Amigas in Education

Helping to teach alongside PC's and Macs...for the moment

By Jerimy Campbell, Contributing Writer, See staff list for e-mail address

Ray Magnani of the Newark Center for Creative Learning in Newark, Delaware is responsible for them still using 14 Amigas alongside PC's and Macs. Ray is a member of the Cecil Amiga Users Group of which I am the founder, and I felt his heroic efforts to keep Amigas in the school deserved some recognition. I also hope the exposure his school gets from this article may provide him with some assistance.

  1. How do you and the students use the Amigas or what sort of things do you do with them?

"Let me tell you a little about the Newark Center for Creative Learning, where I have been teaching math and science for the past 27 years. We are a parents' cooperative school for students from kindergarten through 8th grade. We have 90 students divided into 4 groups with two full-time teachers with each group. We also have two part-time teachers, for art and language, that work with each group. I team teach the oldest group of students.

"The first computer I acquired for NCCL was a VIC-20 with tape drive. After a few more VIC-20's, we purchased a Commodore 64 with disk drive. With the school filled with 64's, I waited to see what Commodore would do next. I was not decided about the Amiga 1000, but when the 500 came out, I convinced the school to purchase one, then more of them.

"Right now my group has 9 Amigas plus a CDTV and 3 Compaqs. The rest of the school has 7 Amigas, 4 Compacs, 2 286's, and 2 Macs.

"I am using the Amigas for word processing, desktop publishing, teaching BASIC and LOGO programming, spreadsheet and database use, art, science, music, and multimedia. We have one of the Amigas linked to one of the Compaqs to transfer files."

2. What are their strong points and what do they do better than the PC's and Macs you're using? Why does the school need them; what do they offer that other platforms do not?

3. Who is pressuring you to switch to PC's & Macs, and why? Do you feel it would be a mistake?

4. What does the school want to do with the PC's and Macs that the Amiga cannot do?

5. How much would it cost to replace the Amigas?

6. Would upgrading the Amigas accomplish the same task or at least help? What do you feel the software/hardware objectives would be to accomplish the school's goals?

"I guess the Amigas' strongest point is that they were so advanced for their time; any other computer would be long obsolete. When the Amiga appeared it had a graphic interface like a Mac, a CLI for the 'power users,' and a multitasking OS that is still unsurpassed in elegance.

"Using an Amiga is like driving a sports car; it's fun. The problem for the school is software. Everything educational is Windows-based. Using Windows is like driving a regular car; it gets you there, but the ride is nothing to get excited about. I can't recommend that the school purchase computers that won't run the latest educational software, so I'm stuck. Parents and other teachers want to upgrade the computers and look at software as the key issue. It would cost about $16,000 to replace all the Amigas with new computers, and that's not going to happen in any one year.

"I am hoping to keep some of the Amigas in the school for a time, allowing Gateway 2000 a chance to bring something to market that revitalizes the Amiga. One solution that would work for me would be a high-speed machine that would use the Amiga's beautiful OS to run Amiga and Windows software together at normal speeds and be able to use mass-produced peripherals.

"Many people I talk to are relieved that the computer wars seem over with Wintel the winner. No more wasted energy thinking about competing architectures. But I think a monopoly is the death of innovation. Some computer will eventually blow the complacent memory-devouring Wintel out of the water. I hope that computer is an Amiga-Gateway 2000 combination."

Ray Magnani

Ray invited me to come to the NCCL to have a look around and take some pictures. The school had a unique and comfortable atmosphere which made me wish I had attended such an educational institution. While I was there observing I noticed that none of their Amigas were AGA and only one had a multiscan monitor. It sure would be nice to see some of these machines replaced with newer Amigas or at least upgraded. Ray is under a lot of pressure to get machines that will run Win95 educational software so, unfortunately, that will probably never happen. If you'd like to contact Ray to show your support for what he's doing or donate anything here is the address.

401 Phillips Ave.
Newark DE 19711

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