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Lesson plan to accompany the September 2001 Newsletter

To see the text used in the plan

For a Word version


Preliminary information

Level: Intermediate

Time: 60 minutes?

To give extensive & intensive reading practice
To extend the stds' knowledge of computer-related vocabulary
To give freer speaking practice

That quite a bit of the vocab will be known to the stds
That the structures in the text will be known
That the stds will find the article interesting

Anticipated problems:
Some vocab items in the e-mail reading might not be known - depending on the group.

Materials & aids:
Text: The machine that changed the world by Beatrice Garcia



Stage 1: Lead in to raise interest

tch< > stds, 10-15mins

1. Put the title on the board - with the second word missing 'machine' - 'The ______ that changed the world'. At the side add 'man', 'woman', 'food', drug, 'technical advancement', historical event' etc..
2. Stds in pairs/small groups talk about what they think has been the man/woman/food etc that has changed the world. Monitor & take notes on language areas & help out if called upon.
3. Feedback - as a class discuss the ideas they talked about. Give feedback on any common language problems.

Stage 2: Reading task - extensive

tch< > stds, std<>std, 8 mins

1. Tell the stds that they are going to read about the first computer - do they know anything about it? Short discussion - could discuss the usefulness of computers etc.
2. Set the extensive task - questions on the board - & then give out the texts. Give them 4 minutes to do the task.

1. How long did the computer take to design?
2. Did all of the bits come from IBM?
3. What was the IBM XT?

3. Stds compare their answers in pairs
4. Class feedback.

Stage 3: Vocabulary expansion

tch< > stds, 10-15mins

1. Ask the stds to go through the text & underline all the vocab they can find connected to 'computers'. Give them 2/3 mins for this.
2. Stds compare in pairs.
3. Ask the stds to categorise the vocab into three areas: software, hardware & people/businesses. Stds do this in pairs.
4. Feedback - put the categories on the board & get the pair who finishes first to put their words on the board.
5. The other stds compare with the board.
6. Feedback - ask if there are any more to add - add some yourself if they aren't forthcoming - here are some suggestions:

Software: 64 kilobytes of memory, programming language, operating system, MS-DOS, Windows, video game, MB
Hardware: personal computer, PCs, monitor, colour graphics card, technology, trransistor, components, microprocessor, hard drive space,
People & businesses: Silicon valley start-ups, programmer, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, developers, nerds, PC industry
Other: computing standards, licensing rights,


Stage 4: Comprehension check on the text

tch< > stds, 10-15mins

1. Ask the stds to write 10 True/False questions in pairs. Give an example.
2. Go round & check that all are on the right track.
3. Swap the questions around so that stds have different T/F sentences - they then answer them & hand them back to the writers for checking. Monitor for problems that might arise.
4. Feedback - any problems.

Stage 5: Response to the text - class discussion

tch< > stds, 5/10 mins

1. Start a discussion: What did they think of the porject - did they know about it? were they surprised by anything in the article? How would you feel if you were IBM - first but lost out on the operating system, etc....

Other follow up work:
- Roleplay - cards for people involved looking back & discussing changes as a result - being interviewed by a journalist.
- Discussion: what changes for the future? Have they read anything about near-.future developments? What would they like technology to help them with?
- Technophobes conference - give each std a problem card about some problem they have with technology - they mingle & get advice from everyone. Feedback on the best advice each received.



The Machine That Changed The World
by Beatrice Garcia
Knight Ridder

In the summer of 1980, IBM gathered 12 of its top engineers and sent them to Boca Raton, Fla., with a mandate: Build a personal computer that's faster and cheaper than anything on the market and, oh yes, have it ready for sale in one year.

At the time, the personal computer was a fledgling product in an industry dominated by Silicon Valley start-ups such as Apple Computer, Osborne, Commodore and Tandy's Radio Shack unit. Together, they had sold 327,000 PCs in 1980.

First PC

The original IBM PC, photographed in the Delray Beach development building.
But IBM -- a company unaccustomed to moving quickly -- saw great potential in the personal computer. So its group of 12 -- nicknamed the Dirty Dozen -- embarked on Project Chess. And 20 years ago -- Aug. 12, 1981 -- IBM unveiled its creation: a PC that sold for $2,665 with a black-and-white monitor and 64 kilobytes of memory.

It was a machine that changed the world.

"Nobody had a clue that it would be so successful,'' said Mark Dean, who developed the color graphics card for the PC.

With billions sold since 1981, the personal computer has had a profound effect on modern life -- from work to school to play. It also has created tremendous gains in productivity and unfathomable corporate and personal wealth. The IBM team also created computing standards still in use today, allowing some young firms to flourish and dominate their fields.

The IBM PC in August of '81.

