Welcome to Twilight Junction. Population 8,005...according to the latest census. It’s a small town nestled snugly between here and there and a little more than half-way between the way things were and the way we would like them to be. It sits in the foothills of the nearby mountains, where the commuter rail line ends and the freight line begins. It’s home to a little bit of yesterday, a fair amount of today and a few glimpses of tomorrow.
When we last visited (ATPM 3.04), Mrs. Reiser, the school board president , had put to a vote the recommendations of the special Internet task force headed by Charlie Dixon, chairman of the high school English department. As we return to the meeting, the school board has just approved the recommendations of the task force by an 8 to 1 margin. The only dissenting vote was cast by Henry Harriman, the school board’s vice-president.
Kimberly Schoengrun has just arrived at the meeting with her two daughters, Amy (age 8) and Jennifer (age 6). Amy is scheduled to speak about using the school’s Macintosh computers. Following Amy’s presentation, the next item on the agenda is discussion about purchasing new computer equipment. The schools have used Macintosh OS compatible computers for years, however the school board has come under pressure from a variety of sources to at least consider purchasing Wintel-based machines.
It was about one year ago when Amy’s parents, Mark and Kimberly Schoengrun, purchased Curly’s, the town’s old-fashioned “five and dime” store, and moved their family to Twilight Junction. Prior to the move, they lived in Sobriquet City, the region’s largest metropolis. One reason for the change of address was concern for Amy’s academic performance. Although very young, she seemed to have trouble keeping up with her classmates. Her basic reading skills were below grade level and she struggled with basic math.
By purchasing Curly’s and moving to Twilight Junction, Mark and Kimberly hoped to spend more time with Amy and her sister. They thought the less-pressured environment would help Amy with her school work. They felt it was worth giving up conventional careers for a better quality of life. Amy has just finished second grade and her sister, Jennifer, has completed Kindergarten.
Amy is a happy child with a broad smile and cheeks speckled with freckles. She has long brown hair that is usually braided in back and she loves to run around in her red and blue baseball cap. Amy loves to talk and is prone to bouts of spontaneous giggles. Jennifer, two years younger, is a little less outgoing than her older sister. Although only six years-old, she appears to be more on the “studious” side of things. More than one person has commented that although Jennifer’s mouth is often motionless, her brain seems to be always working overtime.
Jennifer shares her sister’s long brown hair but prefers not to wear braids. Jennifer approaches things in a determined manner. This is evident in one activity the two girls share: using their Macintosh for fun and learning.
When Mark and Kimberly were renovating Curly’s (ATPM 3.04) they installed the store’s first computers. The lack of electronic equipment didn’t surprise people who worked and/or shopped at Curly’s. It was an old-style “five and dime.” Inventory was counted by hand (more accurately, by Curly’s cane) while walking the store’s aisles. Many items were one-time purchases and Curly didn’t care how many “what-it-was,” as he put it, he might have. “Essential items” were things like fabric and sewing supplies, household items, sundries, tobacco and candy. If Curly saw an empty bin or shelf space that wasn’t for an “essential item,” it meant that something new and different was needed to fill the spot. Curly’s had a reputation for miles around as an eclectic collection of things long gone, things hardly ever made and things that might not find shelf space anywhere else. Although Mark and Kimberly remodeled and revamped the store, it’s historical notoriety helps bring in the tourists on their way to and from the local mountains. In effect, Curly’s has become kind of a local landmark and tourist attraction.
Mark and Kimberly restored the old-style soda fountains that once were the town’s favorite gathering spot. The soda shop is now open on weekends and for a few hours after school. Patrons walk over a refurbished black and white checkered floor to sit at red and white speckled tables trimmed in chrome. The new menu offers low-fat milkshakes, several different soda flavors and a small, but appealing, assortment of ice cream sundaes and floats.
The computer system for Curly’s was chosen with Amy and Jennifer in mind. Mark wanted to have the same computer at home and in the store. He called their school to find out which machines they used and the answer was, “Macintosh.” He chose a PowerPC to handle the store’s inventory and bookkeeping and bought a similar model for their home.
Amy’s computer work caught her parents’ attention. For hours, Amy would sit in front of her Macintosh learning reading, basic math and her favorite subject: animals of the world. Mark and Kimberly felt that Amy’s interactive learning boosted her confidence and self-esteem, not to mention her performance with pencil and paper.
Mark was so surprised by Amy’s performance that he contacted an Apple education reseller to learn more about educational software for his children and led a fund raising drive to buy more Apple hardware for Twilight Junction’s schools. Curly’s was the rallying point for parents to collect dimes, nickels and pennies for the school’s computers.
Back to the school board meeting...
At the appointed time, Mrs. Reiser invited Amy to come up to the microphone and speak. Mr. Harriman, the board’s vice-president and curmudgeon, mumbled something about not allowing the girl to take “too much time” from what he considered “more pressing matters.” Mr. Harriman was roundly silenced by audible “sshhsshh” sounds coming from the crowd.
Amy began her presentation. “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Amy Schoegrun and I will be in third grade after summer vacation. I wanted to talk to you about my Macintosh computer. It’s helped me learn numbers and how to read and spell. My mommy says I sometimes spend too much time on my computer,” Amy giggled, “but I know it helps me with school work.”
At that point, Kimberly Schoengrun walked up to the microphone, put her arms around Amy and said to the board members, “I’m Amy’s mom. We’d like to take a moment to prepare a short presentation.” Kimberly then asked for a volunteer to help bring in the equipment.
