The Fun They Had: Review from a Technological View

Mrigank Pawagi
Apr 18, 2018 · 6 min read

Disclaimer: This is just a piece of critical writing, intended not to hurt anyone’s sentiments and/or dishonor the author, but to present a different point of view suggesting why Children my age don’t like the story.

PS You can read the story at Visual Memory.


The Fun They Had” is a science fiction story by American writer Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in a children’s newspaper in 1951 and was reprinted in the February 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, as well as the collections Earth Is Room Enough (1957), 50 Short Science Fiction Tales (1960), and The Best of Isaac Asimov (1973). It has been modified in a Finnish English book called KEY English 8–9.

~ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And rather sadly, even NCERT has included the story in the English Curriculum - which means that even I need to read it. In my opinion, I believe this story has been a total mistake by the Author and he made it out of complete fantasy without planning or even thinking about any sensible possibility. Here are some areas where I believe their is quite some contradiction with what we can ACTUALLY expect in the future…

Margie knew how to “Write”

This is where the story actually begins…

MARGIE even wrote about it that night in her diary. On the page headed 17 May 2157, she wrote, “Today Tommy found a real book!”

Yeah, so Margie WROTE in her diary that day, which means exactly that she knew what REAL books look like — you have a page, you utilize that, you turn the page and write on that one too and when you turn back the page, you see what you wrote on the previous one! Perhaps, the author meant to talk about an eDiary, but in that case, he SHOULD have written “TYPED”.

Margie didn't seem to understand what a Book is

They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it was awfully funny to read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were
supposed to — on a screen
, you know. And then when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it that it had had when they read it the first time.

Well, first of all, we need to know that the Author said (later in the story) that they read BOOKS on the computer. Now, the entire concept of a BOOK is that it has several pages, and it is not like one long write up in complete continuation. This means that though the book may exist and be read on a screen, it is STILL a book with many pages.

Now of course, no one sees text MOVING itself (here and there) in e-books. And of course, the text on a particular page STAYS there even when you scroll through the book, it doesn't vanish or become something else!

‘Telebooks’, really?

Our television screen must have had a million books on it and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.”
“Same with mine,” said Margie. She was eleven and hadn’t seen as many telebooks as Tommy had.

Okay, I can understand those kids read books on screens. I can even get it if they use a TV screen. But then obviously, a TV intended ONLY for books isn't actually a television!

And even then, you just cannot name such books TELEBOOKS because they are read on a television. Firstly, it isn't even a word in 2018. Second, the entire concept of TELE is something that is very far (though the term is also used to refer to things traveling over a telephone line).

What does a “telebook” mean then? Long-distance books exchanged over telephone lines? Seriously? I am pretty sure the author should have used words like “e-book” or maybe “virtual book” or something.

A County Inspector? Why, even?

The mechanical teacher had been giving her test after test in geography and she had been doing worse and worse until her mother had shaken her head sorrowfully and sent for the County Inspector.
He was a round little man with a red face and a whole box of tools with dials and wires. He smiled at Margie and gave her an apple, then took the
teacher apart
. Margie had hoped he wouldn't know how to put it together again, but he knew how all right, and, after an hour or so, there it was again,
large and black and ugly, with a big screen on which all the lessons were shown and the questions were asked.

Now first of all, considering just it’s name, County Inspector sounds like some Police or maybe a Tax Collector. Ignoring that, we must consider the story is set in the year 2157, and that means we ought to get a HEAP of technological advancement — in both the hardware as well as the software. I mean, that’s what the story’s point is — future schools with techy things!

Now, firstly, if we consider the Mechanical Teacher to be a somewhat Intelligent Thing, it has GOT to be options to change different settings with the software itself. We aren’t gonna need to OPEN up the machine to make changes with the basic settings (like Age Group). But then, that’s what the County Inspector is supposed to do — and that’s what he carries that BOX OF TOOLS for. In an intelligent robot that we can expect in 2157, we of course shouldn’t have to take the machine apart for over an HOUR to fix such a mere thing — the age group for which the questions need to appear.

Second, those kids are living in the era where they aren’t even attending school by GOING there and most things are supposed to be done on the Internet without physical endeavor. Why then, was a person needed to VISIT the home to fix the simple problem that could have been done remotely?

Punch Codes in 2157, seriously?

That wasn’t so bad. The part Margie hated most was the slot where she had to put homework and test papers. She always had to write them out in a punch code they made her learn when she was six years old, and the mechanical teacher calculated the marks in no time.

The author ought to be kidding this time.

A punched card or punch card is a piece of stiff paper that can be used to contain digital information represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions.

~ Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

What he meant to say means certainly that Margie PUNCHED out her homework on PUNCH cards so that the computer could read them. Oh Come On, we are in 2018 now and even WE have OCR (Optical Character Recognition) — the technology that recognizes characters from a piece of printed text. And in 2157, OCR HAS TO BE improved up to the point where it could read most of HUMAN handwritings too. Then why this tiresome and wasteful endeavor of writing out the thing in PUNCH code?

A month to feed data?

They had once taken Tommy’s teacher away for nearly a month because the history sector had blanked out completely.

So, Tommy had a nice time! Anyways, I don’t think it should have taken an ENTIRE MONTH to simply PUT data in that machine’s memory. It isn’t of course a human that needs to be trained again if he loses his memory. In a systematic, moder and smarter way — which isn’t rare even today, all that was needed was to simply SEND data from the server (where all the curriculum was stored) to the Machine which had lost that. 1 month for this?


Uff! Perhaps, I was able to get all the points where the story could have been made more sensible — at least to reduce the stress 9th class Indian Students are gonna face after this (and this is our 1st chapter!).

If there is anything I missed, or anything I went wrong about, kindly inform me in the comments! And of course, if you liked this, some Claps would be generous..!

Mrigank Pawagi

Written by

Me ∑ TekGeek💻Code❤Sleep😪 weirdo🙆Physics📚ETI🎃SocialME🙌Sarcasm🙃Blogging✍️ History👣Technology💡 • • Afterall, I am just a wanderer, looking for knowledge.

Technifity

The Great Infinite Technology and the Great Infinity itself.

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