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Ask Slashdot: Educating Kids About Older Technologies? 208

Posted by timothy
from the welcome-to-your-new-privy dept.
ProgramErgoSum writes "Horse carriages, vinyl records, telegraphy, black and white television are all great examples of technology that held tremendous sway decades ago and eventually faded away. Other systems such as railways and telephony are 'historical,' but have advanced into the current age, too. I think not being aware of the science behind such yesteryear technologies (or their histories) is not right. I feel it would be most beneficial to encourage kids to explore old technologies and perhaps even try simple simulations at home or school. So, what websites or videos or other sources of information would you reach out to that teaches the basics of say, telegraphy? Or, signalling in railways? Etc. etc." Do you (or do you plan to) educate your kids about any particular older technologies?
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Ask Slashdot: Educating Kids About Older Technologies?

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  • by ohieaux (2860669) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:33PM (#46066939)
    Actually, it's not a bad idea. Many of our modern technologies have roots in these old technologies.
    • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:59PM (#46067083) Homepage Journal

      Not a "bad idea", no. But - how do you choose, and how much do you teach? Horse drawn carriages, for instance. How many people realize how MANY kinds of horse drawn vehicles there were? How closely do you want to examine the suspension systems of each class of carriage? The wheels? The braking system? The harness?

      No, I'm not being facetious here. Or, not entirely, anyway. Carriages were pretty complex back in the day. Wheels broke, the tongues got damaged, harness had to be maintained full time. A significant portion of the population earned it's living by building and maintaining the various wagons, carriages, and coaches.

      Today, we take pneumatic rubber wheels for granted. How many of us could build or repair, or even properly maintain a wheel from centuries ago?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:29PM (#46067267)

        But - how do you choose, and how much do you teach?

        The best way is to let your kid choose. Kids tend to be interested in things that are relevant to their own lives. I doubt if more than 1% would be interested in "the technology of horse drawn carriages". If you try to push that kind of crap on them, you are just going to sour your relationship. You can try to nudge them in a certain direction, but mostly you should let them find their own path. Anyway, I gotta go, my 10 year old daughter is teaching herself OpenGL, and she wants to ask me some questions about matrices ...

        • by xaxa (988988)

          Exactly. My dad took me to model railway club for about a year. I didn't enjoy it much (I went because my mum said I had to choose one hobby to share with my dad, and the alternatives were worse). The interest I had in the model railway was the electronics. I would have liked to make a real signalling system, or automate the trains (which is a straightforward extension). However, the old men weren't interested, so the activity was mostly being bored while my dad drank beer and chatted about trains.

          Nowa

      • by cusco (717999)

        My family has an advantage over most, in that my wife is from Peru and we go down there frequently. Paruro is a gorgeous town not too far from Cusco, where we have a house. While there we clean wheat, mill it into flour, and go to the bakery to make whole wheat bread with it. We kill, clean, and eat chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs that Rosa's family raises, cooking them on a wood stove. We watch adobes being made and then being used to build houses, ride horses, walk between villages, and pick avocado

    • by TarPitt (217247) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:04PM (#46067111)

      Understanding the 19th century telegraph system helps understand our current global internet.

      I found "The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-Line Pioneers" a fascinating read, amazing what was done 150 years ago.

      Here is a quote from the Wikipedia article:

      The book describes to general readers how some of the uses of telegraph in commercial, military, and social communication were, in a sense, analogous to modern uses of the internet. A few rather unusual stories are related, about couples who fell in love and even married over the wires, criminals who were caught through the telegraph, and so on.

      The culture which developed between telegraph operators also had some rather unexpected affinities with the modern Internet. Both cultures made or make use of complex text coding and abbreviated language slang, both required network security experts, and both attracted criminals who used the networks to commit fraud, hack private communications, and send unwanted messages.

      We had e-commerce (code books for secure banking transaction via telegraph), hackers, and skilled technical workers with their own language and culture.

      Telegraph operators even had their own equivalent to cell-phone text message abbreviations.

      • by n1ywb (555767)

        Telegraph operators even had their own equivalent to cell-phone text message abbreviations.