``We built a machine that was acceptable for use by business . . . better than what was on the market then. It could also be used at home, and that turned the PC into a very popular machine,'' said David Bradley, a member of that original team.

Project Chess also had its tragedy. Philip D. Estridge, an IBM veteran who headed the Boca Raton effort, was killed in 1985 in a plane crash in Dallas. At the time of the crash, Estridge was vice president of manufacturing for IBM.

computer back board

A view of the back of the wirewrapped board delivered to Microsoft in December of 1980.

Without question, the biggest beneficiary of the PC has been Microsoft, which sold IBM its programming language and an operating system for a one-time fee of $80,000. But Microsoft kept the licensing rights to the operating system, allowing it to make billions of dollars as it sold copies of MS-DOS -- and later Windows -- for use in nearly all the PCs that have been sold since.

Last year alone, PC makers sold more than 140 million machines.

A view of the front of the wirewrapped board delivered to Microsoft in December of 1980.
computer front board

Because of its decision to open the PC's architecture and license the operating system from another company, IBM created a machine whose cost fell year after year even as its performance improved. But the ``open'' decision also ensured that IBM would be just one competitor among many, said Michael Swaine, one of the authors of ``Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer.''

``Open architecture was the right decision,'' says David O'Connor, the engineering manager on the original team of 12. ``It encouraged standards to be adopted internationally and helped drive down costs so more and more people and businesses could (take) advantage of computers.''

Slow to cash in

IBM, which had been responsible for many innovations, was often slow to exploit its own technology, says Melvin Hallerman, who signed on as the chief programmer in the original group. Big Blue's bureaucracy and lack of speed had allowed many competitors to take the lead in a variety of fields.

So when it decided to tackle the PC, IBM realized it had to move quickly. The one year deadline forced compromises.

There was no time to develop all the components from scratch, so IBM went with off-the-shelf components.

Joseph Sarubbi, an IBM engineer who began his career in the pre-transistor days, oversaw purchasing of the components and tested their reliability. He also oversaw manufacturing of the computers in Boca Raton.

``We were very antsy about this because of IBM's reputation and reliability,'' Sarubbi said.

Perhaps fittingly, the original production schedule for the IBM PC was produced on an Apple II computer in O'Connor's office.

Once IBM's top management approved the PC project, the team had an unprecedented amount of freedom to do its work, including a proviso that it did not have to use any of IBM's technology.

Throughout, the project was cloaked in secrecy.

IBM decided to use Intel's then-new 8088 microprocessor, but it didn't tell Intel exactly what kind of product it was developing. At one meeting between Intel engineers and the IBM team, the two sat at opposite sides of a table separated by a dense black curtain. The Intel engineers were trying to figure out the bugs in a product mock-up they couldn't even see.

In 1980, Intel had annual revenue of $854 million. Last year, it topped $33.7 billion.

As part of Project Chess, IBM also required vendors to sign nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. Some companies were reluctant to sign, fearing IBM might walk away with their technology.

One such firm was Digital Research, a small company in Pacific Grove, that had a popular operating system on the market in 1980. IBM knocked on its door because of Bill Gates.

IBM already had negotiated with Microsoft, then 5 years old, for its programming languages. Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen had made a name for themselves after creating a programming language for the first minicomputer. Microsoft had licensed Digital Research's operating system for a specific use, but didn't own it and couldn't offer it to IBM. So, Gates helped IBM arrange a meeting for IBM with Digital Research.

But Digital Research, according to Swaine's book, was uncomfortable with the terms demanded by Big Blue. Also, it wanted to license its operating system to IBM, not sell it outright.

IBM came back to Microsoft, and Gates seized the opportunity. What followed could well be the deal of the century.

Microsoft acquired an operating system that had been written by another Seattle company and used it as the basis for MS-DOS. Microsoft paid $50,000 for the operating system.

Microsoft No. 2

Today, Microsoft is the world's second-most valuable corporation.

Of course, much has changed from the early days of the PC's development.

Sarubbi, who went on to head the team that developed the IBM XT, the first desktop computer with a built-in hard drive, recalls how analysts criticized him for putting 10 megabytes on that drive. ``Who in their right mind would use 10 million bits of memory,'' he says.

Yet, back in 1983 when the XT was introduced, he was convinced software developers would take advantage of the memory and add more information.

Sarubbi was right. Today, a copy of Myst III: Exile, a popular new computer video game, requires 200 MB of available hard-drive space.

What the team of IBM developers unveiled that fateful day in 1981 was an instant hit.

``What IBM did was make it OK for American business to buy little computers,'' said Robert Cringely, who wrote and produced `Triumph of the Nerds,'' a PBS documentary on the PC industry.

``The fact that the PC has become so commoditized today doesn't take away from that contribution.''

computer computer computer

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