Or should I say, “Literature for the children of geeks?”
Recently, I was looking over Caleb’s Wish List with Josh and asked him his opinions on books or other Christmas gifts that would be good for Caleb at this point in his life. He couldn’t really think of anything so I asked, “Well, what are the children of geeks reading these days?”
Initially, nothing came to mind. Then, he said his buddy gosnat had suggested the book Ping, a book about a duck crossing a river. And it’s geeky because it’s about pinging.
That being said, we laughed heartily at one of the customer reviews of the book left by John E. Francisco. This was our favorite part (which explains the book and is also hilarious):
Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix’s most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.
The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).
The title character — er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear.
If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is the book. I can’t recommend it for most managers, as the technical aspects may be too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.
Moving on, we felt sad that the great, vast, and powerful geek community had no children’s books that we could think of besides this one (which, by the way, was published in 1933. Seriously. If that’s not total hardcore old school 1337, I don’t know what is).
I continued by googling “books for geek children,” and the search engine immediately asked me, “Did you mean: books for greek children”? We also found this to be hilarious. And sad. It was both hilarious and sad.
We did find a few notable things. The first being the Geek Parenting site, which listed 10 Superhero Comic Books your Kids should be Reading. Most of these were Marvel comics (Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider Man, etc.). Some could say that comic books are more on the “nerd” side of the line than the “geek” side, and I know there are lots of people who straddle the line quite gracefully, but I’m not here to hold the nerd vs. geek debate. (Note the funny conversation between daughter & father on the Geek Parenting site — Daughter: “Daddy, what’s a multiverse?” Dad: “It’s a plot device for lazy writers.” LOLZ.)
Back to my conversation with Josh. We recognized that many geeks are totally into comic books and that they are a fantastic genre. But, in this case we were instead looking for books that taught about geek topics of interest like net neutrality, digital privacy, digital rights management, intellectual property rights in the digital age, topics considered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation… you get the idea.
(Sidenote: We then stumbled upon a link to the still-funny Children’s Books that Didn’t Make It. We came up with a few of our own and enjoyed the general hilarity of it all. But that is a huge digression from the topic at hand.)
In the end, our search was mostly fruitless and disappointing. With so many great and interesting topics swirling around the geek community these days, there has got to be something that our children could enjoy right along with us. The wheels are turning. I’m not promising anything, but the wheels are turning. So far there is a boy and a bird….