Wednesday, 30 January 2008

You are old when you are a part of a museum...

Last few months I've been to a couple of “Living History” museums. What I mean by “Living History”? These were historic museums, but some parts are so recent that actually people who lived through that age are teachers themselves. Last weekend I went to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. It was really interesting, especially where they showed a Railway Post Office; in this car mail was sorted while the train was riding, so letters could be delivered as soon as the train arrived to the destination! The guy who explained all this, now in his seventies, was actually a clerk, so he explained how he did his job. Actually, since the last wagon was retired in 1977, I was alive when this kind of cars existed!
In addition, 6 months ago, I went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. They have a restoration project for a PDP 1, and the teacher has actually worked with the computer when he was at university. He told the story how they found the data for a music program, but not the program itself. Amazingly this guy had written the original program, so he reconstructed it from the data! As if that wasn't enough, one of the first Google servers was on display... if you thought turning forty was a crisis, being a part of a museum is way worse!
I can imagine in thirty years being a teacher in a museum explaining the history of the Internet.
I: “So, when I was young, we communicated our computers with modems over a phone line... (young girl raising her hand) Yes, darling?”
Young girl: “What is a phone lane?”
I: “A phone is what we used to talk before we had iBlackBerry's, but the difference is that it was connected to the wall.”
Young girl: “My daddy connects my iBlackie to the wall one night a month, and it is terrible, I cannot use it at that time”
I: “Well, actually, phones had to be connected to the wall to be used....”
Young girl: “But how did you carry it to the playground, to school?”
I: “We didn't” (young girl looks perplexed, not understanding the concept of being out of touch)
Young boy: “How fast were these “phones”? How many Gbps?”
I: “My first modem was 2400 bps”
Young boy: “Ohh, 2400 Gbps is quite good”
I: “No, no, sorry for not being clear: I meant bps. That's like 1 billionth of a Gbps” (the boy refrains from asking me how we hunted mammoths)

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