Computer History VIII

After completing a Ph.D. in food science at the University of Rhode Island in 1981, Cynthia E. Field ( took a job teaching chemistry as a sabbatical replacement at the Community College of Rhode Island. Very few people owned a personal computer in those days - a 64K RAM Apple II Plus cost $2500 - but Dr. Field realized that microcomputers, as they were known at the time, would prove to be a boon to education, not only in the traditional sense of “schooling” but also as tools for lifelong learning.

Cindy’s writing career, which has now spanned more than three decades and resulted in the publication of more than 500 articles to date, began in the autumn of 1981 when she wrote to then Editor-in-Chief Rory O’Connor at InfoWorld asking about the possibility of writing computer hardware and software reviews for the magazine. Within weeks Cindy received an assignment from InfoWorld Senior Editor Carol Person to write two chapters in an IDG (International Data Group) book about educational software.

During the remainder of the 1980s and for the next 20 years Cindy contributed to an assortment of computer magazines including inCider/A+, PC Games, AppleWorks Journal, and Maximize. For two years she also served as Executive Editor of Apple Computer’s Guide to Apple II Software.

Cindy wrote one of the very first articles about the Internet, at the time an unpaved and little-traveled backroad, not the electronic superhighway it is today. The World Wide Web which we take for granted now existed only in research labs 20 years ago and modems were exclusively dialup. The word broadband hadn’t yet been added to the lexicon. Nor had Google, friend me, or tweet.

To check your America Online email, for example, you would manually dial the access number on your telephone, wait to hear a connect tone, and then press a rocker switch on a 110-baud modem to complete the connection.

In the early 1990s Cindy transitioned to the Macintosh, the computer she uses even today to build and maintain web sites, to publish articles, and to nurture her own undiminished appetite for information. She is gratified to know that her beloved Woz version Apple IIGS computer is a valued part of the Rhode Island Computer Museum collection.