What’s a telegraph?

The power went out at my daughter’s middle school yesterday just as she was in the computer lab. What to do? The teacher pulled out and dusted off a technology crossword puzzle for them to do. She just showed it to me and was puzzled. 10 across asked: Connects the computer to the telephone. Julia’s answer was obvious, she thought: Skype. No, said the test, the proper answer: Modem. “What’s a modem, Daddy?” she asked.

(See also the comments here about the telegraph.)

  • My son was given an IQ test when he was much younger. When shown a drawing of a typewriter, he said it was a keyboard, which answer was marked “incorrect”.

    • IQ tests are funny like that. I took an IQ test when I was little… one of the questions was “what causes metal to rust?”, I said “oxidation”. The answer was “water”, so I got it wrong.

      I have three kids under 4 right now – I wonder if they’ll know what a keyboard is when they’re older? Or a blog?

  • Ha…exactly what I was speaking about with my son’s 4th grade class. Here’s a recap if you’re interested.



  • This is why I — only half seriously — am considering cruelly making my son (now 13 months old) start out on the same computer I did: the Apple IIc. He can work his way up from there, through the IIe, DOS systems, Win 3.1 and so on.

    In this utterly unrealistic fantasy, my boy learns the roots of his technological present and respects computers a little bit more. In the harsh reality, I can’t find any of those old pieces of hardware and he is ostracized by his friends for not having a cell phone at age 4.

  • This is hilarious, Jeff. In 1977, my oldest daughter was 7-years old and had just gotten her first Texas Instruments calculator. They were extremely controversial back then; the Luddites tried to make them illegal in schools. One day, on the way home from school, she asked me a question that changed my life and sent me on my current path.

    “If I have one of these,” she asked, “why do I need to study math?”

    All these years later, I still don’t have a great answer for that.

    • invitedmedia

      just go into any fast food joint and ask the cashier to figure your change w/o using the amount tendered key and watch all hell break loose.

      btw- i still have one of those early ti’s with the red l.e.d.s that can do the “ShELLOIL” joke by turning it upside down– (71077345)

      the original one i bought done died, but found the current one at a garage sale for $1… gladly paying $2.50 these days for a 9v duracell to run it.

    • The problem with using calculators is that you make it harder to develop an intuitive sense of what the answers should be.

      bob wyman

  • @Terry – at my school they were banned!

  • invitedmedia

    also, i will be going out this weekend and spending an extra few dollars in support of our new stimuli to “telegraph” to all my republican friends and the creeps on wall street my big f’in middle finger.

    why not join me?

  • If you’re not familiar with it, check out the Beloit College Mindset list.

    You’ll find just how men and women in different graduating classes don’t understand what older folk (like myself) might take for granted. My favorite from the list for the class of 2012: “IBM has never made typewriters.”

  • Our language will have to change too

    My grandchildren will never “dial” a phone.

    How long will we still talk about being “online” in a wireless world.

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  • Danny L. McDaniel

    While unpacking Christmas decorations out in my garage last November my two kids, ages 9 and 7, found my old Sears electric typewriter from my college years, 1976-84. They took it in the house and plugged it in and after all these years it still works perfectly. Over that same period of time I have went through about six computers.

    They told me “people should make them again.” It was funny watching them trying to figure out how to use a typewriter. It reminded me when I first started using computers. A 33 years old typewriter that has been unused in a garage for 25 years and still works – that is a great piece of American machinery!

    Danny L. McDaniel
    Lafayette, Indiana

  • I love being old enough to remember a modem, but young enough to claim that I grew up with the internet.

    Just yesterday with somebody else my age we tried to put together our faint memories of Prodigy (pre-AOL).

  • They may not “dial” a phone, Scott, but the phone they use will have a “redial” button. That’s called a “retronym.”