Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The humble OHP

I remember clearly the first time I used an OHP (Overhead Projector). It was a disaster. At that time, I was an Industrial Engineer in Philips Singapore; and I was offered an assignment to conduct a basic IE course for our butterflies and line leaders on a Saturday morning. “Butterflies” is the name we used for experienced female operators who had sufficient experience and skill to ‘float’ along and take up any position in the production line whenever the need arose. The honorarium they paid me was quite generous, even though I had no teaching experience.

The trouble started right at the beginning of my class. Before I even began my lecture, the light bulb of the OHP blew and I had to learn, on-the-job, how to change the bulb. I learned later that you should never move an OHP with the light turned on because the vibration could cause the fragile hot filament of the bulb to break. I must have looked like a bumbling idiot in front of those young ladies in my class.

This slim foldable 3M projector was popular with the trainers because it was highly portable; but it was expensive.
After I joined the National Productivity Board in 1984 as a trainer and management consultant, using the OHP became second nature to me. It is interesting to recall the evolution of the overhead transparency that was part of my daily tools for two decades until its demise with the advent of Powerpoint and the LCD projector.

First there was the Write-on Transparency. For this, you have to manually write the words on the plastic sheet using transparency markers of various colours like those below. My favourite brands were Faber Castell and Stabilo.

Then came the Photocopy Transparency. The year was probably around 1987, when we started to use the laser printer in NPB. I remember, we trainers had to submit our jobs to the typists to type out our transparencies on the Apple Macintosh and print them on a laser printer. Of course, the transparencies at that time were all black and white. Whenever I wanted to highlight certain portions of my slide, I had to cut out strips of sticky colour sheets and paste them over the relevant portions ... like this.

After that came the colour transparencies. But because they were quite expensive, I used them sparingly. I remember being one of the first to purchase a digital camera and I converted some of my important colour photo slides to transparencies to use in companies which did not have a (photo) slide projector. As a 5S trainer, I used a lot of (photo) colour slides.

The trainer’s life at the NPB was tough. At that time, we had an executive director who was a merciless slave driver. He seemed to harbour a special dislike for us trainers – possibly because we were such an egoistical lot (well, some of us at least), and dared to argue with him – and made life hell for us. Because of him, we demanded a meeting with our chairman, Mr Mah Bow Tan, to air our grievances. But, being the seasoned politician that he was, Mr Mah had little difficulty handling this bunch of featherweight trainers, and skillfully sidetracked the issues so that at the end of the meeting, we did not get to deliver a single of our carefully crafted speeches.

The toughest part of my work was when I had to travel overseas to conduct training. I had to lug along stacks of heavy transparencies in a huge bag like those used by airline pilots and doctors; not daring to include my precious transparencies in my check-in luggage. Hence, you can understand why, even at a quite senior age, I was quick to embrace the newer IT technologies like Powerpoint, and digital cameras when these came along in the 21st century. They made our lives much easier.

My eldest brother Chun Chew making a presentation at a PSA QCC Convention.
Me conducting an IE class at the NPB training room in the Cuppage Centre. Year should be around 1985 or 86. Judging from the training aids on the table, I must be teaching a class on the Principles of Motion Economy.
Me conducting an in-house 5S class. Cannot recall which company. Notice the gigantic (film) slide projector?
Incidentally, during my undergraduate days in the early 1970s, our lecturers did not even get to use the OHP. Everything was chalk and blackboard.

In my reservist days, I remember the SAF trainers used to come to the class with a plastic folder (green colour of course – every in the army seems to be green in colour) full of OHP slides mounted on cardboard frames.


Ai Sakura said...

wahhh brings back memories of my Pri school days :)

Ai @ Sakura Haruka

Lam Chun See said...

Forgot to mention. If you accidentally fed a write-on transparency into the photocopier, it would 'melt' and crumble, and you would have a messy situation on your hands.

TheSounDOne said...

and in between transparencies, u would put this flimsy, translucent, crunchy piece of "tracing paper.

Gerad said...

I was a teacher some years ago and I well remember the stack of transparencies I would bring to class as well as the transparency marker pens!

There were three types - (1) the permanent one (the Zebra NAME pen), (2) the erasable one which needed a normal rubber (not ink eraser or else the erasure marks will be seen on screen!) and (3) the erasable one that is water-soluble

I'd prefer the water-soluble marker, the ink being easier to remove and the transparency could be re-used. Of course, these types of pens aren't suitable if you have sweaty palms...I remember on my nervous first lesson and the words started smudging!

As with Chun See, over the years, the Ministry had installed LCD projectors in classrooms and teachers were increasingly asked to incorporate IT elements in class that transparencies gradually became redundant.

I teach math and science, as with implementation of new technology, IMHO, transparency seems to work better in math lessons, typing equations and stepping through problem-solving is faster and more effective with transparencies, whilst PowerPoint presentations seem to be more effective in they tend to be visual in nature.

Lam Chun See said...

Gerad's point about maths reminds me of our Advanced Statistics lecturer, Dr Goh Thong Ngee. I marvelled at the way he filled the entire blackboard with calculations without having to consult his notes.

Gerad. You must have used the write-on transparencies that came on a roller. After completing one page of calculations and explanations, you simply scrolled to the next page.

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