Can you explain what the Internet is to your grandparents?

Sulabh Gupta
May 29, 2020 · 2 min read

I wrote a blog post recently about how I explained what Cloud Computing is to my grandmother by giving a cake-baking analogy that made sense to her as she loves baking. This got me thinking about how would I explain what the Internet is to my grandparents. In fact, how would you explain the Internet to your grandmother or grandfather is a fairly common interview question as well. As Albert Einstein said “You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”

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Here is how I tried to go about it when explaining it to my grandmother this last weekend:

Grandma, do you remember when you saw the telephone for the first time and how you could call and talk to your brothers and cousins from another city. There was an electricity pole near our house and we had these wirelines connecting to the phones in our house and the neighbors’ houses. Similar, electricity poles were available in other areas including the cities where you called to talk to your brothers and cousins.

Now, imagine that instead of these wired phones, there are computers that are connected. Just like the telephones, computers (yes, the big TV like creatures) were initially connected to each other through these wires. As technology progressed, wired telephones got replaced by mobile phones that didn’t need wires to work. Similarly, wired computers didn’t need wire to connect to each other.

Just like you could call anyone from your home phone in any part of the world with their phone number, the same way you can reach out to anyone on their computers through this network (no you don’t need anyone’s phone number to reach them). Just like with a telephone you could share a message through your voice, with computers you can share other information like pictures, audios, video calls, music, etc. So, the internet is essentially a connection of millions and millions of computers interacting and sharing all these videos, pictures, music, etc.

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Since my grandparents have lived through all the innovations like when the wired home phones started to get in trend to the internet to the phones being replaced by mobile phones. It was easier to explain this from a point of view of wired and wireless phones as they witnessed the evolution and the Internet is essentially a network of computers.

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