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Education Technology

Some Mexican Classrooms Adopt Hi-Tech Teaching 150

An anonymous reader writes "It what is believed to be the most ambitious project of its kind in the world. In a program called Enciclomedia, giant electronic screens have been attached to the walls of about 165,000 Mexican classrooms. Some five million 10 & 11 year-olds now receive all their education through these screens. 'From maths to music, from geography to geometry, black and white boards have given way to electronic screens. During a biology lesson we watch as pupil after pupil comes to the screen to piece together the human body... electronically. One boy taps his finger on the screen and brings up the human heart. He then slides his finger across the screen, taking the heart with him and places it where he thinks it belongs on the body located on the other side of the screen.'"
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Some Mexican Classrooms Adopt Hi-Tech Teaching

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  • Teachers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigwavejas ( 678602 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @02:44PM (#18547117) Journal
    I know it's a slippery slope, but really this technology might make teachers a thing of the past. Looking back on my high school years, the classes I learned more than any others were the classes that had great teachers. Teachers who inspired and were excited about their subject... it was contagious. The human spirit can't be replaced by a machine, but it certainly can be complemented.
    • by rlp ( 11898 )
      I don't think so. In secondary school there's (ideally) a lot of interaction. Students may have questions, or need additional explanations or examples of presented material. This approach supplemented with a good teacher to answer questions and provide supplemental material would really be the best of both worlds for secondary education.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MontyApollo ( 849862 )
      I don't think it will ever replace teachers, but I could see where it would be a good attention getter and help out the mediocre teachers. Even if they can't inspire the students, maybe all the onscreen stuff will keep the students interested.

      I do think this is a lot better idea than the whole "internet access in every classroom" craze. This system can actually supplement what the teacher is doing up in front of the class, whereas the internet is more of an outside of class research activity.
    • this technology might make teachers a thing of the past

      It requires teachers to adapt to a very powerful tool, which hopefully makes bad teacher less bad, and eases the work of brilliant teachers. Now the lessons are more planned for teachers than ever, and bad drawing won't confuse pupils any more, since the screen comes with interactive drawings.

      I don't believe that a screen itself could replace a teacher, since most pupils would lack the discipline to study on their own accord.

      I wonder how fragile thes

    • Teaching isn't just about the content, but helping the student to process it and put it into context

      I don't see teachers disappearing anytime soon. They aren't only a mindless talking machines whose only function is to read aloud a textbook (some actually are, however).

      I mean, if they were just like that and thus replaceable, why stopping there? just ditch the whole concept of classroom and just give the tykes some CDs.
    • I wish... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CasperIV ( 1013029 )
      This is kind of a rant. Oh well. I have had some of the worst teachers and some of the best. The problem is that the teacher is just a medium between content and the student. In all reality I learned more when we worked in groups and used a reference then when the teacher lectured for hours on end. There are a lot of teachers right now that have not even adapted to use a computer effectivly, which is appalling.

      After going through the educational process I realized that good teachers are by far a min
      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        Well, the primary goal of a teacher SHOULD be to teach the student HOW to learn. When a teacher uses the extremely poor excuse that they don't know how to use a computer, which is a tool of their trade, they make it absolutely clear that they do not understand the primary subject they are teaching, and thus are completely unqualified for the job. How could anyone possibly think that someone who is either incapable or unwilling to learn a subject that has dominated society for the last two decades, is qual
    • I just heard a couple of weeks ago (I live in Mexico City) in the news that this encyclomedia system turned out to be a flop. Almost half of all the installations don't work anymore because broken parts, missing parts, plain non-functioning hardware... This system was pushed by former president Vicente Fox. I really don't know the policy of the new administration about this system. What HAS worked excellent for decades, and even has received acclaim and prizes from United Nations via the UNICEF, its call
    • (apologies in advance if most of what I'll say below is redundant with other people's posts; these are my own views that aren't necessarily unique)

