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DigiBarn Presents: DragonSmoke #01
(Courtesy Bob Albrecht & George Firedrake, 2004-11-15)

Bob Albrecht & George Firedrake · StarshipGaia@aol.com

Copyright © 2004 by Bob Albrecht

Reality expands to fill the available fantasies. – Laran Stardrake

DragonSmoke is a quasiperiodical about our past, present, and future adventures. DragonSmoke is also a half-bakery of ideas, especially ideas about games, activities, investigations, projects, and other tools and toys to help learners learn – and teachers teach – math & science.

A Byte of DragonSmoke History

DragonSmoke began in People's Computer Company, Volume 3, Number 1, September 1974. The cover picture was Nancy Hertert's 3-headed dragon that became PCC's logo, soon to appear on T-shirts and buttons. Bob was PCC's editor – DragonSmoke was his page of this and that and other stuff. 

You can read some of the history of People's Computer Company (PCC) in the books Fire in the Valley and Hackers, and at the PCC Alumni Site.

Fire in the Valley (http://www.fireinthevalley.com/)

Hackers (http://www.echonyc.com/~steven/hackers.html)

PCC Alumni Site (http://sumeru.stanford.edu/pcc)

Keep on readin'. Read Todd Oppenheimer's book The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved, and visit

Gaia turned. Bob & George wrote columns in magazines about learning and teaching. One column was called "DragonSmoke" and a puff of DragonSmoke appeared frequently in other columns.


Addison Wesley published Bob's first book, Computer Methods in Mathematics, in 1969. It was about BASIC as a problem-solving tool for high school math. Soon came Teach Yourself BASIC (1970) and My Computer Likes Me (1972).

Beginning in 1971 or thenabout, Bob, LeRoy Finkel, and Jerald Brown wrote lots of books, mostly books for beginners about BASIC, mostly published in John Wiley & Sons Self-Teaching Guide series: BASIC, BASIC for the Home Computer (probably the first trade book about Microsoft Basic), Atari BASIC, and BASIC for the Apple Computer.

You can read the two Atari BASIC books online at

Don Inman, Ramon Zamora, and others joined the author team, and more books emerged: TRS-80 BASIC, TRS-80 Color BASIC, QuickBasic Made Easy, QBasic Made Easy, The Shareware Book (PC-Write, PC-File, and PC-Calc), DeskMate Made Easy, Teach Yourself GW-BASIC, Simply Excel, and Visual Basic for MS-DOS

Bob's last computer book was Teach Yourself Visual Basic with son Karl as coauthor, published in 1996 by Osborne McGraw-Hill. Enough. Bob quit writing computer books and plunged full-time into his real love: writing math & science instructional stuff for learners and teachers.

Recent and Current Adventures

Life is an adventure, another adventure, and more adventures. Current adventures include hiking, writing, mentoring, and tutoring.

Algebra Backpack. Everything you need to learn algebra is on the Internet, so why are publishers churning out expensive new algebra books every two or three years? The new books look very much like the old books except for cosmetic changes. Does algebra change that rapidly? Well, no – so why are the books rewritten every two or three years? Greed, of course – the new book gets adopted, thus making the old book "obsolete" so that people must buy the new book that looks much like the old book. We'll rant more about this in future DragonSmokes.

Metric Backpack. As our tiny contribution to metric evangelism, we're developing Metric Backpack, a collection of tools and toys to help people learn and teach the International System of Units (SI), commonly called the metric system in the USA. SI is well designed, easy to learn, and easy to use. The dark-side system is the United States Common System (USCS). It has been kludged together over many centuries, is poorly designed, hard to learn, hard to use, and used only in the USA, where it contributes muchly to making math harder to learn and teach.

Play Together, Learn Together. For a decade or two or more, we've played together, learned together with students, teachers, parents, anyone. We collect old games, create new games, invent  variations of old games, and organize systems of games that spiral through the grade levels to help learners learn and teachers teach – math and other stuff.

In DragonSmoke and elsewhere in StarshipGaia.net, we'll suggest variations and ways to play games you may know about, and for sure much ado about our new games that you don't know about because they haven't been published elsewhere. 

Mentoring in Professor Richard Zimmer's Mars Society and Mars Habitat courses at Sonoma State University. Fall 2004 we embarked on our 13th semester of this adventure. Most of our students intend to become elementary school teachers. They're designing communities on Mars for the year 2030 and beyond.

Tutoring students in math from fifth grade through high school algebra, geometry, precalculus, and claculus. An amazing and boggling adventure!

To be continued in DragonSmoke #02.

Bob & George · StarshipGaia@aol.com

See Also:

Back to our main site on People's Computer Company

Starship Gaia - Bob & George
(homepage of the creators of the PCC and DragonSmoke)

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