One of the major lessons we learned was not to give up on a computer if it was refusing to turn on properly. Initially, none of our computers wanted to turn on. Then – with some work – we were able to figure out the system configurations. In the next phase, some of the computers refused to be nuked. However, by remaining focused on the smaller steps of the process, we were able to work through the error messages and eventually get them all nuked and reinstalled with Windows 98, as well. This trial and error process continued all the way through installing the network card drivers and sound card drivers. Because of our persistence through the frustrating first stages, minor setbacks in these final steps were less discouraging.
Knowing how to get a computer working from the ground up was a task that seemed almost impossible for a group that did not have much experience working with computers. The process was very daunting at first, but with dogged persistence, we managed to get everything that our lab needed. It felt like a major accomplishment when we successfully installed Windows 98 on a particularly difficult computer, and we definitely cheered as we saw everything coming together. It seems like a miracle that we got all of the computers installed with Windows 98, updates, software, games, networking, and sound. We never realized the amount of installing, rebooting, reinstalling, removing hardware, installing new hardware, etc. that went into preparing the computers for regular use.
A big lesson we learned in our lab installation was to be flexible and expect changes in your plans at the last minute. Due to issues with the installation of the DSL and the additional electrical lines (see Problems Encountered Section), we had to quickly change our lab design from one room with one switch to two rooms with two commected hibs. By remaining optimistic and flexible, we were able to accomodate the immediate needs of the Culture Club while leaving them room to grow and change as their needs and capabilities change.
When we arrived to install our lab, we faced several changes in the plan. For one, the electricity had not been installed how we had planned, and we had to use only two outlets for all of our computer. Also, the DSL line had not been run into the room and was not going to be brought in until the next week. The biggest change was that the electrician had dictated where he wanted the computers placed, which was very different than our planned layout. Instead of having 7 computers in one room and one in the other, we had four in each. This affected the length of our network cables, rendering most of them the wrong size. Thankfully we had brought the cable making supplies, because we had to make several at the last minute. I think a lesson learned from this that you always need to be flexible and open to changes in your plans.
Perhaps the most important lesson that we learned was the value that our completed lab will have for our group, the Culture Club. Learning about Dawn Blackman and her organization was fascinating and enlightening. It was our pleasure to help create a lab for “her kids”, and we hope that they will get a lot of valuable use out of the computers for a long time.