      I completely agree. There's a psychological theory to the group based/student driven teaching that's so popular today called "constructivism." It seems to work great for subjects where there is no right answer, where discussion leads someone to a greater intuitive understanding of the underlying meaning of a metaphor or whatever else through the contexts presen
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Jsov ( 1082149 )
        I am afraid you are confused as to what constructivism is. Constructivism is a learning theory. It is NOT a teaching theory or anything that has to do with teaching methods or how bad or good a teacher is. When you are learning something you are "constructing" new knowledge. You make connections with things that you already know (prior knowledge). That can happen in a discussion or in a lecture, it doesn't matter because constructivism is about learning and not teaching.
    • Nah. Our school (UK, 1700 pupils) has had similar boards in every classroom for years now, and after the first 3 months they're used less as clever interactive tools and more as whiteboards with pages. Of course it makes lesson planning easier, as you can put together material anywhere with the tools installed and use it in any classroom but there are very few teachers (Mostly the younger ones) who use them interactively.
    • I've been volunteering in a primary school for a while now and I'm finding it really scary just how much is being covered through the kids staring at an interactive whiteboard. Sure they're useful things, but their use shouldn't be replacing real-world learning at every turn.
  • by blitz487 ( 606553 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @02:45PM (#18547131)
    Teachers love these gadgets because it relieves them from having to make an effort to teach. Students love them because it relieves them from having to make an effort to learn.

    But learning requires work and effort. There's no shortcut.
    • I learned more from reading "Realm of Algebra" by Isaac Asimov than I did in 1 year of 8th grade Algebra class, so yes there is a short cut. Or to put things in a different perspective, reading a good book on a subject is all it should take to learn it, the standard classroom method is the long way around the barn.
    • by dawich ( 945673 )
      I disagree with the first part of this. Teachers also love these because they can enhance what they are doing, and because they can teach in places they can't reach at all. Working with the Stanford School of Education years ago, they were doing incredibly cool things with distance learning that really helped the classroom environment, instead of replacing it. Yes, if you have lazy teachers, this can be the new babysitter, but with the right teachers, this can do so much more.
    • It alarms me this post isn't being modded down as flamebait.

      "Relieves them from having to make an effort to teach?" Are you serious?

      These boards aren't magic wands.

      You have to:

      1- Learn to use the software for the program, which is very often poorly documented. (Surely Slashdotters understand this!)

      2- Develop lessons for the program, which usually involves coming up with entirely new materials, searching out sources, and coming up with ways to integrate them to the new software.

      3- Like any other tool, debug
    • "But learning requires work and effort. There's no shortcut." Bingo. We can make learning as engaging and attractive as possible, but what we are really doing is creating lazy students. Eventually you hit the edge of your video-game "teach yourself advanced physics" and you have to pick up a book, or by golly actually study some material. Maybe this will work for educating the masses, but it comes at the expense of creating minds that are able to learn independent of their super learning videos.
    • Funnily enough, we are Mexican.

      She only has 40 years of experience teaching at primary and secondary level (6 to 15 years old children).

      She says "mijo, dile al señor en la computadora que es un soberano pendejo".

      I would translate it for you, unfortunately Mexican swearing words are not my speciality when it comes to translation.
  • This is great! Now teachers can do even less work while the magic screen on the wall teaches the kids!

    I had Bill Nye the Science Guy as a science teacher once. There was also some other guy there, but I think his job was to manage the VCR.
  • ... but too bad some schools in lower-class and rural areas are getting the Enciclomedia equipment, even when they don't even have electrical power, or decent bathrooms for the kids. :(

    I know, I've been there.

    When will our government realize that what's needed first is more truly dedicated, capable teachers and basic physical infrastructure?
    • I think the author meant the government of Mexico should bear these costs, not the US government. While it would be nice to have someone else foot the bill, the reality is that the Mexican government must stop its cycle of corruption and start giving a little more back. Being from Mexico myself, I have seen many problems within the country revolving around infrastructure. simple things like highways, clean water and electricity go a loooooonggggg way. This ambitious project will help maintain and grow the
      • At least we are not teaching creationist nonsense in our schools....

        One of the few things that really works in Mexico is the educational system. It is far from perfect, but it has been churning our people that could do better if the economic situation had developped at the same speed. Shame really.
  • In text alone, it is believed there is the equivalent of about 14 full-sized books inside Enciclomedia.
    So it has a fraction of the storage of my low end Palm, a Z22.
    • by jhfry ( 829244 )
      This has to be a typo... They act as if it's a big number then drop 14 on us... I figure it was more like 14K or at least 140.

