The ravages of time inevitably claim many wondrous relics from our distant past, but the memory of one particularly intriguing artifact has nevertheless managed to live on in the written record: This old Spanish textbook keeps mentioning “an accompanying CD-ROM.”
This was clearly an object of much importance. What we wouldn’t give to have seen it with our own eyes!
Though no physical trace remains of the accompanying CD-ROM spoken of in this beat-up Introductory Spanish textbook, the disc’s presence still looms large over Señorita Cooper’s 9th grade Spanish class even today, turning up in constant references throughout the musty tome. Students can scarcely go three pages without seeing the CD-ROM’s name invoked for some arcane, cryptic purpose, and the textbook’s stiff front cover reveals a plastic sleeve once opened that likely served as a reliquary for the CD-ROM when it wasn’t being employed in one of these rituals. Of course the sleeve has lain empty for untold ages since the CD-ROM was lost or looted or destroyed in some great cataclysm, but simply imagining its iridescent hues peering out from the sleeve’s cloudy plastic allows one to feel a faint echo of its wonder, however diminished it may be.
The textbook offers us tantalizing clues as to how the missing CD-ROM would have appeared and been used in classroom life. We know that it was a central component of so-called “listening module” ceremonies that took place several times per unit, granting its users valuable insight into the rhythms and intonations of beginner’s conversational Spanish. We can also surmise from its sleeve and surviving examples of CD-ROMs from the era that it was likely flat, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and perhaps bore some depiction of flamenco dancers to match the image on the textbook’s cover. And while the specifics of the CD-ROM’s “unit quiz” questions have been lost to the ages, it’s probable that the CD-ROM offered students a rite of passage through which they could demonstrate their mastery of topics such as -ar verb conjugation and restaurant vocabulary terms, eventually allowing those who accumulated the most status to place into the coveted 10th grade Honors Spanish track.
Close your eyes, and you can almost hear those teachers of yore saying “Saquen sus CD-ROMs, por favor” on the breeze.
While efforts are being made to preserve the old Spanish textbook with protective coverings fashioned out of brown paper grocery bags, the day may come that the textbook itself also passes from this world and humanity’s final link to the lost CD-ROM is severed. That will be a great loss indeed, but thankfully due to widespread underfunding and budget cuts throughout the school district, the looming specter of new Spanish textbooks being purchased to replace this old one likely remains many decades off on the horizon, giving future generations a chance to learn for themselves of the “accompanying CD-ROM” that once was.
Wow, this stuff really makes you feel connected to the past. Here’s hoping Señorita Cooper’s students appreciate just what a fascinating historical document their Spanish textbook really is!