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Kids react to the Apple II

Our standards and expectations for computers have changed a great deal since the Apple II arrived on the scene. Internet access, graphic user interfaces, and mass storage are all basic features of any modern hardware and operating system. Those of us who grew up in simpler, yet less intuitive, times can mentally switch between the eras… but what about the next generation of users?

Watch as teen and pre-teen kids react to their first encounter with an Apple II [1]:

"Kids React" is a popular and ongoing series by The Fine Bros [2], whose YouTube channel has over 8 million subscribers and 1.6 billion views. I suspect some of that popularity has gone to the kids' head, with the younger ones preciously overreacting for the camera. One of my favorite comments was a kid saying that the Apple II is at least better than Flappy Bird, an irritating iOS game; good thing he wasn't forced to play the Commodore 64 version [3]! Another kid said the Apple II is good only as a footstool [4]. Better that than an aquarium, I suppose.

But their reactions nonetheless have merit. It's reasonable for a computer to assume that, if you turn it on or insert a disk, you want it to react to that action somehow. Obtuse commands like PR#6 are not welcoming to a new user. The Apple II was a blank canvas, and we were patient enough to learn its language and idiosyncrasies; but were we more accustomed to being catered to, I don't think we would've taken to the Apple like we did.

Still, I wish the video hadn't been edited to be quite so down on the computer. Apple II games are not all that different in style from modern mobile games, and I think the kids would've had fun with titles like Lode Runner [5], Cannonball Blitz, or even Oregon Trail [6]. Certainly the featured action game from Keypunch Software, D-Day, was a better choice than VisiCalc [7], to which I exposed my own students a decade ago [8]. But we hardly saw any of their engagement with the game, instead watching them struggle with the interface and OS and getting none of the reward — though we do get a bit more footage in the bonus video [9]:

Exposing a younger generation to its predecessor's technology is not a new concept. The Fine Bros. have previously given kids rotary phones [10] and Walkmans [11] to play with, and I've posted several other such videos to this blog before: French students playing with a variety of old technology [12], four Americans playing with a C64 and Atari 2600 [13], and British students encountering a C64 [14].

It's great to finally see the Apple II specifically be the focus of such a video. But I suspect any reader of this blog who exposed their own children to an Apple II would be greeted with far more fascination and enthusiasm. We're just a different breed.

(Hat tip to Adam Clark Estes [15] via Kirk Millwood [16])

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#1 Comment By Brian On May 26, 2014 @ 11:16 pm

Really enjoyed this video, despite the overacting and possibly scripted reactions. It's hard to imagine a childhood without floppy disks and green screens, but for children of this century, that's a reality. Also, I agree with you about games of that era being not unlike the mobile games of today. I bet these kids would be naturals if presented with a classic Apple II game and a joystick.

#2 Comment By Jonathan Badger On May 27, 2014 @ 1:49 am

Also, "print" makes sense given the history of Basic (which just turned 50 this month) — before CRTs, "print" really did print things. And of course the command lives on in the "print" statement of Perl/Ruby/Python, printf of C, etc.