Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From 'ParaTrooper' to 'Need For Speed'

I still remember the day when I was exposed to the first computer in my life. It was in my fourth grade (1989). My school had made a bulky investment in 2 Eiko computers, one of the few brands then available in India. Six monitors that served as dumb terminals were connected to a single Central Processing Unit (CPU). The CPU had no hard disk. You boot it up with a system disk and then insert an application related disk. There was another standalone system that had the dot matrix printer connected to it. Each monitor was a plain green Cathode Ray Tube. The Operating System was DOS ( Disk Operating System ) by Microsoft. WordStar was the de facto word processor. Educational Software used to come in 5 1/4 inch diskettes. It used to draw ASCII pictures and explain the water cycle, the eruption of a volcano, etc. The only game we ever played was ParaTrooper that involved protecting our base from enemy planes and copters that drop soldiers into our base.

That was then. I consider myself among the fortunate few to get an initiation into computers at such an early age.

However, there has been a sea change in the exposure a present day student gets in the field of computers in India. Most middle class family students have personal computer at home. Almost every school including the ones in rural India have access to at least one computer. Students today use Encarta and Britannica CDs' as knowledge bases. Internet is their first source for home work and projects. They play games that involve concepts like Role Play(RP), First Person Shooter(FPS) and Multi User Dungeons (MUD). Paint brush is used to hone creativity skills among children.

My cousin studying in 2nd grade visited me this afternoon. She came over to my desk and was studying me working over my laptop. I asked her if she would like to play some games. She nodded. I opened up minesweeper, one of my favorite pastimes and vacated my seat for her. You should have seen the 'Are-you- nuts?' look on her face!! "Nooooooooo, this is a boring game. Don't you have car racing ? My teacher allows me to play that after our computer class". She was talking of Need For Speed, the car racing simulation game that is a popular gaming title. I was super stunned. Such marvelous exposure to computers at such young an age. I managed to distract her with some other racing game. However within minutes, she was by my side in the hall complaining,"The computer has hung". I came back and indeed it had. While I went about trying to re-boot it, she landed another bomb shell at me, "I think you don't have enough RAM in the system. My computer sir says that computer won't hang if there is enough RAM", she remarked casually . Can you imagine such words coming out of a kid 8 years old. Tonnes of quality exposure to computers right from their lower classes is the prime reason. I was wondering at what age I came across the term RAM, leave alone the relation between low memory and hanging computers. Definitely not till I was 14 years of age.

Worth mentioning are also the efforts that Information Technology majors are putting in to maximize the reach of computers to the next generation of kids. Infosys and Wipro regularly donate computers to rural schools. NIIT, a computer education company had started an experimental program called the 'Hole in the Wall' in 1999 in an urban slum in New Delhi to expose computers under-privileged children. The modus operandi involved fixing computer screens in school walls in villages and allowing rural kids to have a free go at trying out things themselves on the computers. It was a roaring success and the program has been extended to several rural areas in the country since then. Microsoft too has announced a new initiative termed 'Saksham' which involves setting up thousands of rural computer kiosks.

Computer awareness among Gen-Next in India has come a long long way in one and a half decade.

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1 comment:

Roopa said...

I liked this article very much...

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