September 29, 2008 under computing history, Unisys ICON

Since school started earlier this month, students are having their heads filled with useful (and useless) knowledge. For classrooms in Ontario, iMacs are what the Ontario Ministry of Education have (apparently, in Waterloo Region as far as I can tell) standardized on. Kids today, they don’t know lucky they are, what with their fancy user interfaces and sleek hardware design and whatnot. If it sounds like I’m bitter enough to evoke Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man character from SNL, then it’s purely coincidental…but not really.

Back in my day at St. Paul’s elementary, we had computers in our classroom that I almost completely forgot about until just now; the Unisys ICON. Little did I know, until Wikipedia told me so, that the ICON ran a really early version of QNX and were based on a standard set forth by the Ontario Ministry of Education. At St. Paul’s, for whatever reason, we’d get two or three of those trackball-equipped wonder machines for only a month or so at a time. Perhaps Northern Ontario kids weren’t expected to use them much? At any rate, the only thing I recall about those machines is while they did support an acceptable colour palette, a certain shade of cyan and magenta are forever burned into my brain. And the software…ummm, some sort of MS Paint-like application and Math Maze. By the time I was in junior high, the ICON was ditched for PCs and it was DOS/Windows from that point on.

It turns out I can’t keep that Grumpy Old Man shtick up, since the ICON is indeed what we had back in those days, but I don’t think we liked it.

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