My mom was (and still is) a computer programmer since before computer programming was a thing. I have had a computer in my house since I was 5, perhaps even younger, and I have been using computers just as long. I can remember how big, heavy and plastic our old computer was, the fanciest thing it did was allow us to play Carmen Sandiego on floppy disk (how did floppy disks ever survive my childhood?) From Carmen Sandiego I learned what towhead meant, I learned that Barcelona was in Spain and more importantly I learned that computers made learning stuff way more fun. We still had an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannicas on the bookshelf behind the computer which I would spend hours reading through, but the computer continued to hold an allure of fun that encyclopedias could never contain. The first website I ever visited was Levis.com after the grinding screeching sound of a dial up connection.
Addie has used a computer since she was old enough to know how to treat one kindly. She has skyped with family, IM’ed with her dad at work, drawn squiggly drawings in paint and played PBS kids more times than I can remember. When I think about just how much technology has changed in the time she’s been alive, it makes my head spin. When I was in design school (2004) I had to use a Zip drive to save my work, the most any of the giant disks were capable of holding was 1GB. Right around the end of my degree USB jump drives came out, they were about $40 for 512MB, now companies hand out jump drives by the handfuls at conferences for free … most of them 2GB, some even 4GB or 8GB.
Addie knows how to use my phone to text her grandpa (“Want to Skype? Yes or No”), check the weather, take a picture and call her dad (she also plays a mean game of Angry Birds.) Instead of her being fascinated by how digital everything is she’s now fascinated by simple things like thermometers or being able to predict weather by the clouds or sky. Don’t get me wrong, we spend plenty of time coloring on blank sheets of paper, knocking down dominoes, riding bikes, reading books with real pages and throwing balls at each other, but we also have an appreciation for just how much is available through computers. Rather than treating them as a scary off limit things we’re teaching her that good can be found, good can be done but trouble can be found as well if she’s not careful. There are rules when she is using technology, period.
I’ve noticed lately that while her reading is off the charts, she’s been struggling with math a bit. She hasn’t fallen behind, but her math skills haven’t advanced this year as far as her reading skills have. I work with her everyday now on new or different ways to help her learn math hoping to find something that really clicks. We’ve found a bunch of apps and a few online games that were suggested by a friend that homeschools. I never loved math, but I was good at it. I did well enough to get really good grades, but I had to work at it. I know math and girls is somewhat of a controversial subject and I want Addie to have a positive association with it and through a combination of online games, workbooks and boring old flashcards (as she calls them) I’ve already seen her improve dramatically without draining her of her desire to learn.
Our first laptop, bought when Addie was less than two, had a 100GB hard drive, a big screen, a big price tag and a lot of weight. It was the best laptop that could be bought at the time. Even now at 7 Addie struggles under the weight of the monster computer.
Our latest laptop weighs less than 3 lbs., has the same size hard drive and is three times as fast as the old one for about half the price.
After having her hold the two computers she asked “Why would anyone get a computer THAT BIG?”
Imagine if I showed her a rotary dial phone or the Commadore64 that I used when I was her age.
If this is how far things have come in 6 years, I can only imagine what things will be like six years from now (implanted microchips?)
What has been the biggest change in technology in your kids’ lifetimes?
A special thanks to Intel for providing my family with an Asus Zenbook to experience in our home, I have not been monetarily compensated, asked to post or otherwise influenced, just keeping the FTC happy.