This post may be a little late this week, as we took the grand kids to a local “wildlife park”. Which leads me not so subtly into the topic of the week.
As kids we used to go to Granny and Grandpa’s house quite frequently. I recall sleeping over at one time, and in later years my sister lived with my Granny. I recall it being fun, but that was mostly because we could poke around in their house and garden. They had a long garden with a goldfish pond, a few apple trees, a garden and a large wooden shed.
What I don’t remember is being taken out to “wildlife parks” or similar by my grand parents. In fact, I don’t remember going out with my grand parents anywhere. I’m pretty sure that we must have gone out with them, but it must have been rare and we probably only walked around the block or something.
We did use to have big family parties and I do remember my Granny being at my Uncles and Aunties’ houses during family parties. My Grandpa died fairly young so I don’t remember him at them.
It’s different with our grand kids. I don’t know if it is because we are much more active than my grand parents were or because we are able to drive them to places. Neither of my grand parents drove that I can remember.
In contrast we fairly often drive our grand kids on trips to various places, sometimes in conjunction with their parents, sometimes without.
On Sunday, their uncle (my son) and his wife decided to take my grand kids to a local “wildlife park”, called Staglands. I went along and so did my daughter, their mother. Staglands is a fair way out of town, in a beautiful picturesque valley. My daughter drove the kids there, and I drove my son and daughter-in-law.
We didn’t stop to take photos of the valley on the way there, as we travelled independently and didn’t want to keep them waiting. As it turned out, we got there first. The road is a secondary route between a major north-south valley (the Hutt Valley) and the Coast Road.
It is a fairly quiet road, most of the time, so is a favourite road for serious cyclists, the ones with lycra suits who are not afraid of some fairly serious hills. I’ve no problem with them, but they did make it difficult on the narrow road at times.
Staglands is 17km up this road, so that part of the trip took a while, but we got there and parked, waiting for my daughter and the grand kids. They all hopped out the car and admired the guinea fowl and peacocks which roamed the car park.
I was informed that the brown peacocks were the female ones then we paid the entry fees and went in. The path bypassed the café and wound down to a couple of small lakes, with the usual wildfowl, mainly ducks, including one small survivor of a presumably larger brood.
On the way it passed a small cul-de-sac with a “cave”, Tracey’s Cave, with a constant splash into a pool of water which created interesting ripples.
We then followed the main path up to a barn where there was a fire burning in a barrel. Did I forget to mention that we bought small packets of marshmallows and sticks at the gatehouse? Ooops. Great fun was had toasting the marshmallows, something that I’ve never seen the point of, until now.
Just down from the barn was a small paddock with a number of Kune Kune pigs. These are fairly small, hairy pigs. Kune Kune are friendly and docile animals although I would not like to be in the paddock with them. The kids, Hamish, Duncan and Louise, loved feeding them out of the small packets of feed that we bought at the gatehouse.
A walk-in aviary was next, which contained Kea. These are a large alpine parrot, which in the wild are attracted to people and their cars. Naturally people stop to see them and the Kea respond with thievery and destruction. They pinch sandwiches and pull the rubber bits from cars.
The Kea in the aviary were less exuberant than that preferring to preen out of reach, but other birds, small parrots, were friendlier and would sit on one’s hand. A passing sparrow stopped by overhead on the chicken wire roof.
The stables contained horse, donkeys and small lambs and goats, all of which got a ration out of the small bags of feed. It almost seemed that these larger animals were taking the small portions simply to be friendly.
Next was a larger aviary, planted with toe toe, a large tussocky grass with plumed flower heads, much like “Pampas grass” which is well known in some other countries. Small birds, such as finches, cockatoos and budgerigars live in this aviary.
The kids all love the “swing bridge” which connects one half of the park with the half on the other side of the stream. The first area is a mock recreation of small settlement from around the 1900s, which has been used as a set for films. Up from there is a large pond with a walkway, with on one side, a wooden railway with a push cart, usually a hit with kids, but for some reason unused today. Though I did push Duncan along in it.
After the pond was a large open paddock with deer, sheep and goats. A notice on the gate mentioned that the animals in the paddock could be “quite pushy”. A quick scramble and Hamish, Duncan and I had a glorious view of the valley, only slightly spoiled by a large logged area on the opposite side of the valley.
Then it was back down to the gatehouse and the café for re-fuelling. Hamish managed a couple of large sausage rolls (a mistake – I got the order wrong, it should have only one!) and was still hungry. Duncan went for a more sophisticated hot dogs and chips, while Louise claimed to be satisfied with an ice-cream though she did help herself to he mother’s chips. Tim (my son) and Kaz (his wife) both had nachos. I had a bacon and egg panini.