        QSL

      • Understanding the 19th century telegraph system helps understand our current global internet.

        That might be true but learning about our current global internet directly is a more efficient way to understand it. If you don't already understand modern internet technology then surely it is a higher priority to learn about this directly rather than teach them the full history of how it was developed? We don't teach physics students the details of epicycles before covering Newtonian gravity nor do we teach students latin (any more) before learning modern languages like French. If my kids are interested

        • We don't teach physics students the details of epicycles before covering Newtonian gravity nor do we teach students latin (any more) before learning modern languages like French.

          That's very true. The only exception seems to be IPv4 addressing, where people are told about obsolete and confusing classful routing (A, B, and C) before the much more useful modern stuff (/24 etc.).

          ProgramErgoSum should go and find someone who grew up in the 60s and ask them if they would have preferred learning about airships and blotting paper, or Saturn Vs and lasers. I know which I would have chosen.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Sure, but you can't build a working internet out of a few batteries, wires, and bits of metal.

          When I took physics, we did at least touch on epicycles.

    • i learned latin in school ... taught me a lot about my native language (eg. using correct grammar)

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:35PM (#46066941)

    A lot of basic farming came from (or was first invented) in China too. There was a good documentary on all this on the History channel but be damned if I can find the title.

    So what's with the focus on the 19th century and it's communication/travelling tech?

    Just wondering.

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:49PM (#46067029) Homepage Journal

      Invented in Central Asia, most of it. By proto Indo-Iranian peoples, often on territory subsumed into modern China, because of historical conquests of the Mongols.

      Sinologists always have a China first and central bias - with plenty of "evidence". They always need to distort the meaning of the term "China" to do so.

      It's like claiming that Stonehenge is a feat that demonstrates the long history of English engineering prowess.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      The plow is still in use, as are most basic farming techniques (albeit in a form that early farmers wouldn't recognize). The summary specifies technologies that have mostly or entirely faded away, which happens to be (in large part) 19th century communications/traveling tech.

  • by caffiend666 (598633) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:39PM (#46066963) Homepage

    People need both common ground and unique perspective. Some things everyone should know (what does that square icon for save really mean). Other things, we need each person to come at things uniquely (a system where all of the components react the same is a broken system, eg computer viruses on shared standard systems). It's easy to find inspiration in old technology which applies to technology today. EG, Tesla motors took an old forgotten engine design by Nick Tesla and implemented it in the modern age.

    I will expose the kid to as much as they have the attention span for. Probably teach each kid different things. EG, one kid will learn basic even though it is outdated. Another will learn one will learn logo even though it is outdated. Both will learn HTML.

  • I wasn't taught about "old" technologies when I was young and I can't say I missed out on anything. There might be a few moments of interest when an under-20 is confronted by (say) a typewriter, but that's about as relevant to today's "kids" as a music-box or valve radio was to me. Yes, these things exist, but they've been superceded and their relevance is long gone.
    • Re:Unnecessary (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sique (173459) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:03PM (#46067109) Homepage
      A big advantage of the "old" technologies is that you can get them running with household items. It's impossible to built an integrated circuit at home, but it's quite feasible to build a steam engine. I learned a lot about technology by servicing my bicycle. I had a very old typewriter which was build on a completely different principle than the usual querty keys, it had a pointer which mechanically connected to a cylinder with the letters and only one key which caused the cylinder to hammer down on the carbon ribbon and the paper. Just to see that there are many different solutions to a given problem greatly increases your understanding of technology. So yes, I think you missed out greatly. All you had was magical black boxes which somehow did what you wanted them to do.
      • A big advantage of the "old" technologies is that you can get them running with household items. It's impossible to built an integrated circuit at home, but it's quite feasible to build a steam engine. I learned a lot about technology by servicing my bicycle. I had a very old typewriter which was build on a completely different principle than the usual querty keys, it had a pointer which mechanically connected to a cylinder with the letters and only one key which caused the cylinder to hammer down on the carbon ribbon and the paper. Just to see that there are many different solutions to a given problem greatly increases your understanding of technology. So yes, I think you missed out greatly. All you had was magical black boxes which somehow did what you wanted them to do.

