the lab might get some air conditioning (probably just in time for winter).

A n update, as of July, 1998: The lab now contains 24 Pentium II computers running at a speed of 300 MHz. A Linux (Unix) workstation has joined the 24 Windows 95 machines. Air conditioning has also just been installed in the lab (as well as in Lab 281). In addition, a lot of other gadgets have been added to the computers in the lab over the past year or so.

A nother update, as of August, 1999: Ten of the computers are now 400 MHz Pentium II machines with 128 Megs of RAM and Diamond Viper V550 video cards (the other 14 are still Pentium II 300 machines with 64 Megs of RAM). They still run Windows 95. The Unix (Linux) workstation is still operational in the lab.

Y et another update, as of July, 2000: Twelve of the computers are now 600 MHz Pentium III machines with 256 Megs of RAM and Diamond Stealth III video cards. The ten Pentium II 400 MHz machines are still there, along with just two of the Pentium II 300 MHz computers. There are also two Celeron 466 MHz computers. All of the computers now run Windows 98 (except the Linux workstation). The lab now contains a color laser printer, two digital video editing stations, and a surround sound audio/video presentation system (which contains a receiver, DVD player, LCD projector, six speakers, and much more).

H ere we are in August of 2001. Thanks to a Digital High School grant from the state, the lab has received a lot of new equipment. There are now 24 Pentium III 1000 MHz computers with 512 Megs of RAM and G-Force2 video cards in the lab, each running Windows 2000 Professional. There is also a brand new Macintosh G4 computer, as well as a Linux 7.1 workstation. Each of the 26 workstations has an NEC 19-inch flatscreen monitor. We also have two new scanners and 26 black leather adjustable-height swivel chairs with wheels! All of the other equipment and accessories remain. It can't get much better than this!

N ow it's February of 2002. Thanks again to even more Digital High School money, it can get better, as we were able to purchase more computers and the lab now has 24 Pentium 4, 1.8 GHz computers. They each still have 512 Megs of RAM, G-Force2 video cards, and are running Windows 2000 Professional. We also got brand new monitors (the same NEC 19-inch flatscreens), new Microsoft keyboards, and new mice. The leather chairs and everything else is the same.

M oving on to December of 2002. With Repair/Replace funds we were able to once again purchase new computers for the lab. The beige cases that we had used for years were no longer available, so we decided to go with a black motif. The computers are Pentium 4, 2.53 GHz machines with 512 Megs of RAM and G-Force4 video cards and are still running Windows 2000 Professional (for various reasons we've decided to not upgrade this lab to Windows XP). The monitors, keyboards, and mice have not changed. However, due to a district that wanted to cram more computers into the lab, last summer we were forced to replace the Macintosh G4 and the Linux workstation with Windows 2000 machines. There are now 26 identical workstations in the lab.

I t is April of 2003. Once again we are upgrading the equipment in the lab, but this time it's just the monitors, keyboards, and mice. The new equipment is all black, which completes the black motif which was started back in December. With the black equipment and black leather chairs, Redwood's finest computer lab now looks totally awesome!

W e have arrived at July of 2005, and it is once again time to update lab 279. Actually, for the entire past year our computer labs have been located in temporary portable classrooms located on the opposite side of the back parking lot of Redwood. The entire campus has been "modernized" over the last few years, so every classroom and lab had to take turns being stuck out in the trailer park. But now we are back in our newly renovated labs in the main building. The rooms, for the most part, look quite good. We have new ceilings and carpets, along with new (better) air conditioning. The six-speaker surround sound audio/video presentation system in lab 279 has been set up, along with a single Web-based camera that records the happenings in the lab. The lab now has 29 workstations (up from the previous number of 26). Most of the furniture, monitors, and accessories are the same, but we do have brand new computers. The machines are all Dell Pentium 4, 3.4 GHz computers with 1 Gig of RAM, ATI FireGL video cards, and Soundblaster Audigy sound cards. And, to top it all off, we have finally upgraded to Windows XP Professional.

O nce again, it's time for an update. It is now August of 2006, and lab 279 has a completely new set of computers. They are still Dell Pentium 4, 3.4 GHz machines with 1 Gig of RAM, ATI FireGL video cards, and Soundblaster Audigy sound cards. The main difference is that the cases are much more user-friendly, with the USB ports being more accessible. In addition to the new computers, the entire lab has been replaced with brand new swivel, rocking, adjustable-height black leather chairs with arm rests and wheels. The old chairs served us well, having lasted for five full years, but it was finally time to buy an entirely new set. With luck these new chairs will last just as long. Keep your fingers crossed!

J ust a quick update. It's December of 2007, and all of the computers in lab 279 (except the front workstation) now have 19-inch flatpanel (as opposed to flatscreen) monitors. Everything else is the same. Even the (relatively) new chairs seem to be holding up fairly well.

