Thinkin’ o’ Tinkerin’

Thanks to a post by Brad Feld and both the online and offline comments, I decided to think a little more about the topics that were raised. I’m really happy to see that others are thinking about the story-telling and programming meme – which I want to expand upon in the future – but today I’m thinking more about tinkering. I’m guessing the title gave that away.

I’m a tactile person (no, strangers need not worry). In thinking mode I will often pick up some object and play with it while pacing around the room. Sometimes I will find that I have partially disassembled whatever it is that I’m holding (best not to hand me your remote control when brainstorming); usually I can put it back together again.

Credit goes to my father. He would make sure that I would find all manner of formerly operative objects (alarm clocks, analog radios, rotary phones, flux capacitors) and access to tools and just let curiosity take its course. So that’s how it works! And what does this do? These created a lot of small AHA! moments. From those experiences I was able to infer how other things worked without having to take them apart.

His goal, beyond improving my manual dexterity and making me confident of which way to turn a screw without having to think about it, was to grow my curiosity of the world around me.

Today so much of what was mechanical is now electronic. Would a child learn about how something works by trying to undecipher an electronics board? Or perhaps, since most things today contain and rely upon printed circuit boards, it’s no longer that important to play around with the mechanics.

I think it doesn’t matter. What I do think is important is that kids get the opportunity to tinker with the physical world. It’s unfortunate that even the electronics are slowly being locked away so even that option is disappearing. But I’ll post something separately about that.


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