        Don't be so sure about that [hackaday.com]

    • by melkhorn (1663445)
      No, you can't say you've missed out on anything, because you don't even know if you've missed out on anything. Also, "relevant" (which the OP doesn't mention), is about as easy to pin down as "intuitive." I think perspective is what history brings. Your comment has convinced me that it is necessary.
    • [A typewriter is] about as relevant to today's "kids" as a music-box or valve radio was to me.

      Case in point: "Valve Radio? Is that what Gabe N. is giving us on the Steam Machine instead of Pandora or Spotify?"

      Yes, these things exist, but they've been superceded and their relevance is long gone.

      Typewriters' relevance continues today. The QWERTY layout was originally designed to alternate keystrokes from the sides of the keyboard. In the old days, this alternation helped the type bars not jam; nowadays it creates more distinct corners for swiping soft keyboards to recognize.

    • The thing about old technologies is that many of them are less interesting for what they did than they are for how they worked.

      Typewriters, for example, are interesting chiefly for their mechanics and "human interface" characteristics.

      Carriages are very interesting for their wheel and bearing technology, suspension, (often) lightweight construction, and so on. They may also be interesting for their relationship with horses. They are less interesting for their actual transportation use. (Brakes were in
    • by sjames (1099)

      There is a beauty to mechanical and electro-mechanical sequencers such as a music box.

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:43PM (#46066995) Homepage

    i think your asking a more basic question then you may be aware...

    i think if what your saying is "should we try to instill into our children a general interest in history so that they may come to understand the powerful forces and the geniuses that have lifted this world out of superstition, poverty, starvation, and disease?", i think most would agree.

    if what your saying is that "son/daughter, i think you should really play Pong instead of xbone for this month so you can come to understand the roots of modern video game technology", well, not so much (at least for me).

    • i think if what your saying is "should we try to instill into our children a general interest in history so that they may come to understand the powerful forces and the geniuses that have lifted this world out of superstition, poverty, starvation, and disease?", i think most would agree.

      I think the word you're looking for is "perspective" to understand that things generally are like they are for a reason (good or bad). Two really good TV series for this type of thing were Connections [wikipedia.org] and The Day the Universe Changed [wikipedia.org], written/hosted by science historian James Burke [wikipedia.org].

      A more sci-fi example would be from The Wrath of Khan [wikipedia.org]:

      • Spock: The prefix number for Reliant is one-six-three-zero-nine.
      • Lt. Saavik: I don't understand.
      • Kirk: You have to learn why things work on a starship.
      • Spock: Each starship has a unique command code.
      • Kirk: To prevent an enemy from doing what we're attempting. Using our console to order Reliant to lower her shields.
    • by rizole (666389)
      It goes further back than that. My kids have been watching me learn to extract clay from soil over the last year.
  • "Do you (or do you plan to) educate your kids about any particular older technologies? "

    I was never taught how to knap rocks in to spear heads so I don't really think it's necessary for me to teach my kids how vacuum tubes work.

    That said, my kids are pretty curious on their own. My daughter at age 10 modified a gear kit to turn a spiral in a tube to dispense dog food on a timer (not for real world applications, but for a science project) and built a circuit to set off an alarm when her drawer is opened --

    • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:13PM (#46067173) Homepage Journal

      *sigh*

      Sometimes I almost hate kids. My youngest son taught himself how to solder, I guess he was about 11 at the time. Nice neat soldering work, unlike the clumps and globs that I do. "Mommy, Daddy, look what I can do!" Mommy says, "That's great son! Honey, why can't you do that?" Grrrrrr . . .

      Another twelve years later, I've gotten over that. Now, when I need something soldered, I just give it to the kid. He likes showing off, so it's kinda win-win.

      And, you should see my welding. I simply do NOT have a talent for making molten metal flow where it needs to go. Basically, I just stab the electrode where I want the filler to go, build it up as far as I can, then grind away all the ugly. Smack the finished product with a hammer, if it doesn't fall apart, I pretend that it's a good weld.

