CATCH ON TO COMPUTERS
Atari and Post Cereals launch a new education campaign.
At first sight,the scene is pandemonium. Forty boisterous third-graders fill the room. Seated fitfully in front of long rows of brightly lit monitors, they appear to be vibrant patches of energy rather than San Francisco school childen. Pigtails bounce, shouts echo across the room, and keys are pressed and plinked over and over, seemingly at random. It seems that high technology has met its match. It's hard to believe that any learning is going on here.
But, on closer inspection, something positive, and educational, is happening. Graphics "turtles" are hurtling about on each of forty screens. Spirals, starbursts and other, more random, patterns appear on the monitors. And by ones and twos, a roomful of eight-year-olds begins concentrating mightily on providing just the right set of instructions to those troublesome turtles.
The children are using Atari Logo in a tutorial led by professional instructors. The place is The Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco. The event is the opening of a 10-day "Catch on to Computers" learning festival. Sponsored by General Foods' Post Cereals and Atari, Inc., the event is part of a campaign to promote computer literacy among children and adults across the United States. The program is hosted by Computer-Using Educators (CUE), a non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting and improving computer use in schools and colleges.
Simultaneously, a similar scene of gleeful pandemonium is being played our in Washington, D.C. And that's just the beginning. For two weeks this fall these hands-on festivals will take place in eight more cities around the country: Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, Newark, and St. Louis. The effort is expected to expose more than 50,000 adults and children to the advantages of Atari computers, including the new XL models.
According to the events' sponsors, elementary and secondary students and teachers, along with parents and other adults, will take part. Some membership groups will also be invited to attend. The ages of the participants will range from six to 60, according to one spokesperson who predicts that "senior citizens who don't want to be left behind by the computer revolution" may also sign up and participate.
A number of handicapped children will also be exposed to the free one-hour tutorials. These will include both deaf and mentally retarded youngsters.
The second phase of the "Catch on to Computers" campaign is a multi-million dollar promotion that will offer free Atari hardware and software to schools and membership organizations in exchange for "Fun 'n Fitness" proof-of-purchase seals from the entire line of Post Cereal brands. The national program kicked off with a September 30 mailing of catalogues detailing the offer to more than 91,000 schools.
A simultaneous direct mailing to 41 million homes - approximately on half of all U.S. households - announce the promotion to consumers and identified the participating Post brands and Atari products.
To obtain the free equipment, schools must collect a specific number of Post proof-of-purchase points for each item, which range from the Atari 800 XL and 1450 XLD home computers to printers, cassette and disk drive units, expansion devices and a wide selection of high-quality educational programs.
"Given the financial condition of many schools, we've been able to develop a constructive, responsible promotional vehicle that addresses a real need in the educational sector," notes Tom Herskovits, general manager of General Foods' Breakfast Foods Division. "By teaming up with Atari, we can now offer new and extended Atari hardware and software, including more than 2,000 application programs -- something schools will find invaluable."
That's for the grownups. The kids have other ideas. "It's fun!" says one young third grader as he focuses in on the screen. "It's just like the one I use in my computer class, exults Scott, a small boy with horn-rim glasses, "but this is the first time I've used three turtles!" But, as usual, a teacher has the final word. According to Joann Raddue, a third-grade teacher at Brookside School in San Anselmo, Calif., "The kids are extremely excited about computers.''