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Computers: A History Lesson for Kids

When I was a kid…

     I typed my college application on my mother’s type writer. Yup, I sat down at my kitchen table, slipped one of the six copies (thanks to my awesome career counselor at my high school for hooking me up with extras) of the pre-printed paper in to the 10 lb machine, rolled it into position and typed my name in the blank space next to ‘Applicant’. And if I screwed up, I had to either start all over again or pray my bottle of Liquid Paper didn’t dry up since the last time I used it to paint my nails.

     My children will most likely never feel the pain of a misspelling on a typewriter. Their college admissions essays will be submitted via online form or whatever technological step forward we will take in the next 16 years. As much as I hope they will listen with baited breath to my childhood stories that start with “Back in my day…”, they won’t. They have their computers.

     Their world is ‘paperless’ and consists of ‘updates’ and if we’re lucky ‘firewalls’. And that’s the reality we need to consistently talk about with our kids. That tablet may seem like its been around forever and just like their bikes, bunk beds, and backpacks, it is a constant presence in their everyday lives. But as parents who have seen a time before this technological wonder, we need to remind them – It’s just a machine. Really.

Here are a few thoughts to share with all the children in your life.

· Humans were the first computers. The word “computer” was used a long, long time ago in 1613 to describe a person who did math.

· Your brain remains the most complex computer. Even today we’re looking for new ways to improve technology.

· Computers don’t know the difference between good and evil. They are machines and do what they are told. Just as we can program a computer to do good, cyber criminals use code to cause harm.

· That’s why we must always rely on the first computer, our own brain, to make smart choices because computers are not human. Your computer is not the boss of you.

     Our kids are smart. Very smart. But they are young and need to hear this stuff. Because knowing where we came from will help them make smart choices when they are deciding where to go online.


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