Inventor Of The Wind-Up Radio Complains About 'Google Generation'

from the wait,-you-used-to-have-to-wind-up-radios? dept

I love luddites. They're just so damned consistent. I haven't completely worked out the details yet, but I'm positive there is a math equation out there that would accurately predict after what year a person thinks everything new sucks. Maybe it'd look something like: (year of current date) – (age of person) / (IQ) = (year after which everything sucks). Okay, that's clearly far from perfect (and I hear Douglas Adams may have done it better), but I would expect something along those lines could predict people like a DHS boss that doesn't use anything online ever. Or Andrew Keen and Sherry Turkle, who team up to claim that social media is making us less private, but more lonely, which seems to work at cross conclusions but the math formula is the math formula so screw social media.

computer science students at the airport
Look how lonely all these people are together!
Image source: CC BY-SA 2.0

Those examples aside, I have to admit this is a new one for me. Apparently there once were radios that you had to wind up to use and Trevor Baylis, the guy that invented them, says Google is making younger generations brain dead.

“Children have got to be taught hands-on, and not to become mobile phone or computer dependent. They are dependent on Google searches. A lot of kids will become fairly brain-dead if they become so dependent on the internet, because they will not be able to do things in the old-fashioned way.”

Let's see if I can break down the pure wrongness of this kind of thinking with a couple of fun little analogies.

  1. Children have to be taught how to tend to their horses and not become dependent on automobiles or public transportation, otherwise they may not be able to ride horses any longer.
  2. Children have to be taught how to use an abacus and not become dependent on calculators, otherwise they not be able to use abacuses in their adult daily lives.
  3. Children have to be taught how to unhook a chastity belt, otherwise they may not be able to have sex once they are married and somehow chasisty belts come back into circulation because….yeah, because.

Get the point? Once the old way is no longer the way, we don't have to teach it any longer. I use Google searches every day, both for work (part numbers for technology parts) and for personal use (explicit search terms for naughty human parts). That's where that stuff exists, on the internet. In fact, learning how to properly use a search engine to get the most out of its results is probably one of the most worthwhile things you can teach a child today. There is nothing wrong with learning the old way of doing things, specifically if that old way builds a foundation for understanding the new way, but blaming Google for making children brain dead is just silly.

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Comments on “Inventor Of The Wind-Up Radio Complains About 'Google Generation'”

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Re: Re:

The British army used horse for patrols and supplies in Bosnia, particularly in rough terrain where vehicles had difficulties. They are also been used in Afghanistan by at Least British and Australian forces.
As for bayonets there was that incident in London where a Guardsman used one to good effect, convincing someone not to approach the Queens vehicle.

Lord Binkysays:

It's funny how knowledge can be soo...situational.

I’m confused, does he want kids to learn through experience or does he want them to be taught?

If he wants them to be taught, then it’s simple, learn the most relavent things first, then learn how-to-learn the rest. Should be happy and excited the first things he learned are not the first things kids learn.

As long as they are smart enough to learn how to function without the internet as needed, what’s wrong?


Speaking as someone who lived through both hurricane Katrina and Sandy, I can say there might be some substance to what he’s saying. In fact, during Sandy I was able to keep informed of what was happening around me precisely because I own, you guessed it, a wind-up radio.

I think the more disturbing trend is that people rely on something like Google, or computers in general, with no idea of how they work under the hood. I’m not saying everyone should be a programmer, but at least knowing how a computer, or any piece of software, superficially works can immensely help a kid understand what they’re being fed and give them the tools to parse information from misinformation. I took C++ classes in high school and just a simple knowledge of computer language helps me “talk” to a computer better than say, my mom or my dad, or most of my other tech-savvy, wired hipster friends, always with the latest geegaw, who’ve never even heard the word boolean.


Re: Re:

Note: I say this as an application developer and server administrator.

It really isn’t fair to ask everybody to become conversant with the underlying technologies behind everyday conveniences. The world is becoming much more complicated. I know the most basic aspects of how my truck works, but I would not trust myself to do any major repair work. Asking a non-techie to learn the basics of Java, C (and its cousins), Assembly, etc. is just asking for trouble.


Re: Re: Re: Re:

It really isn’t fair to ask everybody to become conversant with the underlying technologies behind everyday conveniences. The world is becoming much more complicated. I know the most basic aspects of how my truck works, but I would not trust myself to do any major repair work.

Do you know how to put gas in it? Change the wiper blades? Check the oil? Change a tire? These are things that would be completely unknown to 95% of the population, if they had the same level of knowledge about motor vehicles as they do about computers. In fact, most of them probably wouldn’t even know where the hood release was or how to put the flashers on.