H ere we are two-and-a-half years later, in July of 2010, and the computer lab has just been given a good cleaning. In addition, all 29 computers have been replaced with brand new Dell Intel Core 2 Duo, 3.16 GHz machines. I got rid of the three older HP scanners, leaving the lab with two scanners (more than enough). The rest of the equipment in the lab remains the same, although I did get rid of the two couches that were very old and falling apart, but I replaced them with one new (well, used, but in good shape) couch.

W ell, here we are just two years later, in July of 2012, and the computer lab has NOT been given a good cleaning. Due to the installation of air conditioners in the upstairs classrooms, the upstairs has been closed off for the summer, so very little cleaning took place. Of course, the computer labs already had air conditioning, but they were still inaccessible to the custodians. However, the good news is that the lab has once again received all new computers. With some of the latest programming and graphics software that has come out, it became necessary to get even more powerful machines in the lab. Not only are the computers new, but after seven years of running Windows XP, we have upgraded to Windows 7. The lab now contains 28 Dell Core i5-2400, 3.1 GHz machines and one i7-2600, 3.4 GHz machine. For right now, everything else remains the same.

W ow! It has been almost four years since the last update. It is now May of 2016 and the lab has just received 28 brand new chairs. The previous ones were starting to show their age. The new chairs are a somewhat different style, but still comfortable, with good back support. They contain lots of "controls" and can also be adjusted in many ways to fit each individual student's needs.

It's probably worth mentioning that I have just finished my third year of teaching Geometry in the lab. Ever since the district killed the technology requirement, which caused the Introduction to Computers class to disappear, the number of students taking computer-related classes has dropped. Fortunately, the number of computer programming students has remained constant, so I still (knock on wood) have three coding classes each year (two beginning-level classes and an advanced programming class). But that means I have two Geometry classes every year. To accommodate math students in my lab I chose to get rid of the couch and replace the front-center area of my lab with tables. While it was sad to see the couch go, this arrangement allows me to teach math in the lab, which is preferrable to teaching my math classes in some other classroom.

Other than the above changes, the computers and accessories remain pretty much the same. At the start of the school year, to accommodate a special needs student, we did outfit one of the lab computers with dual monitors. The student is no longer taking coding classes, but the dual-monitor setup remains, which is nice for the student who happens to get that computer during each class period.

Oh, one more addition. A couple of months ago I purchased a "sit/stand" computer station for my computer at the front of the lab. For the times when I go back and forth between the computer and the whiteboard, if I have the station in the "standing" position, I no longer have to keep sitting down to type on the computer (just to stand up again to go back to the whiteboard). It's very cool, especially for my Geometry classes.

J ump to the fall of 2017. Lab 279 has just received a major upgrade. For starters, we have 29 brand new computers in the lab. Each one is a Dell Optiplex 3050 with a 3.2 GHz i5-6500 CPU and 8 GB of RAM. Each has a 500 GB hard drive and is running Windows 7. In addition to the new machines, the lab also has a complete set of new monitors (Dell P2017H, 19.5", LED-Lit) which, for the first time, are widescreen. And, for the first time, these monitors not only tilt, but also move up/down, turn left/right, and can even be rotated vertically. We also have a complete set of new keyboards. The mice and headphones remain the same.

Also, I have removed the battery backups (uninterruptable power supplies) from most of the computers in the lab. The front (my) workstation still has a large battery backups, along with a few other pieces of equipment. Removing the backups made it easier to accomodate the new computers, and I was tired of hearing the battery backups beeping all the time (which they did whenever their batteries needed to be replaced). At Redwood, the power rarely goes out, so this really shouldn't be a big deal.

T ime for another update! It is now August of 2019, and the computers in the lab have been upgraded to Windows 10 (Microsoft support for Windows 7 is ending soon). In addition, while the computers in the lab are the same, each machine has been outfitted with a 250 GB solid state drive. Hopefully (and a lot of hope is needed) these new drives will make the computers a bit faster. However, since much of the slowless occurs when the computers are first turned on, and is also a result of network communication, I'm somewhat skeptical. Time will tell.

I t's now November of 2020, and guess what? I'll be retiring from Redwood and the TUHSD next June. This is my 28th and last school year with the district. To be honest, it's a little disappointing to end this way, given that due to the Coronavirus, we've been in a distance/remote learning situation since last March. Students have not even been in my computer lab at Redwood for seven months. Very sad. Therefore, nothing has changed in the lab since the last update.

For the most part, it's been a good 28 years. I've always said that as long as I was having fun (at least most of the time), I'd keep teaching at Redwood. But I think it's now time for me to move on to other locations and adventures. At this point I don't know who will be hired (if anyone) to replace me as Redwood's coding teacher. I can only hope that the district will continue to offer beginning-level and advanced Computer Programming classes to students.

The End

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