      The kid? He has almost no experience, but makes nice pretty welds that need almost no grinding.

      Did I mention that sometimes I almost hate kids?

  • We invoke the past every time we use one of those old maxims like 'turn up the volume' (implying the physical act of turning a knob) or 'you're like a broken record' (referring to a stylus on a record player stuck perpetually in the same groove, replaying and replaying the same sounds). Kids almost always infer the gist, and if it matters enough they'll ask for a more specific meaining. Think about the last time you heard someone say that someone was "pulling out all the stops" to achieve something. Did you

    • by Jhon (241832)

      "We invoke the past every time we use one of those old maxims like 'turn up the volume""

      Off topic, yes, but I'd like add that my wifes side of the family are immigrants and either naturalized Americans or residents on their way to citizenship. I hear daily the slaughter of many old sayings like the one you cite. Like "turn up the noise".

      Some of it is language translations on the fly. My favorite is when my wife is angry and she wants to say something like: "Thats it! PERIOD!" What she ends up saying i

  • by doctor woot (2779597) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:51PM (#46067041)

    I feel it would be most beneficial to encourage kids to explore old technologies and perhaps even try simple simulations at home or school. So, what websites or videos or other sources of information would you reach out to that teaches the basics of say, telegraphy? Or, signalling in railways? Etc. etc."

    Seriously? That's it? Just "I think" without even an attempt at justifying that statement? What difference would it make in a kid's life to learn about older technology?

    It's already hard enough to get kids interested in education, and adults pushing their ideas of what's important onto young students with no regards as to the relevance the "education" bears to the kids' lives is why. If I ever have kids I'm leaving it up to them to decide what they find interesting, and will do whatever I can to educate them on it, even if it means I have to learn a bit about it myself. I certainly wouldn't force my kids to learn about something as arbitrary as older technology.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Since when does somebody have to justify their premise to ask for advice?

      And I happen to agree with them - old technology has the advantage of being duplicable - give kids an erector set and they can re-create a carriage and suspension system and actually have a chance of understanding all the mechanical principles involved. Ditto something like analog phones - the basic electrical circuit involved is *simple*. It lets kids come to understand the principles of physics and engineering that underlay modern

      • Since when does somebody have to justify their premise to ask for advice?

        This isn't asking for advice, this is forwarding an argument (" I think not being aware of the science behind such yesteryear technologies (or their histories) is not right.") without giving any reason as to why. You would think something posted alongside articles on current events including international politics and advances in science, engineering and medicine, on a site with "News for nerds, stuff that matters" as the tagline would be a bit more substantial.

        To say it's worthwhile to teach kids about old

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          That's not how I read it. I read "what websites or videos or other sources of information would you reach out to that teaches the basics of say, telegraphy? Or, signalling in railways? Etc. etc.[Context: I think kids should get more exposure to this.]"

  • They don't care, cant relate, nor do they really need to. Once you get to college age, then 'history' becomes more relevant, but younger kids, it really isn't.

    • Learning does not need to be 'relevant'.
      If that was the case everyone would just learn the minimum to get away with.
      Most kids know quite a bit about history before they enter school. Even if it is 'unaccurate' or just scratching the surface. At least that is true in my country ... we all 'know' about the romans, the germans (what the english call the teutones) and the celts. Many kids know about the stone age and about dinosaurs ... often quite a lot.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        We are not talking about actual history, like the crusades where Christians killed millions, or the founding of the country.. The OP was talking about useless computer history..

        Much as it really does not matter if you understand where your car came from, unless you are going to become an automotive engineer.

        Also, i was not talking about never learning things, only that force feeding a child useless facts is pointless. if the child comes to you and asks, sure.. We are also talking *children* here, not c

  • ... to learn. Looking back on my own life as a kid, I was fascinated with technology and not much else could come in the way of that. Kids develop their own interests and it's really against the laws of nature for every person to be interested in the same things and the same values. Each kid builds their own reality from a combination of genetics and environment, it's largely out of your control.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. People, like horses, will only do what they have

  • ... Christmas Eve on Sesame Street gave me the chance to educate my children about typewriters :)

    (Cookie monster thought that the round spools of ribbon looked like cookies, so he ate them.)

