Friday, August 07, 2009

A Few Of My Favorite Toys

In a short email asking for some new photos of the kids, my mom ended by writing, "I bet you're excited about that new G.I. Joe movie coming out!"

Well, no, actually. But that note, more than the incessant movie trailers suddenly jarred me into remembering that G.I. Joe had once been my absolutely favorite toy. Strange that I had somehow forgotten. Of course, like so many "classic" toys, G.I. Joe has evolved into something far more sophisticated and violent. The movie looks ultraviolent.

The G.I. Joes I had were from the early 1970s. And I can remember the thrill of getting a G.I. Joe with a "kung-fu action grip."

This gentleman was my constant companion:

Too bad, of course, that I didn't hang on to them because I'm sure they're valuable collectors items.

This also got me thinking about my other favorite toys.

Naturally, there were Legos. In fact, the giant bucket of Legos that Liam plays with six hours a day are mostly my Legos that my mom had the wisdom to save. Because boy, are they expensive!

The other big one was "Micronauts." These have all but vanished, having been discontinued in 1980. But my parents must have spent a few hundred, if not a thousand, dollars buying me Micronaut-related action figures and accessories. Micronauts were what came before Transformers, but were a similar idea. Because all the pieces of the figures and accessories had similar connectors, everything could be taken apart and re-constructed in infinite configurations:

And I remember this Micronauts Rocket Tube being one of my greatest Christmas presents ever:

Of course, it's total hypocrisy that I would never buy any of these things for Liam (excluding Legos). We've tried to steer away from his budding Transformer curiosity. And we worry constantly about his attachment to consumer goods and violent videos.

(Me: "Liam, what do you want to watch?" Liam: "Just something with violence.")

But I do miss those toys. And even though it drives me crazy at times, I'm still glad that he's so passionate about Legos.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Technology, The Future, And My Children

As someone who makes a living writing about technology and innovation, I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about the future. While I'm not a gadget obsessive like so many in Silicon Valley, I do embrace my inner geek and am always glad to see some of that rubbing off on my kids.

This summer, Liam has been attending several sessions of what is popularly known as "Sarah's Science Camp." (Officially: "This Land Is Our Land.") As is typical, Liam complains on a daily basis about having to go. But it's been clear over the weeks that he's tremendously excited about the projects they get to build. Each week has a theme (circuits, gravity, etc.). In the past few weeks, Liam has built a flashlight, a catapult, a metal detector, and all sorts of cool, nerdy stuff. I think it's so important because the way our society is evolving, we're so much more disconnected from the way things are made, from our cars to our food. I wrote about that theme and the joy of creating after we visited the Maker Faire.

I had less of that as a kid, though I did go to computer camp the summer after eighth grade. Which may tell you all you need to know about what my adolescence was like. Rather than hanging out at the pool and finding a girl to "go steady" with, I was learning how to plot a pixel and save it to a floppy disk.

It's staggering to look back at the immense technological change I've experienced since that computer camp. When I was unpacking some stuff I brought home from the office today, I pulled out a plastic baggy full of diskettes:

Liam looked at them and asked, "Daddy, what are those?" I explained, but he will never, ever use one. That got me thinking of all the other things he'll never probably use when he's an adult. Desktop PCs will probably look ridiculous. And wires? Very possibly our kids will laugh that we had this spaghetti-like mess of wires under out desks.

At the same time, our family has been pretty conservative about a lot of technology. We don't have a video game player, though Liam has recently discovered the existence of the Wii and is dying to get one. So far, the answer is no, but that'll change at some point.

I think this is one of the things that I appreciate, though, about being a parent. How these little moments cause me to re-experience parts of my own childhood, how seeing things through their eyes forces me to see the present in a different light, and how thinking about them growing up leaves me a little envious about the world they'll inherit.

I guess that means that on the whole, I'm optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future we'll leave them.