The Quill system

The QUILL software was designed and developed in 1982-84 to help in the creation of functional learning environments that involved extensive writing and reading. It had many features that addressed one or more of six pedagogical goals. It ran on an Apple II+ or Apple IIe computer with 64K bytes of memory and required two floppy disk drives, a monochrome monitor, an 80-character, upper and lower case card, and a printer. Students used the printer to obtain copies of the texts they wrote to take home, to show their teachers and friends, or to do projects such as a class newspaper.

At the time of QUlLL’s development, even this use of a printer was an innovation for many classrooms, as connecting a computer to a printer was not universally considered necessary, even for writing activities. The version of QUILL presented to teachers in Alaska included activities in which their students could send electronic messages to students in other schools both inside and outside of Alaska. For these, teachers needed a modem to connect the computer to a telephone line, a way to pay telephone charges, and access to a computer network.

QUILL comprised four interrelated programs. Writer’s Assistant was a general word processing program that was never invoked by name but was accessed indirectly by any function in PLANNER, LIBRARY, or MAILBAG, such as “seeing” someone else’s text in the LIBRARY. PLANNER was a tool that helped students organize ideas for writing, then share their newly created organizing tools. LIBRARY was a writing environment in which students could make their writing accessible to others by storing it with the full authors’ names, the full title, and keywords indicating topic, genre, or other characteristics of the piece. MAILBAG was an in-class message system in which students could send messages to other students, the teacher, small groups, or a bulletin board. Students decided which program to use according to their purpose for writing and chose it from the following computer menu.