  • When did we start considering the railway as a "historical" technology? In many parts of the world it's still in wide use, unlike other "historical" technologies, like VHS, 8Tracks, telegrams and typewriters.
    • Notice how the wheels roll down the track. On each axle, the wheels are rigidly attached, and the wheels are slightly tapered. If an axle gets a tiny bit off center, the wheels roll on different circumferences, which steers that pair of wheels back to the center. In a turn, the axle steers itself off-center by the same mechanism. Ideally, the wheels don't slip in a turn any more than they do on straight track. The flanges are a backup system.

      If you watch a train, tidbits of science and engineering are in vi
  • It is okay to teach someone old ways of doing tasks. Such ways might not be optimal, but may function if the new method doesn't work right now.

    It's not okay to teach someone obsolete ways of doing tasks. Such ways have been superseded for a reason, and there's no reason to keep them around anywhere other than a museum.

    Obsolete technology is obvious. You can let them know they exist, but it's never worth the effort to teach them.

  • Come on, man, that's just replicating the problem you're trying to solve.

    The basics of telegraphy are dead simple: Build an electromagnet by wrapping some wire around a nail, add some kind of spring or rubber-band mechanism to a piece of steel so that it clicks when the magnet is turned on or off, add a couple of batteries and a push button (momentary) switch. Et voila, a telegraph. If you don't want to build the electromagnet yourself, buy an old-fashioned doorbell or buzzer from your local hardware sto

  • Candles (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    God, one thing really pisses me off about ALL (almost) historical dramas and documentaries, and this is how LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY is laughably shown to be 'candles' for ALL periods before the invention of electric lighting. And this actually includes most depictions of the period when gas lighting was state-of-the-art.

    The modern candle isn't even an ancient invention, for heaven's sake. And the various solutions to the problem of illuminating dark Human living spaces represent some great forms of practical en

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      A little stringent, but I'd agree. Except on the idea that ancient engineers had mathematical tools such as we have today. Artists may not record engineers, but mathematicians record themselves in their exchanges and publications. We can trace the advance of mathematics back over 4000 years, and it has become FAR more powerful in that timeframe. There may have been other great peaks of mathematical knowledge that were reached and then lost in time before then, but at least for the last 4000 years we hav

    • May I suggest you stop watching American-made documentaries and switch to those made by the BBC. They certainly don't call the non-Westerners backward and savages. Go and grab the Science and Islam series or When Rome Ruled and you'll see a decent take on history.

  • by canatech (982314) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:39PM (#46067315)

    Somewhat related to what your asking.
    A ten part series on how some present day tech got here.
    The shows don't delve deeply in to how it all works, but interesting none the less.
    It may spark an interest in older technology.
    Many things that were once only available in a lab I can now recreate in my garage.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      I would second that.

      To that I would also add another older series, "The Secret Life of Machines [wikipedia.org]." This quirky series, with plenty of crude and funny animations, explained the basics and history of everyday technologies such as refrigerators, video recorders, fax machines, telephones, radio, etc. The Exploratorium website, amazingly enough, has the videos available for streaming or download [exploratorium.edu] for free. The creator, host, and animator, Tim Hunkin, continues to be an unreformed tinkerer, builder, and inven
  • The following series are great for both children and adults. Fantastic production quality, packed with factual information, but lacking the terrible sensationalism typical of American documentaries. I challenge you to watch even a single episode and not learn something awesome!

    I used to teach a technology related course at a local college, and I liked to show an episode of the 6-part BBC documentary Victorian Farm [wikipedia.org] to show students how advances in technology during the industrial revolution had a massive imp

  • I have a significantly higher interest in older technology than my kids. But my workshop is always open to them, on the off chance that they're interested in learning hand tool woodworking. Of course, that's not really old technology. It's still the way that fine furniture is made. It's just that they're unlikely to see solid wood furniture outside of our house. Unless you've got money to spend, you'll be buying the termite vomit from Ikea or Value City.

