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It feels like a new era…

We got my first computer when I was 7. My dad was writing a book, so bought a little PC with two 5.25″ floppy drives and a monochrome monitor. (Ah, the good old days when you had to put the MS-DOS disk in to boot, then remove it to put in a program disk.)

Dad had a tech-savvy friend come over to show him how to run Wordstar and Datastar while I looked on over their shoulders with great interest. I apparently soaked it in pretty well, because it wasn’t long before Dad would call me in to answer his questions before calling his friend, and 30 years later I’m a “computer guy” with an engineering degree and a programming job and still actively in family tech support.1

IBM_PC_5150

As my three daughters have gotten older (the oldest is 10), I’ve uneasily looked forward to a day when there’s some issue of tech which has me confused and one of them says “oh, Dad, it’s easy! Here, let me show you…” But I’ve always figured it would be quite a way off.

But then yesterday after some begging and pleading for a membership on some money-grubbing movie-associated game site2, we settled on a different option: the full-blown version of Minecraft.

Parents these days are probably familiar with the game, at least by name. It’s a low-res graphics world-building game that has Creative and Survival modes and the ability to play solo or to join up to servers on the internet to collaborate with others. The girls have been playing a stripped-down iPad version for months, but got a few Minecraft books for Christmas and have been wishing for the full version.

Av6ku

So last night I bit the bullet, bought licenses so they can play concurrently, and set up a local server so they can play together w/o having to deal with the outside world. But once I showed them how to log in and start the program, I realized something: that’s all I know about it.

If they have questions about how to do something in the game, I’ve got no clue. I had to Google to figure out what the keyboard controls were for my five-year-old since the 10-year-old had the book in the basement.

They played the game for 30 minutes before dinner last night and while at the dinner table it was non-stop jabber about what they had discovered. “Hey, did you know how to do this?” “Did you know that if you do that then this will happen?” “I made it do this!” But while I loved their excitement, I’ll admit that the rest of it sounded like Greek to me. I’ve got no clue.

In many respects it feels like a new era. Here’s a computer-based thing that they know and I don’t. And I’m cool with that. Really. * deep breath *

My ten-year-old is getting into programming3 and if that persists, we’ll get a Raspberry Pi for her birthday and then I’ll be able to prove (at least for a little while, I hope) that I’ve still got a thing or two to teach her about technology.

But kiddo, fair warning: at this point you may as well start counting down the days until you starts getting phone calls from me. You have been warned.


  1. Which is just fine, by the way. Mom and Dad, keep calling when you have questions. 
  2. I’m looking at you, How To Train Your Dragon folks. 
  3. Khan Academy. So awesome. Really, I’m impressed. 

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