Things that the average computer user should know, like how to create their own shortcuts, or how to change file associations, are like magic to most people. In general, they only know two things about using a computer;

1. Double-click an icon.

2. Insert a disc and wait for Windows to ask what to do.

They may know how to use specific programs (to some degree), but as far as dealing with the computer/OS itself, that’s pretty much all they know. If their camera software doesn’t provide a ‘library’ function for their photos, they have no idea where they are or how to find them with Explorer, nor would they know how to install a third-party image viewer. If their web browser doesn’t provide a link to the download directory, they have no clue where the files they downloaded were saved to.


Re: Re: Re: Re:

Hey, I would not even attempt to do any repair work on my car either. But I have a good basic understanding of how it works.

So IMO, there is nothing wrong with the general population having a basic idea of how the internet actually works. Maybe there should be a lesson during grade school. At some point in grade school, you typically have an exercise of setting up a “store” and selling things (within the classroom, not to the public). There are other exercises that teachers have students do to learn various lessons about the world.

Maybe there could be an internet lesson about disassembling a paper, routing these “packets” and reassembling. It’s not much of a leap for students to understand that instead of paper, a CD or DVD (music, movie, etc) could be split up and routed through this network to another point.


Re: Re: Re: Re:

It is exactly like owning a car and knowing roughly how an engine works, why it needs gas and engine oil, and how to operate the ventilation, headlights, and useful/necessary features. If you own a car, you should know these things (and sadly, many people do not).
The same is true with computers- people need to know the bare-bones relationship between CPU, RAM, hard disks and OS, as well as how to use common OS features. I’ll admit the bar is still pretty high, but without this sort of understanding you will never be able to get more than the minimum out of your computer.


If an internet user is asked the same question many times and use the search to find the answer, they will learn it. Google is like having a secondary storage for your knowledge…and everyone can connect to it…and add to it…

Anyone with a smartphone could technically do any job now o.o (only problem is finding someone with the drive to do it, AND the proper licenses/school degrees >.>)


Re: Re: bayliss crank radios

Your note got me thinking, “The wouldn’t have been thinking about such things way back with crank radios would have been invented”, then I checked.. This guy patented his “invention” in ’91.

Crank radios were common in WW2.. Not sure how much further back they go then that, but I’m somewhat unimpressed. He did make money off selling his patent of a different version… I guess, for what thats worth.

The fact that this guy patented his invention in 1991


To advocate slightly for the old way of doing things, it has to do with “Garbage In… Garbage Out…”

If children never learn their multiplication tables because it is assumed that they will always have access to a calculator… They would never know that 5×5 does not equal 30 because they accidentally hit a 6 instead. Only by knowing approximately what the answer should be in the first place, will they be able to quickly catch and troubleshoot errors in their work.


Re: Re:

Old ways of training or even thinking that are useful and required for the current / new ways of doing are a wholy different than old ways of doing that are just no longer done.

Learning to do math, for instance has many applications in current life and with just training your mind in general, whereas learning to do your math using a slide rule instead of a calculator, on the other hand would probably be mostly pointless today.

John Doesays:

What about Blackberry Pi, Arduino, etc?

What about all the cool things coming out of the technology age like Blackberry Pi, Arduino stuff and quadrocopters? When I was a kid, we had a Radioshack toy that let you build a bunch of different things based on connecting the various components. Now you have a near unlimited number of creative uses of Arduino technology and quadrocopters. I bet we see a new surge in science fields with kids getting into stuff like that.


Re: Re:

I laughed at this because my grandmother despised google, wikipedia, etc., despite the fact she never utilized them. She said she missed the ‘smell’ of card catalogs, but I doubt this was the cause. I loved her to death, but what I believe her disdain of new technology was her fear of its learning curve. Perhaps we should be as focused on educating older people as well as the young to usher in new tech in our society.


The Google generation could be in difficulty if the information they want is buried in a library and they do not know how to use a library.
An admission of age, I learnt to use a slide rule, as calculators were expensive luxuries. This included the various tricks to be able to estimate a result by mental arithmetic, or quick pen and paper calculations. (With a guessing stick, an order or two of magnitude error is all too easy, the user has to track the decimal point.) This is still useful, even though I use a calculator app for calculations these days. It gives a quick check, or prediction of an answer, and catches typos.


Re: Re:

Increasingly all of the world’s information is at your fingertips with a device you carry on your person at all times. Current relevant information is not buried in a library. If any information is buried in a library somewhere, it is probably old or obscure (eg, highly specialized information). (OTOH, highly specialized info is unlikely to be of broad enough appeal to have found its way to a library, so we’re probably talking about a textbook.)