  • Um, if you're suggesting that those "young people" don't know about vinyl records you're pretty much so far out of the loop that you likely don't have much to offer.

    But hey, what do I know, at 58 years of age... [vibe.com]
  • It seems to me that working from the abacus to a modern day computer through evolution would promote a greater understanding and eliminate the "magic" of things. Otherwise we're too likely to dismiss things as too complicated to understand (god) and put them on some untenable pedestal.

     

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @02:23PM (#46067579) Homepage

    Kids should get some basics on where things come from. How steel is made. How farming works. How electricity is generated and distributed. How cars are made. Where tap water comes from, and where sewerage goes. How houses are built and what's inside the walls.

    At the micro level, they should learn basic electrical circuits, basic gears and mechanical linkages, basic hand tools up to an electric drill, and basic woodworking up to building a box or birdhouse.

    Not Z80 programming.

    Infrastructure is mandatory. Nostalgia is optional.

    • Kids should get some basics on where things come from. How steel is made. How farming works. How electricity is generated and distributed. How cars are made. Where tap water comes from, and where sewerage goes. How houses are built and what's inside the walls.

      At the micro level, they should learn basic electrical circuits, basic gears and mechanical linkages, basic hand tools up to an electric drill, and basic woodworking up to building a box or birdhouse.

      Not Z80 programming.

      Infrastructure is mandatory. Nostalgia is optional.

      They should also learn where the computer came from, where the cell phone came from, how life began and that everything that's not hydrogen and helium was made in stars. Teach them how to ask questions that have meaning to them. Teach them not to be cowards. Teach them, although the most advanced animals on the planet, we're still animals. Teach them how to teach themselves. Teach them we're all the same on the inside.

  • Don't just simulate them. Let them work with real tools. For example, it's really easy to build a telegraph. This could make a fantastic class project. Divide them into small groups, and have each group build a working telegraph key. Connect them up in pairs, give them a Morse code chart, and have them try to send messages to each other. Now hook them up to a central switchboard and teach them the basic principles of networks and switching mechanisms. Finally, explain how "the internet" is doing exac

  • Do you (or do you plan to) educate your kids about any particular older technologies?

    HA! They're going to learn them all whether they like it or not, and everything is going to start with "Back in my day..." and end with "...both ways, uphill, in the snow!" Dag nabbit!

  • ... analog cell phones.

    Back when we used to be able to make a call even miles from a tower.

  • Lets see you do this [seriouswheels.com] in a Prius.

  • ... was to have a historical aspect (my proposal from around 1999): http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/... [kurtz-fernhout.com]
    "The OSCOMAK project will foster a community in which many interested individuals will contribute to the creation of a distributed global repository of manufacturing knowledge about past, present and future processes, materials, and products."

    The idea goes back into the 1980s:
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/prin... [pdfernhout.net]

    Can't say I've gotten very far with it in the past quarter century (so many unrelated distractions ju

  • I'm getting older and now have 2 little kids of my own. The oldest is 3 now, so just about ready to really get going with learning. My history with computers starts with the Commodore VIC-20 around 1982 or so, then the Apple ][. then DOS, then Windows/Linux. So I've had the privilege of seeing the evolution of personal computing through a very interesting time period. In my opinion, anyone starting out with Windows or MacOS as their primary OS has lots of the early complexity of PCs abstracted away. Linux i

  • I figured they'd just eat into my xbox time.
  • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @03:52PM (#46068165)

    Being an Old Fuck I recall when I became interested in even older tech. Folks who dig that are a self-selected group and always were.

    Most people are drones who do the minimum, resist learning more than the minimum, and that's never been different.

    What has changed in a wonderful way is the AVAILABILITY of information on technology old and new on the internet.Want to teach the interested about a particular technology? Make an engaging, informative Youtube video. There are many such covering old tech such as blacksmithing.

