The Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois
The Chemistry Learning Center
History of the Chemistry Learning Center
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The Chemistry Learning Center opened in the Fall of 1972. During its early days, it was located in room 303 of the Chemistry Annex. It housed 25 PLATO IV terminals.
- The 25 PLATO IV terminals were connected by microwave to a CDC mainframe computer located in the Engineering Research Lab.
- The PLATO IV terminals looked like this.
- Here is a picture of a student using a PLATO IV terminal.
- In the 1980s, a grant from IBM to the University of Illinois brought major technological innovations to the Chemistry Learning Center. The funds were used to develop a prototype microcomputer system that mixed full motion video from a video disk player with computer graphics generated by an IBM XT computer running at 4.7 MHz with 256K RAM. A special display board was connected to a TV set to show the combined picture.
- The first systems were set up on the back wall of the Learning Center in 303 Chemistry Annex.
- Here is a typical display. The programs were written in BASIC to run under DOS.
- Here are the video disks next to a standard CD for comparison.
- It soon became apparent that the Chemistry Learning Center needed more space. The wet lab in room 212 Chemistry Annex was remodeled. Here is picture of the lab before remodeling.
- IBM XT computers were set up in the remodeled 212 Chemistry Learning Center. Each work station was equipped with a video disk player and a special monitor to allow mixing of video and computer graphics. Software was written that controlled the video disk player and allowed the student to interact with the video images.
- The monitor pictured here is an IBM Infowindow that had a touch sensitive display. Students interacted with the material by touching the screen or using the keyset. No mouse was used at that time.
- In the early 1990s, IBM developed a program called Photomotion. This made it possible to digitize video from the video disks. Once this was done, all of the software was rewritten to use the digital video instead of analog video from the video disk. This made it necessary to redesign the network so the video could be redistributed from the server.
- The Chemistry Learning Center was rewired for TCP/IP.
- The development of switch technology allowed further improvements in performance.
- Here is the network structure that allowed digital video running on a Novell network to be distributed over the ethernet to the Learning Center.
- These are the servers that supported the first digital video system.
- In April, 1998, an act of vandalism nearly destroyed the Chemistry Learning Center. In the early morning hours, a stand pipe was opened on the third floor of the Chemistry Annex. This allowed water to be released at a rate of 150 gallons per minute. Water poured through the ceiling of the Chemistry Learning Center, bringing down pieces of plaster and inundating the machines.
- Thanks to the hard work of the Electronics Shop crew, CLC staff members and maintenance workers, most of the machinery was saved. The Chemistry Learning Center was back in business three days after the flood!
- In the spring of 2002, we began a major remodeling initiative. The goal was to improve the learning environment and to provide students with more room to work. We purchased flat panel monitors for every work station (75) with the help of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS).
- We removed the 30-year old wooden tables to make room for new, more modern tables.
- Everybody got involved.
- Things got a bit messy.
- But it was all worth the effort. These students seem to be a lot more comfortable!
- We hope you like our new look. Please stop by and check us out.