What is this?

Every man or woman eventually pines for the days of the past, at least occationally, and either marvels or shudders at the speed at which thing happen, change, and disappear.  Unfortunately, most of these observations of culture are drowned in sentimentality and eventual contempt for “the crazy things kids do nowadays.”

But our collective memory does seem to be ever more short-sighted and our sense of time is being skewed by technology.  Things change and reinvent themselves at a pace humankind has not yet seen.  And the ones who seem to be dealing best with it are the young kids.  I teach a programming class to various-aged children, and they constantly show their adeptness and logical thinking at the keyboard, but they also show remarkably little patience, especially with new technologies. The appeal of novelty far outweighs the value of a deeper knowledge that comes with time and sustained effort to understand.

But patience has never been a known virtue of children, and sometimes this impatience is hilarious.

As an exercise in speculative language, I asked a large group of young students what they thought of a drawing of a portable CD player with headphones.  The book I used was written at latest in 2000, which isn’t really that long ago. One quickly realizes how many amazing pieces of tech become obsolete in increasingly shorter periods of time.

Their answers revealed more about their own lives and perspectives on the world than their awareness of popular culture history.  I wonder how long it will take for kids to laugh at the iPhone 6…

The question: “What is this?”


a gerbil cage

a banana holder

a handbag

a scale for your mom to see how much heavy she is

a computer

a telephone

a robot clam

a toilet

a girl’s helmet

a chronometer

a bomb

a something for tea for English people

a radio

it counts kilometers

a plate for Japanese people

it measures your heartbeat

my grandmother has one

a pizza pan

an animal trap


a cookie and a stick


And when I told them what it was, their responses:

“That’s all it does?”

“Why would you have that?”

“Where does the music come from?”

“What’s a CD?”

“Is it bigger or smaller than a house?”

“Does it Shazam?”

“Does it Spotify?”

“But where is the screen?”

“It must be very heavy.”

“And you take it with you?”

“Are they free?”









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