Blast from Voices Past

In last week’s article, Back to the Future, we examined some of the headline issues for The Voice readers of 1994.  This week, we take a look at how quaintly archaic 1994 seems to be—now.

In addition to the apparent gloomy financial situation at AU, The Voice in 1994 brims with quaintly outdated details:

    • In the Spring 1994 edition of The Voice, AUSU (known then as AUSA) was gearing up for its council election—with mail-in ballots. Consider that, with online ballots in the 2016 election, barely 4% of the eligible members voted; mailed-in ballots in 1994 could probably have been counted by one person over a small cup of coffee.
    • The Voice itself advertised for contributions of articles or letters. That’s no different from 2017 except that the graphic used in the advert is a typewriter.  Fewer and fewer AU students have ever seen one of these or would want—or know how—to operate one.
    • AU reportedly introduced a new 1-800 phone number for Alberta students living outside Athabasca, Edmonton, and Calgary. Not only that, but AU’s Office of the Registrar could now be contacted via an e-mail address.
    • AUSU invited members to attend its Annual General Meeting in Edmonton. In-person was the only option for attendance.  But maybe you got cookies.
  • More advanced technology is mentioned in another ad, offering discounted prices on computers for AU students and staff. For the absurd price of $1719.00 (you read that right:  one thousand seven hundred and nineteen dollars), students could get their hands on a computer package with INTEL 486, a 210 MB hard drive, and 4 MB of RAM.
  • Today’s Alberta students will be interested to know the Summer 1994 edition of The Voice reported that AU tuition had just risen to $330 for a three-credit course, up from $300. (Alberta students pay $667 tuition for a three-credit course today.)   Out of province and overseas tuition costs are not given in the article.  In a separate article, AUSU reported an increase to its fee structure, from a flat $4 per course to $6 for a three-credit course and $12 for six-credit courses. (Currently, the fee is $3 per credit, which means $9 for a three-credit course and $18 for a six-credit course.)
  • In the Fall 1994 edition of The Voice, AU advertises that it was introducing non-credit short courses in microcomputer applications. Courses include training in WordPerfect 6.0, Lotus 1-2-3 Version 2.4, Simply Accounting 2.4, and Windows 3.1.
  • In the Winter 1994 edition of The Voice, AUSU provided a rundown of fees students might have to pay when writing exams. Invigilation centres at some post-secondary institutions were offering the service at no charge, while others had fees ranging from $10 per exam to $15 per hour.  Most public libraries offered the service for free.
  • Then-editor of The Voice, Karen Brown, reported that “more than 1000 AU undergrads are accessing their tutors, professors, or course materials by computer.” In the same article, Brown writes that “although computer access is in demand at Athabasca University, making more courses and tutor access available online raises the issue of open accessibility.”  Brown cites the costs of computer hardware and internet fees—this was back in dial-up days—as being barriers to education for many students.
  • Finally, AUSU unveiled the new mascot for the association, a cartoon rendition of a carrier pigeon. Students were invited to suggest names for the mascot.  The suggestions could be sent by—you guessed it—snail mail.

Just like looking through a photo album from our teenaged years, romping through Voices past produces some unintended humour and a few cringe-worthy moments.  Now that The Voice has launched its new online look, we hope we’ve matured enough that readers in 2040 won’t be smirking—too much—at how we were in 2017.  The Voice intends to stick around to be the future’s blast from Voices past.

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