The past couple of weeks, while I've been looking after my cousin's five kids, have had a life-altering effect on me. My sense of wide-eyed wonder at technology has taken a pounding. It's not that I won't get a chill down my spine each time Intel or AMD announces they've squeezed another 50MHz out of a chip. What I won't be doing is getting all caught up in the coolness of it all, losing sight of the fact that it's just tools.
I thought the kids might enjoy multiplayer games, the thing that makes proper computers much better than a Nintendo. (They brought their Nintendo 64 with them, just in case I was unable to keep them sufficiently entertained). I arranged a couple of Macs and a couple of AirPort cards -- no reason to clutter the place with wiring when there's a four-year-old running about.
One of the Macs was a G4 Cube -- one of the funkiest-looking machines to emerge from California since the NeXT Cube. I thought the kids would look at it and be blown away.
Yawns. Five of them. "Does it connect to the Internet?", one of them said. Thank heavens it did.
The other computer was a snazzy new white iBook. "Why is it so small?" one of them said. "The fact that it's so small is why it's so cool," I said. She looked at me like I'd claimed to be the tooth fairy.
And well she should. When I was her age, the very idea of having a computer in your home was laughable, and the kind of processing power embodied in this year's iBook was the preserve of space programs. This little child not only has a computer at home, but she has a nice big one. And a Nintendo.
I thought at least, I could impress them with the AirPort. Who can say AirPort isn't cool? These five kids, that's who. At first I had a bit of trouble getting the two machines to play nice. Were there curious eyes watching me work, wondering what brilliance I would use to bring an invisible network to life? No. I felt like saying, "This is serious magic mojo going down here, have a little respect".
Thing is, to them it isn't. They don't know the world any other way. Expecting them to be amazed by computers is like expecting me to be impressed by some guy telling me about how you used to have to drive nails before we had hammers.
Matthew JC. Powell wrote this and e-mailed it from his backyard, wirelessly, on the iBook. You could at least pretend to be impressed on firstname.lastname@example.org