It wasn’t all that long ago that we first introduced Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to Tater.
I’d like to say it came up during a perfectly prepared unit on The History of Computer Science. But, as is the case with the bulk of our home learning, it came up in casual conversation.
Specifically? It cropped up in conversation about a place mat we found at Whole Foods. The mat celebrates great inventors, including these guys:
Sadly, it wasn’t any time before Mr. Jobs had passed.
Like a lot of Americans, we watched and contemplated the death of this incredibly artistic, inventive soul. We even saw file footage of Mr. Wozniak. We discussed how Mr. Jobs, like Tater, was an early reader. If he were older, we’d have discussed the more unsettling details of his life–especially his initial reaction to distance himself from his first-born daughter.
As that’s heady stuff for a five-year-old kid, I’ll admit that we played up the more upbeat, pro-creativity angles. Yet I was also surprised that Tater promptly took to crafting all sorts of little paper gadgets and gizmos on his own, saying that he too could learn how to “make” useful things.
About a week after Mr. Jobs’s death, we had to go to our local Apple store to make a purchase for a family member. As we arrived, Tater and I encountered the remains of a make-shift tribute at the door. He saw it and announced, “Oh, that must be for Steve Jobs. People are still really sad I guess.”
I felt a fleeting stab of sorrow myself, making that human connection between what we’d seen in the media and tangible evidence that someone real had died.
And now even the flowers left in his memory were wilting. It was poignant.
After we made our purchase, Tater wanted to stop at the memorial. I offered him my camera, and he snapped these images.
Once we got home, I decided to slow things down and talk with Tater at length about how Mr. Jobs and others at Apple made conscious decisions about the presentation of new products. No, we wouldn’t be tearing the box open for the product’s test drive. Instead, we’d take our time with it, noting how this state-of-the-art equipment had been “humanized.”
Together we took a close look at the box, and I explained the role of an “industrial designer.” We examined the iconic Apple image–yes, we defined “icon”–and then we made special note of details regarding size, shape, texture, and font choice. Tater shared that he remembered hearing how Mr. Jobs was instrumental in bringing font options into our everyday experience. For a small child mastering pencil and paper, this idea seemed cool.
When we finally got to the main attraction within the box–a computer–we noted the weight of the materials, the sleekness of the case, the feel of the keyboard. Of course, once we turned it on, Tater had a number of things that he wanted to do with it, most of it strictly for fun. We moved on to other topics, leaving the empty box alone on the carpet.
Looking back, I’d like to think for a few moments that day we took the teachable moment handed to us and touched upon some topics that we’ll revisit again and again:
Creativity. Quality. Good salesmanship. The fleeting nature of life itself.