During the brief pause, Harry Tomlin took the liberty of addressing Mrs. Reiser and the other school board members. “I understand the little lady’s been helped by a computer. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at different options. I’m scared about continuing with Macs. For the life of me, I can’t understand how Apple stays in business. From what I’ve read, the company’s had more CEOs in the past few years than Henry VIII had wives!”
Just then, a cart carrying a disassembled Apple computer was wheeled to the front of the room. Nathan Tucker, the high school science teacher, brought in the equipment and placed it on the table. All eyes turned to Amy and her mom.
The silence prompted Mr. Harriman to complain, “Mrs. Schoengrun, is there a technician to set-up this equipment or do we intend to stay all night?” “Mr. Harriman,” Kimberly responded, “this is part of the presentation.” With that statement as their cue, Kimberly and Amy walked hand-in-hand to the table. To the surprise of many, it was Amy who connected the monitor, keyboard and printer to the computer and the mouse to the keyboard. Amy plugged the power cables into the surge suppressor, then invited her mom to take the final step of plugging the surge suppressor into the wall .
Total elapsed time: one minute, forty six seconds.
With a triumphant smile, Amy pressed the “Power On” button on the keyboard. The computer sounded its familiar Mac chime and began to whir. Amy opened a document with several thumb-nail images of photos depicting important moments in Twilight Junction’s history. She asked that the lights be dimmed. For the next 5 minutes, the photos displayed in full-size on the computer’s monitor while Amy’s voice was heard in a prerecorded narration. Amy’s Dad, who, at that moment, was hurrying in vain to close Curly’s in time to see his daughter’s presentation, had helped her put together the multi-media show.
The images Amy used were from original pictures that adorned the walls of Curly’s. Kimberly and Amy scanned them before having the photos reframed. The photos told the history of Twilight Junction, from its founding to the height of its glory, just a few decades ago. The town began as a sleepy hamlet for railroad workers and their families when the railroad line was extended to the foothills. The freight lines still employ many of Twilight Junction’s residents. Today, the town is the first and last stop on the commuter train each day. Amy’s presentation began and ended with the sound of a spirited but antiquated freight train as it began its day’s journey from the yard, slowly picking up speed with a familiar “clickity-clack” pentameter. The images brought back sweet memories of a more innocent time, an era remembered by many of the meeting’s attendees.
As the lights returned to their normal setting, few people said a word. Most everyone was a little stunned by what they saw, an eight year-old girl confidently working a personal computer and making a multi-media presentation to the school board. Even Mr. Harriman appeared impressed.
”Is that it?” asked Mrs. Reiser. “That’s it!” responded Amy and her mom. “Does anyone have any questions for Amy?” asked Mrs. Reiser. The room was decidedly quiet. After several moments of silence, Mr. Harriman asked, “Who helped you with this project?” “Well,” said Amy, “My mom helped get the pictures and my dad helped me put them all together.”
”Is this the computer you used?” continued Mr. Harriman. “Yep,” Amy replied and giggled, “this is the computer I use at home. It even has the marks from when me and my sister were fighting and I accidentally brushed it with my magic marker.” Amy’s raised her arm slowly and pointed to a couple of small black streaks on the computer’s outer casing. The room filled with the sound of parents’ “we know all too well” laughter. “Good!” exclaimed Mrs. Reiser in a playful manner, “we now know you’re as much a little girl as you are an accomplished narrator!”
Mrs. Reiser then picked-up her gavel and reestablished order in the room. “Does anyone have an opposing presentation they’d like to make?” she asked half in jest. Again, the room was silent except for a few grumbles and murmurs.
”I can understand why someone would develop a real affection for this computer. Did you use any special equipment?” Mrs. Reiser asked Amy and her mother. “We borrowed a scanner for a few days,” responded Kimberly Schoengrun. “Other than that, we used the microphone that came with the Mac. The patrons of Curly’s are donating money to the elementary school for a scanner and any software necessary to help students and teachers make similar presentations. The Mac comes with everything else you need. It really is a unique computer,” she added.
With that, Mrs. Reiser rose from her chair and said, “I think we’ve seen enough for tonight. Does anyone wish to make a presentation advocating non-Macintosh computers?” With that the room fell silent. After a short pause Mrs. Reiser banged her gavel and motioned that the issue of the school’s computer purchases be tabled until next month. “In fairness to all citizens of Twilight Junction,” she said, “I want to be sure all voices are heard on the matter. I challenge anyone to present a compelling reason to this board why we shouldn’t continue to use Macintosh computers in our schools. I’d further recommend that any such presentation had best be a very convincing one.”
Mrs. Reiser then turned to Mr. Tomlin, the board’s Wintel advocate, and said a bit brusquely, “I trust one month is enough time for someone to make an appropriate presentation? I do not wish to revisit this issue for at least two more years. Our purchasing plans should be forward-looking.” Mr. Tomlin simply nodded his head a bit sheepishly without a word.
Mrs. Reiser then asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting. As she banged her gavel, the attendees rose to give Amy a standing ovation. A few of the town’s elders stopped to tell Amy and her mother where they were when some of the photos were taken. Without realizing it, Amy’s work touched the hearts and minds of seniors. With a scanner, a few photos and a Macintosh, Amy helped bridge yesterday with today and give a few of Twilight Junction’s elderly citizens a bit of hope for tomorrow.
In our next segment, we’ll see how two of Twilight Junction’s younger citizens learn a bit about friendship and a little more about themselves in “Twilight Junction: Behind the Stage Door.”