      Otherwise it wouldn't be "believed", as 14 full sized books isn't enough that you really need to make a guess.
  • old news (Score:2, Informative)

    by omar_armas ( 633987 )
    I live in Mexico City, Enciclomedia has been used since 2 or 3 years ago.
    • by xtracto ( 837672 )
      And yet, I just read in "La Jornada" (Mexican news paper) that a lot of the hardware conceived for the "Enciclomedia" project has no been used because of the lack of electricity in some places...

      (Yeah I am from Mexico too)
  • If this was a Linux-based solution that fact would be in the submission, but of course it's not so there's no mention even of the technology being used. There's a Word doc here [] with the specs and requirements.
  • If it was possible to hack, no matter how hard (they got the AppleTV [] in one day!), that could cause some serious problems, lawsuits and everything. I'd like to know more about the security in the software, as software is what will make the difference. totaled by one hacker? You bet'cha! Seriously...
  • by Tatisimo ( 1061320 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @03:09PM (#18547561)
    I live and studied in Mexico some time and some in the US. The differences are: In US there's no government agency that takes care of education. In Mexico, we have the Bureau of Public Education, which handles textbooks, adult education, and every aspect of making the people better informed. We Mexicans are more open to accept that we know nothing- Most of us come from a time when we had so little, that up to this date, there are people who never got past Elementary school. Thus, as adults, we worry about our children, and that the same doesn't happen to them. I've been around americans, and some of my best friends are americans, to know that american people (most, at least the ones I met) trust their schools systems more than we mexicans do. Back in my days (about 15 years ago) my mother got to help build the school where I studied, which is 5 blocks away from my current location. About 6 months ago, my brother, an electrician, got hired by the same school to install those high tech boards the article talks about. In general, Mexican people mind more their children's education, trying not to repeat history. Science is a big thing- I keep hearing the creation vs. evolution in the US. There's no such thing in Mexico. In fact, in the textbooks there were 6 theories of how life could have come to exist, and students were encouraged to seek their own answers. That way, even the most naive pretty girl once came to me, the library worm, to recommend a good book on the Paleozoic period, and sat reading it for HOURS. We were forced to learn through curiosity. Teachers in mexico are TEACHERS- Mexican teachers are hard working individuals who sometimes don't make a living teaching. In a small town in chihuahua where I lived, some alternated between farming and teaching, and one of my best teachers made a living selling wood. Those people knew their stuff and knew that learning was important, to prevent (redundancy alert) repeating a history in which we have to work hard to make a living. (Joke entry starts here) Mexico is a country of former slaves. Our ancestors didn't go through the trouble of shedding their blood for our independance from slave labor so that we would end up in sweatshops! I apologize for the long post (and bad grammar/spelling, I'm to lazy to edit XD); and hope not to make any stereotypes of any people, nor insult anybody. I am aware that people everywhere are the same (and I've been around plenty of different people to know that). Oh, and I don't mean to say that the american school system is bad, it's only that the Mexican school system is designed to get us all out of ignorance, while the american school system is only meant to teach. PS. The time shall come soon when EVERY country will have to either sink or swim , and pretty soon, maybe not in our life time, we will have to start seeing each other as equals through technology, knowledge, etc. I don't know about other countries enough to know what their progress is (but most so called 3rd world countries are stepping out, even faster than mexico), but I do know about Mexico, because I am in Mexico. And I know that someday technology shall unite us all. (Corruscant, anyone?) Peace.
    • In US there's no government agency that takes care of education.

      Uhhhh... wha?

      Exactly how long were you in the US?

      • I was about 9 years. Sorry for the mistake, I meant to say: there's no federal standard for education, and instead each county makes their own standards. In california, the standards were lower than in colorado. And even lower in new mexico.
        • Interesting. Apparently you've been unaware of education in the United States since George W. took office - not that it's better now.

          More curiously, a great many of my students (Dallas suburb) that come from Mexico are amongst the most poorly educated in my classes - and no, it's not a linguistic issue. They describe underpaid teachers who are undermotivated and often abusive.

