. By Chung Chieh (e-mail), Department of Chemistry, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L3G1

2. The Beginning of CACT

Science educators often ask when and how things start and why? Thus, let me start from the very beginning.

The introduction of personal computers (PC) in the early 1980s had a great impact on the educational profession, as had radio, movie, TV, and other media that were introduced before the PCs. During the early 1980s, the University of Waterloo received a donation of PCs from IBM. The Physics and the Computing Services Departments teamed up and developed a local network to provide computing for physics students. Partly because of my interest in the project, 8 PCs were allocated to the Chemistry Department to set up the same type of local network for Chemistry students. This photograph shows that first local network of personal computers in one room.

The graphic capability of the PCs greatly tempted us to simulate chemical and physical phenomena. We wanted to show how systems respond to the driving force of change. For example, many of these programs were collected by the SERAPHIM project. However, information or instructions provided to students must be organized, and instructions are required to tell students how to use the simulations for learning and skill developing purposes.

The faculty members were very eager to become computer literate after the introduction of PCs. At a computer conference, I heard lectures on the hyperlink concept. That concept was later applied for the development of Hypercard. We were determined to make our students computer literate. Having the computers available in the Department, I designed a course to teach chemistry students to write software to solve chemical problems and handle chemical information. Some enthusiastic students, in particular Chris Reil and Adam Asworth, helped me in the development of a primitive browser for processing text files which had imbedded Script tags. We called these files Instructions. The browser is an important component of the early Computer Aided Chemistry Tutorial (CACT) system.

During those old days, we had a great pleasure in trying different things on the computer. The students and I have learned a great deal from each other. Both Chris and Adam have gone on to computer related careers since their graduations from the Chemistry Program.