Many people have heard of Video Professor. They ran commercial on cable TV channels and on late night programming throughout the nineties. I recall seeing the commercials and laughing at some of the concepts. In the mid-nineties, I was already “online” most days. So a lot of the concepts in videos like Learn to use the Internet seemed comically simple.
Now I wish I had watched them back then, because it would ad a nice layer of nostalgia to my appreciation of them. And I do appreciate them. Why? Because they capture a wonderful moment in time. An era before the internet became ubiquitous and before slick video production would become commonplace.
Watching this now, I am struck by how information packed this 46 minute video is. It walks you through concepts and ideas that were new to people at the time. While at the same time gives you practical advice on using the internet through Prodigy.
We learn not only the hows and whys of getting online, but what to do once you do. From email to emojis and from auto-updates to Yahoo! It is all covered in this simple video.
If you happened to be around during this time in the internet’s history, you will find this a fun trip back in time. When blue links lead to mysterious and unpredictable places and images were few and far between. This was the internet where I saw a possible career for myself, so watching this walk-through takes me back to a time when each click of the mouse shined a light on all the potential for this burgeoning technology.
I read that Video Professor had some legal issues in their later years. Some of them well into the new millennium. Which is shocking to me, I don’t recall seeing their ads after the nineties ended, but I guess they did. Seems like the business took a dark turn at some point before disappearing.
Now I feel guilty about my negative feelings towards Video Professor in the nineties. I don’t know much about their later products, but this video is a wonderful set of instructions for early users of the web. Without videos like these, how many people would have never gotten online in the early days? So a big thanks to Video Professor for being a cheerleader and educator of this technology I love so much.
Watch Learn to use the Internet with Video Professor
I was at the Living Computer Museum again last weekend. No surprise for people who read this blog. It is one of my favorite places to visit in Seattle. Every time I go there, I find something new that captures my imagination or educates me. Today I would like to talk about another way of experiencing this wonderful facility, as a learning library. It all started when I stumbled across this PDP 11/70 Processor Handbook that someone had left near one of the PDP machines.
I had perused the books before while visiting this museum, but to see it so close to the machine it was meant for was a different experience. Picturing myself as a brand new PDP operator in the seventies, I opened up the book and attempted to start learning. It was a challenging bit of reading at first, but I found myself quickly starting to understand some of the basics of what I would need to know.
Suddenly I was looking for other books near machines. I had seen them before, but has never attacked them with gusto. Before I knew it I found myself watching videos on YouTube and skimming the books trying to learn. Pushing myself just a little to see how each of the machines work. Computer architecture has become so homogenized for the most part, that very rarely am I challenged like I was in the past. It was refreshing and perplexing.
It also peeled back another layer on this fine museum. Will I be running out to buy a PDP because of it? No, but I can find the PDP 11/70 Processor Handbook easily on Amazon. And if I ever want to tinker, the LCM will probably have a machine for me to monkey around with. Surely with the right book and enough time I could master any machine.
Growing up and loving computer with little to no money was difficult. You tended to hoard your computer supplies, especially floppy disks. I would climb through dumpsters and wheel and deal with friends to get my hands on the magnetic gold. While all brands were welcome at my desk, Elephant Memory Systems floppy disks were my favorite. Not only were they premium, but they had this striking image of an elephant on the packaging and wonderful fanciful descriptions on the sleeves.
You might ask, how often did you actually read the back of your disk sleeve? The answer is very often. Back in the day, computer load times were very long. You often needed something to keep your mind occupied during that time. So if I did not have a magazine or book on hand, I would pick up a disk and just read the back. Since Elephant Memory Systems did such a good job on theirs, I found it very re-readable.
I probably had 5 of these discs in my collection over the years, but they always stood out. They were always my favorite and I reserved them as file save home for my favorite video games.
Sadly, I currently have none in my collection at home. So I was thrilled to spot this one on a recent visit to the Living Computer Museum in Seattle. The fact that discs like this are just lying around to be used, speaks volume about the quality of the collection. Everything there is a memory waiting to be remembered. Even the stuff not under glass or featured with a sign.
About Elephant Memory Systems
Elephant Memory Systems floppy disks were produced by Leading Edge in the 1980s. They got their name from the idea that an “elephant never forgets.” Which is a perfect way to promote memory. Also a perfect way to make a memorable brand. It works on so many levels! Leading Edge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989 and was acquired in 1989 by Daewoo shortly thereafter .
I grew up in Queens Village, New York and I always went with my parents to Jamaica Savings Bank (now Capital One). This bank was interesting for several reasons; the lighting was warm because most of it came from their huge windows, the tellers were separated from the public with very thick bullet proof glass, and the most importantly, their computers.
That’s me on the side of Jamaica Savings Bank in September of 1989.
There were a few desks and on each was a DEC Rainbow 100 computer. Which consisted of a monitor and keyboard. I didn’t realize until years later that there was a console attached because it was always out of sight. Under the desk perhaps?
I loved the shape of the monitor – the angle at which you looked at it mesmerized me every time I walked into the bank. My curiosity would always get the best of me and I found myself drifting over to a desk that no one was working at. I would stare at the set-up, dreaming of having a Rainbow 100 for myself. Now that I collect computers, I think it’s just a matter of time before I get one in my collection.
If that computer looks familiar, there’s a good reason for it; it was in a lot of movies. Beverly Hills Cop, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and Ghostbusters.
The set up here is almost exactly what I saw in the bank minus the printer & console.
If you’re wondering about that wacky looking disk drive, well, this video will explain.