          I guess we both have our own forms of nationalism, eh?
          • The students who move from mexico to the US are often the poorest, and that normally translates as the least educated. I remember those teachers, hitting with rulers, and throwing erasers... ah, good ol' rural mexican education! Getting less common nowadays, with the new government. I do have my mexican pride, but it's more about food than anything else. Otherwise, If I weren't mexican, I'd like to have been born in Russia, sounds like a fun place where to live.
        • Eh, from what I read, it depends on the subject. Math education in California, for instance, is supposedly one of the best in the nation since a couple of Stanford professors reacted to the poor math standards (which, unfortunately, is thoroughly established throughout the rest of the country) and decided to come up with their own math curricula for primary education.
    • by AlHunt ( 982887 )
      >and bad grammar/spelling, I'm to [sic] lazy to edit XD)

      Despite your laziness, I read your entire post. "Mexico" and "Mexican" were capitalized all but once. "America" and "American" (each used several times) were never capitalized, even once. Looks like the Mexican school system has a long way to go.

      • Despite your laziness, I read your entire post. "Mexico" and "Mexican" were capitalized all but once. "America" and "American" (each used several times) were never capitalized, even once. Looks like the Mexican school system has a long way to go.
        Mexico and America should be capitalized in spanish, but not words like Mexican (mexicano) or American (americano). In other words, he might be writing in English using his Spanish part of the brain :) or he's just lazy and forgot to press shift once in a while.
        • Thanks for the help. I was too lazy to capitalize correctly, and I still retain my mexican grammar sometimes, although I use english punctuation when typing in spanish (english punctuation is so much easier). The mexican school system does have a long way to go, that's why there's so much concern about it! Thank heavens today's school kids are being trained to properly write.
      • by imer79 ( 1082163 )
        Wow. I have to say, no positive motivation in the world could have prompted you to write such a reply. I read TERRIBLE grammar on the web all the time, as do you. The vast majority comes from American posters, simply because they are the slight majority, as far as I know. Yet, I have the sense to differentiate between ignorance and the realization that people (regardless of nationality) tend to display poor grammar in their web postings. The latter does not negate the validity of the ideas that they are att
        • by AlHunt ( 982887 )
          You and other responders make 2 points, which I will address separately:

          1) "The OP was thinking in Spanish and writing in English".
          No - the OP was intentionally being disrespectful by not using proper capitalization. I was trying to be a little less blunt about it, but there it is. Place names are capitalized in English. Place names are capitalized in Spanish. I'm not buying the Mexican-American brain syndrome argument. By the way, I've done the same thing when posting about politicians whom I disrespe
    • "I've been around americans, and some of my best friends are americans..."

      That part made me chuckle.
    • The US has the Department of Education, and at the local level are the Independent School Districts, a form of government that varies by state and county. Your post has a "kind hearted" message, but was not fully researched.
    • Estimado Tatisimo: nos harías un favor a todos si usas "US American" para decir estadounidense. Los mexicanos somos americanos también ;-) .
      • Disculpa, por simplificar las cosas, use "american". Pense en "North American" pero me acorde de los canadienses. Americanos somos todos los nacidos en este continente, lo se, pero por ahorrar palabras lo simplifique. Esperemos que no haya mas confusion, y a la otra no lo vuelvo a hacer, por el bien de los americanos. ^^ (Me acabo de acordar de la cancion de los jaivas, "Todos Americanos" se la recomiendo al que tenga duda en que es un americano)
        • by xtracto ( 837672 )
          Me añado a la petición de wakaramon.

          P.d. estos pinches gringos están bien locos, criticando la ortografía de la gente cuando ellos apenas pueden hablar el Inglés...