I grew up just past the slide rule age. I did learn some about how to use one, but it was on my own rather than in school. At this point, calculators, like ball point pens, are so common (even in the most basic of cell phones) that I think the grade school drilling on arithmetic is almost pointless. I know people once were shocked at the idea of not teaching how to do square roots by hand, but that’s been true for a long time now. I don’t mean not to teach arithmetic, just not to spend vast time becoming very fast at it as though it’s going to become a daily life skill — it isn’t. Another increasingly unimportant skill is penmanship. Everyone types now. “Keyboarding” is taught in grade school when my daughter was in grade school a decade ago.

The world changes. Don’t be shocked. There is limited school time. They need to focus on what will be important, not what we thought was important when we were kids. And certainly not what we think is important just because we have a romantic or nostalgic attachment to it.


Re: Re: Re: Re:

I would say that the ability to approximate answers by mental arithmetic or on paper, is still important, as how else is a calculation checked. (hint a calculator can be faulty).
Also many of the ways of making things from around 1900 are useful to the individual, as while they may be slow, they require a minimum of tools. Books from this era are more likely found in a library.

Dave Recordssays:

Google Search

That pretty much succinctly sums up attitudes towards education also! Education needs to be more about how to find information, making informed decisions based on what has been learned and not just memorizing! I have to sign up for Medicare shortly (against my will) but I love what Google has done for helping me to learn and get the information that I need. Another generation from now and the complaint will be that we need to type our searches into Google instead of just thinking them!


Google is the most important skill

What is google anyways? It’s a search interface that provides access to pretty much the ENTIRE SUM OF ALL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. That’s right, I have something in my pocket that can access all human knowledge.

So, yeah… knowing how to operate the search interface to the sum of all human knowledge is one of the most important, if not the most important, thing you can learn how to do. It frees your mind from useless rote memorization and puts almost limitless information at your fingertips so you can use your brain to do analysis and interpretation

I suspect this is taken a bit out of context, or maybe he just didn’t make himself clear (or maybe he’s a loon but happens to agree with my perspective a bit).

I agree that people (whether the “youth of today or my age or whatever) should know how to do some things on their own. You should know how to change a tire, put gas in your car (check youtube for the moronic people who just can’t see to manage that) drive a nail in and hang a picture, etc.

You should have a basic understanding of how your computer/tv/DVD/etc. works vs. just where the power button is and how the UI works.

If your response to every question is lmgtfy, then you’re probably spending a whole lot less time thinking critically than you should.

Doug Dsays:

Sometimes, there are aspects to this sort of thing that aren’t absurd.

I was taught to perform calculations on a slide rule. I’d like to teach this to my nephews at some point, not because I think they’ll ever need to use a slide rule for calculations, but because for me, it was one of the best ways to internalize some knowledge about the nature of logarithms.

I was taught typesetting by using lead type on a for-real printing press, placing them by hand. I’d like to teach this to my nephews at some point, not because I think they’ll need a printing press, but because I know it’s a good way to develop a real feel for when ligatures make sense, what kerning is all about, et cetera.


I sort of get what he is saying.

The article I read made it feel more like he was criticizing the follow through of the learning process. Google as a search tool is fine, but the actual doing is missing. Which I can see, to a point. Most of my searches come from pure curiosity with no hope of performing any task. Other tasks are probably way too dangerous even if you knew what you were doing but a good starting point to research further. If you were to go through youtube you’ll find a slew of tutorial videos with the uploader still learning but trying to show a complete beginner how to start out and learn from earlier mistakes. Which can sort of negate this inventor’s original gripe

Anonymous Cowshitsays:

The survival of the species

Sure, but then when a plague wipes out 99.9% of humanity in a year or two’s time, and none of the technology still works, then you’re really gonna regret not being one of the tiny Luddite fraction of the remaining 0.01% that still knows how to herd goats, make fire and knap flints!

There’s strength in diversity. Always good to respect people’s opinions, however totally freakish and stupid they are (as in this case)!

How ignorant are you?says:


The wind up radio was invented so cheap radios could be made available in disadvantaged populations who did not have access to a reliable power source, be it either AC or DC. To infer the inventor is a Luddite is extremely immature and disrespectful. If you disagree with Trevor Bayliss please list your achievements so they can be compared to his.


Trevor is right

If a student always relies on a google search to solve a problem – they never deeply understand the answer. As a result, they never understand if the answer supplied is correct for their QUESTION.

They never learn to think analytically.

Here is a fundamental example: I hire many developers. My first interview question is to ask how the operating system handles multi-threaded applications. The best developers know the basics of an operating system. The mediocre developers – the ones that produce race conditions, code with security vulnerabilities, bloated data structures and crappy db access are all people like Timothy (the author) that laugh at “luddites” like Trevor.

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