-Contributed by Nicky Dunlap.
Although I usually leave the archives at the CHP with a little something extra (usually it’s dirt on my face, tape on my clothes, or packing peanuts stuck to my body), sometimes that little something extra is an experience. Today, I had the opportunity to travel back through time. Before Facebook, before Netflix, before wi-fi. I took a trip back to 1981 (before I was even born!). So, buckle up. I’m going to take you on a ride. Together, we’re going on a journey to the past!
It’s crazy to think of our world without the technology we have today. I was born in 1990, so I grew up around technology, and I’ve watched it evolve in so many ways. Sometimes it’s nice to get a little taste of what our world was like before technology. You imagine how exciting it must have been when the first computers were beginning to emerge. Little did we know that our whole world was about to change.
Today while I was doing my thing, processing artifacts, going through object after object, I came across a big box that was almost too heavy to lift. Inside was a blast from the past. A computer system so big that I couldn’t even wrap my arms around it. Not quite the same as the mini iPads and notebooks we have today.
It’s 1981. A new machine has just been invented. A computerized testing system that was used to perform psychological testing on subjects. Dr. Ann M. O’Roark, a prominent clinical psychologist, was deep into the process of opening testing centers for these machines to be used.
The machines were very large and heavy, and they look similar to a big computer monitor. They had letter and number keys, recall and next buttons, and “yes,” “no,” and “don’t know” keys. Participants would sit at these machines, answering questions displayed on the screen. These machines were used to practice decision making skills and for other psychological assessment purposes.
Dr. Ann M. O’Roark was determined to open several assessment centers where these machines would be installed. We can see from her correspondence with her partner, Del R. Poling, that she had many ideas for the development of these centers.
Along with correspondence with Poling and other miscellaneous notes, we were also provided with manuals and brochures for the Psychometer 3000 and a box of floppy discs full of data for the testing system.
Here is one letter from Dr. O’Roark to Poling that I find to be personal and charming, yet still expressing the importance of the project they were working on and setting it in motion:
Hope you are feeling better in at least a dozen ways.
I have updated a statement of our agreements. It was surprising how many things had changed. Sure would be great if we can get flying now – for your psychological perspectives and for my last quarter’s red balance.
If you will take the time, stay in touch and follow through, there is no reason this shouldn’t be a good show.
I don’t know about you, but I just find something about reading old letters so fascinating. It’s almost like you can picture Dr. O’Roark sitting down to write that letter to Poling. These kinds of things I find in the archives really add a whole new dimension to working at the CHP.
I hope you enjoyed our little trip to the past. Stay tuned for more interesting findings and adventures with me at the CHP!