          Me fail english? thats Unpossible!
          • NO todos los gringos estan locos, aunque muchos si. Es mas o menos el mismo porcentaje que los mexicanos. Sin "gringos" no hubiera slashdot, y muchos sitios que nos mantienen tan entretenidos e informados en todas partes del mundo. Me disculpo otra vez por mi error de usar "american" mal, e insisto que fue por la hueva de no poner unas letritas mas. Y claro, sin mexicanos no hubiera tacos, y haber como se llamaria el jefe de aqui XD CmdrHotdog?
    • Tatisimo, I'm Mexican, and for your information the ammount of stupidity in your post is impressive. I studied primary school in a private school, and did two years of secundaria in a government school. I had a good time in both of them, but the difference in quality between these schools was truly shocking, even for me at that age. I also studied one year in a French school and I assure you the difference of quality is overwhelming. Mexican people in general are not as well educated as you claim, and sad
      • I didn't claim mexican people are well educated. I said the opposite. I meant that we're so uneducated, we care to make it better. A bit of advice: every time I see stupidity on the first couple of sentences of a post, I stop reading it and ignore it ^^ (the fact that I read your post means: I respect your opinion and don't think disagreeing with me is equal to stupidity). Ojos de güey, güey ven.
    • by tuxic ( 769908 ) *
      This is very encouraging to read. Hopefully in the future, the quote from Einstein, "The only thing that stops me from learning is education" (hope I got that right) will be read by people and not grasped at all: "what did he mean by that?". The people of today and yesterday unite in conversations about how education is boring, dull and a part of life that sucks terribly, either through violence, bullying or just obsolete learning techniques by teachers that don't really know how to reach out for their pupi
      • Amen to that! When I was in middle school in mexico, my favorite chemistry teacher had us make caramel apple to teach us chemistry. We all agree education is dull, but we think to "go with the flow and hope it sinks in eventually, if not, copy it off someone nerdier than you." I say, put up with it as far as you can, grow up, and prevent it from happening to future generations.
    • Not only do I applaud you but I applaud the entire Mexican people. FFS you've got a constitution that won't alow you to be charged with more time if you break out of a prison because you have the *RIGHT* to *SEEK* freedom. Here, we punish those that try to seek freedom, in prison or not. You care about your education, our educational system is so fucked up that we quit teaching basic law in elementary school back in the '50s (according to my grandfather, born before the depression-era) and most students are
  • I remember going for a biology field trip and having to work out whether the little creature I had in a perspex box was the same as one neatly drawn in my biology text book. Sure, some of the books had a few gloosy prints, but they were few and far between. So I can see the advantage from that point of view. And maybe reliance on the big screen will help turn out better biologists. But for some subjects, maths for example, the only real way of learning them well is to start with a paper and pencil.


  • this reminds of one of my favorite t-shirts []
  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @03:29PM (#18547867) Homepage
    From this essay I wrote: nologyHasFailedSchools.html []

    With all that technological success in other areas, why are schools still
    considered a problem area, see:
        "To fix US schools, [bipartisan] panel says, start over" l []
    Or in other words, why has technology failed in compulsory schools?
    Clearly something is wrong here -- technology is helping make these other
    places more productive and more flexible -- but in schools, there is not
    much change, despite a huge expenditure in technology and training.

    Ultimately, educational technology's greatest value is in supporting
    "learning on demand" based on interest or need which is at the opposite
    end of the spectrum compared to "learning just in case"
    based on someone else's demand.
    Compulsory schools don't usually traffic in "learning on demand",
    for the most part leaving that kind of activity to libraries or museums or
    the home or business or the "real world". In order for compulsory schools
    to make use of the best of educational technology and what is has to
    offer, schools themselves must change. ...

    And it also turns out, based on psychological studies, that for creative
    work (as opposed to ditch digging), reward is often not a motivator, and
    creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if a task is done for gain: []
    This finding calls into question the entire notion of a scarcity-based
    ideology oriented around exchanging ration-units for creative goods, as
    opposed to a "gift economy", such as drives GNU/Linux. []
    So, if most of what people do is not related to growing food or making
    things, then a system based around material rewards doesn't make much
    sense. And it turns out, a lot of difficult work is quite interesting, if
    you are not forced to do it -- where the work (and success at a
    challenging task) is its own reward.

