The demand for authenticity

by on November 29, 2007 at 7:06 am in Education | Permalink

Eric Jorgensen, a programmer at Microsoft,
has invented PixelWhimsy, a computer program that allows toddlers to
sit at a regular computer and bang away on the keys to create sounds
and colors and shapes, but without damaging the computer.

Jalis, who also works at Microsoft and whose 2-year-old boy, Ibrahim,
has been using PixelWhimsy, said his son liked it better than his toy
computer. “We have a toy laptop for him, and he knows it’s a fake,” he

Or more generally:

Cellphones, laptops, digital cameras and MP3 music players are among the hottest gift items this year. For preschoolers.  Toy makers and retailers are filling shelves with new tech devices for
children ages 3 and up, and sometimes even down. They say they are
catering to junior consumers who want to emulate their parents and are
not satisfied with fake gadgets.

1 Gregg November 29, 2007 at 7:23 am

This recognizes that a high-tech child is better prepared to disrespect authority, using examples from a broader experience than the home. By empowering that disrespect, the child becomes a better negotiator, less containable within the home, unable to molify except with better technology.

2 v November 29, 2007 at 8:27 am

Not surprising. Girls traded paper dolls for plastic real sized ones in the 60’s or earlier, traded fake oven play sets for an easy bake oven that actually cooks “food”, use their mom’s makeup and jewelry and clothes. Children always wanted to emulate adults and use the real thing. This is just the modern iteration.

3 Steve R November 29, 2007 at 8:35 am

I’m pretty sure that “without damaging the computer” refers to deleting files or downloading programs.

I recently commented to my wife that cell phones and computers should have toddler modes similar to this. My 13-month old won’t touch his toy cell-phone but will play with mine for an hour. The keyboard is another of his favorites. Usually there are about 50 windows open after he’s through with it.

4 Person November 29, 2007 at 11:07 am

Why not just make the parent’s real computer/cell phone look like the toy?


5 RobbL November 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I am not sure that this is anything new. When I was a kid, I would have preferred a motorized toy car to the tricycle I was forced to settle for…

I think that any parents out there will find that their children will be happy with a set of unit blocks if that parent will agree to play. If the parent spends all their time on a computer the child will want to emulate that activity.

6 Liz November 29, 2007 at 2:37 pm

I currently use Peanut Butter PC on our computer. I run a home business and I had always feared by kids (3 & 5) deleting something or responding to an IM. Peanut Butter PC locks everything down and gives them what they need… a safe and secure environment on a “Real” computer. It’s a life saver…

7 mouse November 29, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Having an 18 month old who would love this toy, I immediately typed PixelWhimsy into google, clicked the first link with google claimed cached as “I am also the author of PixelWhimsy , a cool software toy that defies description. Perhaps you would like to: Contact Me; Download software; Cook something; …”

and got

So, perhaps that tells me even more about authenticity, so to speak.

8 anon, III November 29, 2007 at 7:20 pm

i think i unintentionally wrote this program in gw-basic when i was six. afterwards, i played captain comic. anyone else? commander keen? id software ftw.

9 Izzy November 29, 2007 at 10:48 pm

“Why not just make the parent’s real computer/cell phone look like the toy?”

That’s what Apple does.

10 Dave Spicer November 30, 2007 at 7:54 am

Nothing happens when I try to run the installer under Win98SE. Is XP required?

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12 sfsd October 30, 2008 at 2:21 am
13 me July 1, 2009 at 6:51 am
14 AnneMendy February 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

As I can see it from here, the education of our future children sticks to technology in any possible way you can think of. Hopefully this is for their best, although I have certain serious doubts. My kids browse the internet all day long, so I made sure to install proper spyware remover programs on their computers, unless risks of them being exposed to viruses is considerably high.

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