40thAs CUE gets ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary, we’ll be featuring articles about our early history, current activities, and future plans.  This article glances back at an important part of CUE’s history – early conferences.

CUE attendees that pack sessions at the Palm Springs Convention Center and visit the more than 200 vendors in the exhibit hall would be somewhat surprised to know that CUE’s early conferences were held in schools – much like the current Fall CUE conference in Napa, CA. By the mid-80’s, CUE held two conferences per year, one in the Bay Area and one in Southern California. Conferences featured two-day programs –on Fridays and Saturdays.  The Friday sessions were held at a hotel with three 90-minute sessions for featured speakers and a keynoted banquet dinner. Keynotes included a young Governor Jerry Brown (announcing the Kids Can’t Wait Program), Steve Jobs, and Don Rawitsch, author of The Oregon Trail software program [Ed note- as of this writing Don had not died of dysentery, but it’s not looking good for his wagon wheels]. Friday’s events also included field trips to Model Technology School sites and technology companies.  

The next day, the conference would move to high school, where there would be six 50-minute concurrent sessions (each with 45 offerings), an exhibit hall in the school gym and a post-conference social at 4 p.m. in a neighboring park (where wine and cheese could be served).  The CUE Softswap Booth was the most popular one in the exhibit hall, offering freely copyable software developed by CUE members on floppy disks.  The program for the 1987 conference lists 280 speakers and 88 participating vendors.  Sessions included spirited debates about the merits of teaching students to program in BASIC or Logo.  Each conference had it’s own “theme,” and early conference titles included names like “From Chalkboards to Motherboards” and “Reach for Tomorrow.”  Conference attendees bought T-shirts with the conference logo and title.  Attendance grew from 1,000 in 1983 to over 3,000 by 1987.  CUE is hoping that a few members still have their Conference T-shirts and will wear them to the 40th-anniversary celebration party in Palm Springs.  

bonnie marksBonnie Marks joined CUE in 1983 when she was teaching students using Commodore PET computers with cassette tape drives.  She has worked at regional, state, and national levels supporting technology use in schools, including serving as a State CTAP director and an ISTE President.  Recently retired from the California Emerging Technology Fund, Bonnie continues to serve on CUE and ISTE committees.

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