Times have changed

Thursday, July 14th, 2005
Two recent comments to my blog about Amy & Wendy's podcast got me thinking about how tech and times have changed since I was a kid.

Colin Walker:
Excellent podcasts - I take my hat off to everyone involved. Listening to them, it really points out how times have changed since I was 12 years old.

Warner Crocker:
These efforts by these two young ladies continue to impress mightily.

Warner, Colin, in 1978, when I was 15, I was what some would have called a computer genius - or at least a computer wiz kid. (Whatever that means).  When I was a kid, if you wanted a computer, you had to build it - either from a Heathkit  - or better, from scratch. In either case, you started with chips and circuit boards to wire wrapping and soldering. The one megahertz 8-bit CPU in my H-8 wasn't fast by today's standards, but I never complained. (I simply clock doubled it to TWO megahertz and added beefy cooling to the chassis.)

I once read an article, about 20 years ago, that attempted to explain why so many young computer wizards had appeared on the scene all at once. (Aside from the fact that computers were suddenly available to the masses; at least those with the money and time to build one.)

The article, as best as I remember, offered these reasons:

Young people often:
  • Have lots of time
  • Are infinitely curious
  • Are not intimidated by the dreaded "BDOS ERROR ON DRIVE A:" (If you remember CP/M you'll get it)
  • Are willing to experiment to find a work-around
  • Will spend hours, trying to make something work (i.e. Text Adventure)
  • Usually don't care what others think about their computer efforts
  • Take satisfaction in leaning/knowing things others don't (or won't)
If you have  young children and computers, put them together; then get out of the way.  (No internet connection needed)

I love encouraging my children - and children in general - to explore technology. That's why I enjoy robotics outreach programs where I get to dress up like this. I wish that when I was a kid, I had access to everything that they have now.

I look forward to seeing what my children will accomplish as they grow up. I look forward to learning from them, too.

Discussion/Comments (6):

Times have changed

Very true Eric.

I had a similair journey, although I suspect that I started early then you (old age creeping up on me now.)

One aspect that has concerned me is the lack of programming skill. We appear to be in a consumer system in relation to computers, in that they are just used as brought, any programming is assumed to be of done by someone else and we just obtain and use.

Gone are the days where computer understanding required that you to be able to program.

I suspect that this is a shame as the level of understanding can only increase with more knowledge about how things are done. This often inspires new thinking, which is the way software and hardware can improve.

Introduce new minds to programming and where will that lead ?

Posted at 07/15/2005 6:56:02 by Ian

Times have changed

Your post reminds me of a friend I helped with her computer last week. Just a nasty virus... Then her daughter came which was like 6 years old and was like "Oh, it's mumy's fault, she don't know how to use a computer, she's the one who put the virus on the computer.". Then went straigh to the computer to launch a game.

Our kids are gonna be completly proficient with computers for sure. Maybe we should give them some eProductivity tricks right now ;)

Posted at 07/15/2005 12:56:49 by Thomas BRESSE

Times have changed

Ian, how do you recommend introducing "programming skills" to young people? What do you think they should start with? M.

Posted at 07/15/2005 13:42:55 by Michael Sampson

Times have changed

I can guarantee you will learn as much from your children as they do from you. As evident in your OneNote podcasts with W&A sit a child down with a new program, let them play with it a while, and invariably they will ask you why can't it do so and so. Their question will make you realize they are asking for an obvious feature that will add value and ease of use to the program in question and you will say, duh, why didn't I (or the programmer) think of that. Every time.

Posted at 07/15/2005 15:44:08 by James Kendrick

Tips to teach your children programming


There's nothing quite like "seeing" a program in motion. For that, you can't beat the LEGO MindStorms set.

Our girls compete in robotics competions with them. They have to build robots and then program them to carry out missions.

I'll blog on this soon; meanwhile visit: the girls' team web site at { Link }

Posted at 07/15/2005 21:53:54 by Eric Mack

Times have changed


I have the other side to hand to you, Yes, the Robotics are cool, but can't we wait until they know how to read, and write (ie hand writing skills) before the computer takes over. Please remember they need to move physically just as much!!!!

Posted at 07/16/2005 20:59:59 by Mark Gershon

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