Tasting The Pi

For the first 10 years of my life, the vast majority of my “play time” was spent outside. If I wasn’t outside, I was wrestling, playing tag, or playing baseball in the house. These indoor skirmishes were often met with resistance from my parents, which resulted in a prompt relocation to the front lawn. Regardless of where it took place, my older brother and I had a thirst for competition that would find its way into the most mundane activities. I remember seeing who could brush their teeth the fastest or whose hands were cleanest after washing. I say all this to give you a sense of my entertainment in my early life, and how it changed as new people entered it.

My brother and I inherited this outgoing and active mentality from our dad, who spent his childhood in a similar fashion. It was quite rare for us to choose to spend our time together in front of a TV or computer screen. In the years to come, with a divorce on the way, my family dynamics would change completely. Little did I know that this change in my family would lead to my immersion into technology and new media.

My step-father, Carlin, has taught me just about everything I know about computers, video games, and other new media. He has worked at various IT support and high-tech jobs, and has a true passion for technology. This is why it comes as no surprise to me that Connor, my half-brother from Carlin and my mother, grew up with different interests and practices than me. From an incredibly early age Connor was immersed in technology. Like many little kids, he found a great deal of joy and entertainment in looking at pictures and videos of himself as a baby. I remember doing the same thing; flipping through photo albums and laughing hysterically at old pictures.

However, Connor took part in this practice during a time when digital media was flourishing, and in a household that was centered on technology. Instead of flipping through old photo albums, Connor would simply scroll through the photo library on his dad’s Iphone photo library. With the stock editing tools on the device, Connor would change the lighting and filters on pictures, or crop them in random ways. As he explored, he didn’t care about how they looked when he was done, he was simply happy that he was able to change them in his own way. After becoming more comfortable with the technology, and getting a helping hand from Carlin, Connor became well versed in mobile apps that could modify pictures. He entered a phase of downloading dozens of different apps that could modify pictures. Whether the app stretched the dimensions of the picture, or made the person look like a zombie, Connor was enthralled with the ability to create his own pieces of media. This practice, and the more broad practice of creating his own media, also helped him bond with friends with similar interests.

When Connor would have friends over, they would often come running up to me with pure excitement as they showed me a picture they had customized or a video they had made using their toys. I had never thought about it at the time, but these practices were the equivalent to me and my brother building a fort, or recreating a battle scene with figurines. Instead of playing with toys that typically involve physical engagement and development, Connor was surrounded by tools that stimulated the mind. As he got older, Carlin continued to support and guide Connor’s use of computers and media related tools.

On Christmas Eve two years ago, my family was following tradition and opening some of our presents a bit early. All the kids sat around the room taking turns opening gifts as the rest of the family watched and took photographs. As old as I am now, I am still one of these lucky kids who receive gifts. Over the years my presents have slowly lost variability, and now exist almost exclusively in the form of money. Although I am not complaining, I sometimes envy the shear excitement and awe of the presents Connor receives.

As I watched Connor and my cousin Gus open their last present of the night, I witnessed one of these moments. As they tore the wrapping paper off in unison, both knew quickly that this was no ordinary present. As Connor read the name, “Raspberry Pi” he explained that he recognized the name but wasn’t completely sure what it was. Without hesitation Gus launched an enthusiastic explanation of and convincing pitch for the product. He informed Connor that the present was a build it yourself computer set, which required them to literally build their own computer and install an operating system and other programs. Excited about their new toy, they both eagerly asked their parents if they could begin the process right then and there. I was relieved when Carlin said it was too late and they would have to start the next day.

As I sat there and watched them plan how they were going to build and what they expected to do with their computers, I thought about the unique situation Connor was growing up in. When I was young, the days following Christmas were full of board games, Nerf wars, and sports. Although Connor takes part in activities like these, he is also afforded the opportunity to learn and play with technology that allows him to create his own work.

As he spends his time bonding with his dad by engaging with the Raspberry Pi, he is also using a tool that allows him to create his own work. Furthermore, the tool itself can connect him with the millions of people on the internet who he can share his work with. Having this amazing ability as such a young person will give him a much different outlook on media, and much more opportunity to leverage it to his advantage.

As he is only 12, the thought of a career path couldn’t be more distant in his mind. But I would not be surprised if it was closely tied to new media and creative production. It not only serves to strengthen bonds between his family members, but has been a cornerstone for some of his close friendships as well. As he increases his skill in creative production with new media and is continually introduced to more advanced technology, it would seem fitting if his passion someday translates into a work related setting.

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