Staglands is a great place for that sort of trip and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It is great to be able to spend time with the grand kids, and it a shame that, for whatever reason, we didn’t get to do similar with our grand parents.
On 12 March 1989 Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for what would become the “World Wide Web”, now enshrined in the “www” that is part of the name of many websites. This is often now voiced as “dub, dub, dub”, causing many people to cringe. Through 1990 and into 1991 Tim’s idea was refined until the idea was announced publicly on 7 August 1991.
Granny would have about 30 at the time, or maybe younger.
It’s worth remembering that the Internet had been around for a decade or so, in rudimentary form, so the chances are that Granny might have come into contact with it if she was working in it at the time, maybe at a university. It’s far more likely though that Granny’s first contact with computing would have come from working at a large firm where they had a mainframe computer.
Maybe she sat at an IBM 3270 screen and typed accounting data into it, or maybe she was one of the people who loaded punched cards into a reader or tended the huge printers that spat out piles of paper with horizontal green stripes and sprocket holes down the edge. Or maybe she loaded magnetic tape reels into one of the tape reader machines which for some reason came to signify “computing” in many films of the era.
The Internet started as a linked network of computers, running online databases, using names such as “Archie” and “Gopher”. Everything was text based and there was no linking. That had to wait for Tim Berners-Lee’s insight. Universities embraced the new medium and most databases were held on University servers.
When you blithely click on link to visit a web page a number of things happen. Firstly your computer recognises that you want to do something. A program on your computer called the browser (Firefox, or Chrome or Internet Explorer) analyses your input and decides what you want it to do.
This may involve sending a request to a remote server, but your computer doesn’t know where the server, so it needs to find out. This is done by sending a message to yet another server which has information about where the requested server is on the Internet, or knows how to find out.
In the early days of the Internet, when Granny may have first come into contact with it, this system did not exist, so every computer on the Internet was required to know the whereabouts of every other computer on the Internet. As you can imagine, updating the address information became a tedious chore and that is why the system that I sketchily outlined above was invented.
Once Granny found a document whose title looked interesting, she would have to download it. Today we click on a link and the document appears on our screen. But Granny would have had to tediously search likely sources for the document, then she would transfer it to the server that she was connected to, and finally she would be able to print it on a printer. If she was lucky the printer would be nearby and it would actually have some paper in it. Granny’s document would be printed in a fixed width font on striped paper by a printer with a ribbon and little hammers, like a glorified typewriter.
Granny would have been around 20 when IBM introduced the first “IBM Personal Computer” in 1981, but she might have first come into contact with something like a Commodore 64 or Sinclair ZX 81 or Spectrum. She might have played games loaded tedious by command line commands from cassette tape. It’s possible that she was amazed by the blocky coloured graphics and the clunky game play, considering that the next best thing around was “Pong”, a primitive tennis game on a fixed device, sometimes set into a tabletop, or maybe “Space Invaders”, also hosted on a single purpose device.
If Granny had anything to do with computers in the early days of personal computers she would have had to deal with machines that by default booted into BASIC. That’s pretty much a fall-back as usually would have inserted a floppy disk with some version of DOS into the machine. Then she would have had to have loaded whatever program she wanted to run by using another floppy disk.
She would have had to become familiar with the DOS command line, including such quirks as the A: and B: drive referring to the same device. Most of the time. She might even have edited configuration files by hand.
When she got her first hard disk she would have installed DOS or even Windows on it from maybe three or four floppy disks. The first Windows versions ran as a shell on top of DOS, so she would have still needed to have a knowledge of DOS.
In addition she would have had to handle the dreaded device drivers. These were (and still are) small programs that handled interactions with specific installed hardware. Which in the early days of DOS and Windows meant just about any piece of hardware.
When Granny installed her new scanner she would have received a disk with it containing the drivers. She would know from prior experience that installing a driver could possibly make her system crash and be unbootable. But she would have still installed it and most probably (eventually) come out on top of it.
In addition before Granny got broadband she would have experienced the doubtful pleasures of using a dial-up modem, and would be familiar with the weird little song it sings to itself when it is handshaking with the remote modem. And she would certainly be familiar with waiting for half an hour to download a megabyte file and Grandad picking up the phone one minute before the end and breaking the connection.
So, now Granny has bought an iPad. Don’t be surprised if she takes to it like a duck to water. After all, she probably has decades more experience with computers and networks, the Internet and downloading than you have. You weren’t born when she started!