    But then is compulsory schooling really needed when people live in such a
    way? In a gift economy, driven by the power of imagination, backed by
    automation like matter replicators and flexible robotics to do the
    drudgery, isn't there plenty of time and opportunity to learn everything
    you need to know? Do people still need to be forced to learn how to sit in
      one place for hours at a time? When people actually want to learn
    something like reading or basic arithmetic, it only takes around 50
    contact hours or less to give them the basics, and then they can bootstrap
    themselves as far as they want to go. Why are the other 10000 hours or so
    of a child's time needed in "school"? Especially when even poorest kids in
    India are self-motivated to learn a lot just from a computer kiosk -- or a
    "hole in the wall": all.htm []
    • by flajann ( 658201 )
      The problem with compulsory schools is just that -- it's compulsory. Compulsory attendance, compulsory compensation (taxes), compulsory curriculum.

      The killer is not "gain", but the compulsory nature. If you are forced to do anything, even for "gain", you loose the creativity aspect. On the other hand, if you are allowed freedom, your creativity is enhanced, even if your creativity is for "gain". Yes, personal accomplishment is its own reward, but it is not exclusive to making a profit as well!

      And as a

  • A Global Reply (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Friedrich Psitalon ( 777927 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @03:36PM (#18547961)
    Interesting what people can misread and misinterpret.

    1- As a teacher who has one of those boards hanging in my room right now, 25 feet in front of me (I'm on my planning period, thanks) I can tell you:


    Very, very few high-quality lessons are available on the internet. Teachers are (disappointingly) a very territorial bunch with their lessons. At best, you'll find perhaps two dozen lessons attached to your grade/subject. Of those, at most five will be appropriate for your class/skillset of students.

    2- Technology will only eclipse teachers when you show me the tool that will deal well with the kid who got his ass beat by dad last night for trying to get him to stop hitting his mom, who speaks a dozen words of the school's language, and has the unfortunate-but-true "Living for now" survival instincts of a child raised in poverty. When you develop a program that can educate that, all while taking role and helping Sarah get to the nurse because she's having her first period, I'll bow out of this classroom and go on welfare.

    3- These boards, as great as they sound, are simply glorified mouse-pads with projectors hitting them. You synch up where the projector is aiming with the board, and you've basically got a supersized tablet that also happens to have the monitor on it. In short, something very similar to bank screens for the last ten years. The difference? Someone made the screen even bigger and got the cost low enough that a few principles caught on, and the rest followed like pigs in a pen, as most things in education go.

    Do I use mine? Absolutely. I'm probably using it now while you read it - but it's just a tool (albeit a high-potential one), it's not the Educational Messiah, and technology is surely not going to destroy this field, popular Slashdot views to the contrary. ;)

    -A teacher
  • "It is fabulous," says the teacher Arturo Vazquez. "The children concentrate more, they interact more and so they get more out of each class".

    If they just bought this system and it's really that useful, what, exactly, is the "teacher" needed for? (More likely, this is just the next generation of fancy filmstrip.)

    This, is the world's first digitally-educated generation.

    Or second...computers were a (sad) part of my elementary school education too, and I now have a couple of kids.

  • Some Mexican classrooms adopt wrestling masks. They say the use of a uniform dress code helps students' concentration, and since the teachers are usually bigger than the students, nobody starts any trouble.
  • I must dissent (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Yartrebo ( 690383 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @06:19PM (#18550173)
    As an educator, I must say that I'm quite opposed to most uses of computers/TVs/projectors/etc in the classroom. While interactive math games might be good for memorization (the least important part of learning, in my opinion), it's useless for teaching using other paradigms such as the Socratic Method (my personal favorite) or facilitative teaching (the paradigm preached by my public school system).

    Also, unless you have both the source code and plenty of time on your hands, it takes control of the curriculum out of the hands of the teacher and school and puts it in the hands of the company doing the programming and politicians. Somehow I fear there will poor messages in the material, such as commercialism, materialism, sexism, ageism, and other ideas that are often pushed in commercial kids TV (and TV in general), among many other concerns that occur when either career politicians or private businesses are involved.
  • The Free Software community in Mexico has strongly rejected Enciclomedia since its announcement (around 1.5 years ago) as it is simply a grant to Microsoft to provide contents and get licensing for nothing too useful. It employs, yes, very cool high-tech gadgets as the electronic blackboard - But it is, after all, just an expensive, useless gadget (believe me, there was one 10m away from my office at the National Pedagogic University [] that was very seldom used - and far more seldomly taken advantage. We coul

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!