    Leave out music (no one else want to hear distracting shit) and leave out the narrators face which conveys no useful information and is only ever included out of vanity. Add links to online sources interested viewers can use if their interest is piqued.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @03:52PM (#46068169)

    Other systems such as railways and telephony are 'historical,' but have advanced into the current age, too. I think not being aware of the science behind such yesteryear technologies (or their histories) is not right. I feel it would be most beneficial to encourage kids to explore old technologies and perhaps even try simple simulations at home or school.

    Do you know how:

    • your car's transmission works?
    • a steam engine works?
    • how to cultivate a farm crop?
    • how to butcher a cow?
    • how paper is made?
    • how ink is made?
    • how to weave cloth?
    • how to create a mortise and tenon joint?
    • how to track wild game?
    • how to start a fire without matches or a lighter?

    A substantial portion of our increased standard of living is due to productivity gains from specialization. Instead of everyone having to waste time learning and become experts at making fire, hunting, farming, weaving clothes, etc., we specialized and traded the resulting goods amongst ourselves. The extra time saved allowed us to become even more expert in our specialization, advancing the state of the art for even more productivity gains. And freed us to have more free time for leisure and entertainment activities.

    Reversing this and forcing kids to waste time learning stuff they don't need to know will decrease productivity and lower the standard of living. If the kid wants to go into the transportation industry, then he should learn about horse carriages and how the parts worked. If the kid wants to become a network/communications engineer, then he should learn about telephony. If the kid wants to learn about electron beams and phospor displays, then he should learn how old TV sets worked. Forcing all kids to learn this stuff just wastes time they could be spending learning what they will eventually do for a job.

    • Do you know how:

      your car's transmission works?
      a steam engine works?
      how to cultivate a farm crop?
      how to butcher a cow?
      how paper is made?
      how ink is made?
      how to weave cloth?
      how to create a mortise and tenon joint?
      how to track wild game?
      how to start a fire without matches or a lighter?

      Yes to all that above.
      Most of that is easy, so I don't get your point. I should specialize in one of those, why?
      Reversing this and forcing kids to waste time learning stuff they don't need to know will decrease productivity and lo

    • I found your post a bit depressing. Not all acquired knowledge has to relate directly to job productivity to be valuable. It also isn't necessary to become an expert to know how to do something.

  • Was about the time the #5 Xbar system came about. It was the very first Common Control switching system. The way it works is fascinating. The crossbar elements too - a single crossbar frame could switch multiple calls due to holding magnets activated by the system.

    Of course the era spans to about 1970 when the first electronic switches were put into place.
  • that her daddy and I had to:

    a- get up to change the tv channel by turning a dial on the set
    b- that there were only 7 channels (9 if you count uhf)
    c- that some tv programs were in black and white
    d- that tv stations "signed off" the air and there was only static

    rotary phones were another issue

  • As a kid my family and school took me on many trips to the Henry Ford museum/Greenfield Village. The museum is full of old technology, some of it even operational. For example, I remember trying to use morse code on a telegraph made with real antique keys/sounders with my Grandpa once. The village is a bunch of old buildings you can walk around with exhibits of how people used to live in various times.

    Today I love technology and I love to build/repair/hack things. I think my visits to the museum/village

  • Old movies help a lot. Kids see unusual piece in technology and ask about them, sometimes even thinking this is new stuff.
  • They just need an explanation of why the world was black & white & TV looked like crap before the early '60s
  • Connections, ConnectionsÂ, ConnectionsÂ, and The Day the Universe Changed.

  • Focus on stuff basic EM stuff. Its pretty much the foundation of which all modern electrics rest upon. First build a little electric motor, an iron ring some a dowel for the shaft some Farris nails and wire for manually winding. They will get the concept of EM. Then build a simple wired telegraph, a couple code keys and battery. Next talk about radio. Trying to talk to an 8 year old about radio propagation is tough, but building a crude wireless telegraph (keep the power low) is something that will stic

  • Do you (or do you plan to) educate your kids about any particular older technologies?

    I am very much looking forward to the day when I can teach them about an antiquated and no longer used technology called "Windows"

A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough For Love"

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