When personal computers were first used in language learning in the early 1980s, the universe of material available to the CALL learning program was practically confined to what would fit on a 160K single sided floppy disk. A few lessons of text, correlated with at most a few units of a textbook or course, exhausted the storage capacity of the system. With the introduction of hard disks, this universe rapidly expanded to the limits imposed by hard disk size at first perhaps 10 megabytes at most, but by the early 1990s, hard disk capacities had increased the limits of a single personal computer several thousand-fold, to a gigabyte and more The exponential increase in storage capacity, accompanied by a parallel increase in processing speed, made possible the introduction of multimedia, including graphics, digital audio, and digital video.
At the same time as hard disks expanded, local area networks (LANs) also vastly expanded the universe of a single personal computer by linking it to a central server and neighboring machines via Ethernet cables. By 1994, on some campuses the LAN universe had become campus wide. It is now possible for students to run CALL lessons from the comfort of their dorm rooms. This presentation will describe and demonstrate how students at Duke can use PCs in their rooms equipped with Ethernet cards to connect with a central server over fiber optic cable to work through centrally stored WinCALIS 2.1 lessons employing authentic text and multimedia in any language of the world.
Now in the mid 1990s the popularity of wide area networks such as the Internet; information navigating systems such as FTP, the World Wide Web, WAIS, and Gophers; and especially HTML (HyperText Markup Language) Internet browsers like Mosaic, have all offered a dazzling new paradigm for CALL. The limits of the known universe have been pushed outward once again. Information stored at sites all over the world is instantly accessed and seamlessly integrated by a browser like Mosaic, as the user clicks on hyper-reference "hot spots" on the screen. Applying this new paradigm to CALL, we are led to ask, "If CALL exercises in WinCALIS can be made available anywhere on campus, why not anywhere in the world?"
Here the presentation confronts the technical problems of pushing the envelope: the realities of megabits per second, bandwidth, and bottlenecks; the alphabet soup of network protocols and standards like TCP/IP (Unix) and IPX (Novell); the evolving character coding mechanisms like bad-old ASCII, ISO 2022, Mime, UTF (UCS [Universal Coded Character Set] Transformation Format) and Unicode/ISO 10646; and the promise of new operating systems such as Windows 95, new technologies like Object Linking and Embedding (OLE), and the convergence of personal computing and telecommunications (with a potential role for SCOLA to play in it).
Some strategies for short term accommodation and long term development will be proposed, including a version of WinCALIS which surfs the Internet and locates WinCALIS 2.1 exercises, coded in Unicode, along with their linked or embedded digital multimedia files, holds them in a temporary local cache while running them, then deletes them, on the model of the Internet browsers' handling of digital video files; and a Unicode compliant version of HTML, using the WinCALIS 2.1 Unicode compliant editor, in order to surmount the limitations of ASCII-bound HTML, which currently uses escape sequences like "ñ" in order to display each ISO 8859-1 (Latin 2) accented character.
Richard Kunst is a Research Associate at Duke's Humanities Computing Facility Computer Assisted Language Learning (DUCALL) Project, where he is helping to develop full support for all the languages of the world in the WinCALIS Authoring System.
Tadeusz Bebenek is Data Processing Specialist at the Humanities Computing Facility, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
The Humanities Computing Laboratory
301 W. Main St., Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701 USA
Tel: +1 (919) 656-5915
Reproduced here with permission from the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, from the Proceedings of the CALICO '95 Annual Symposium, (June 19-23, 1995, Middlebury College)