Dad’s Tech Quest – Introduction

TechQuest LogoWhen my kids were born, I decided that they would have access to technology. Real tech, not just games.

So before they could speak, their hands were slapping and clacking on the keyboard. This isn’t so unusual these days, as many modern American families have access to similar technology.

But I wanted to go one step further.

I believe my career in technology is due primarily to my early exposure to computers. My high school exposed us early in the 1980s to simple programming using the Commodore 64, a machine that was a gateway for thousands of tech-curious minds.

Then, in a move that would prove formative, my father bought me a used Apple IIc computer. It was a basic machine, but it was mine. I could tinker and explore at home, rather than in a computer lab. I used it primarily as a word processor, but it gave me the confidence to use technology as a tool.

And, like many before me, I was completely and utterly blown away the first time I saw my first classic Macintosh computer. Unlike many of my fellow students who walked past, I couldn’t wait to put my hands on it. Continue reading

Kindles + Kids = 37 Billion Reasons

When I talk to friends and co-workers about the Kindle 2, they are amazed at the ebook technology, but doubtful that they’ll be using one anytime soon. At a price of $359 (and during a recession), they’re right. They probably will NOT be using an ebook this year. Or next.

But you know who will? Their kids.

According the the US Department of Education, there were approximately 34.9 million children in grades K-8 in public schools in 2008. By 2014, they estimate that number to increase to 37.2 million.

That’s a lot of students. That’s a LOT of textbooks.

According to some Internet sources, it can cost anywhere from $800-$1,000 to give textbooks to students every year. Some sources say an average textbook is about $52. (It’s hard to offer a good credible source. If you have one that supports or disputes this claim, please offer some links.)

So simple math here based on 2014 enrollment estimates:$1,000 times 37 million is $37 billion.

Anyway, kids. Yeah. Expensive, aren’t they?

Kids don’t need paper to get the benefit of the education that’s been written. They need information to get smart. We can give them Internet access, but that’s just one resource.

My Kindle ($359) weighs 10 oz. My laptop ($1,200) is about 5 lbs. That may not be much for me, but it is for a 10-year-old.

In a few years, it’s likely that we’ll see government-issued ebook readers replacing overstuffed backpacks. It may be the Kindle or the Sony e-Reader, but it will probably be some new manufacturer that has big government contracts.

Something more durable and utilitarian. Something that’s less hackable and more controllable than the average PC.

Teachers will assign chapters and reading over the school’s wireless network. Schools will only pay for the chapters they assign. New editions of textbooks will be downloaded directly from the publisher’s website via secure FTP.

Less paper. Less storage space. Less money spent on giving textbooks to 37 million students per year.

Say what you will about public schools, but most people in the US attend these schools. Our country generates a lot of smart people because there are a lot of smart people running and teaching in these schools.

A back of the napkin calculation shows that we may be looking at $37 billion in textbooks in 2014.

You can bet there are school administrators crunching numbers too. And while the economics of first generation ebook readers don’t make sense now, that will soon change. Prices will drop, technology will improve, and the economics will become compellingly obvious.

You may never read books using an ebook reader. But your kids in grammar school? They will.

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