Remember A:/ and Formatting Floppy Disks? Me Neither

There are times when a developing country can absolutely drive you batty in ways you could not have predicted. Take the following real life situation I am dealing with.

A complete computer lab with MS Software, printer, server and dish for internet were graciously purchased for my school. The room is beautiful as well as the desks being custom built. Any school in America would be privileged to have this classroom and set up. Getting the internet up and running is a bit tricky however, that is not actually the problem. The problem is that the MS Software is the most current pre-Vista software, and the computers have CD/DVD drives.

You must really be scratching your head about what the problem might be. Think – look at the title of this blog again. Ponder just another moment. Did you figure it out? If not, read on.

I need to obtain old (read obsolete) MS software and floppy disc drives as well as floppy discs to run off the new computer so my learners can learn how to format a disc and be familiar with a floppy drive. Why? Why must I find this stuff which is outdated when I have current computers and software? I must find it because the Ministry of Education in Kenya is using a text book and syllabus which is old and has not been updated and my learners will be tested on how to format a floppy disc – something they will never again see in real life. I even talked with the computer science teacher about doing a simulation. That will not work as the learners will need to format the floppy and use it to contain their answers for the Ministry of Education Exam as the Ministry will then load the floppy into an old computer to make sure the floppy was formatted correctly and the learner typed on it.

My head no longer spins at such things. Rather I find myself wondering how long countries such as Kenya can continue to hold back the advent of modernization and move forward with education. I think back to my Peace Corps experience in Namibia. Probably one year before I arrived, there was limited, if any phone infrastructure. From the time I started until I left, Namibia became the cell phone capital of the universe and the ‘used to be’ pay phones started using cards which had an embedded pre-paid microchip which you could buy in different denominations. Talk about punctuated equilibrium (a concept in evolution). It was amazing.

Kenyans are by far the most creative, inventive people. Their adaption to technology is wonderful. They could put most Americans to embarrassment with what they have figured out to do with cell phones, etc. When given the slightest new technology, they immediately manifest it into 10 more ideas.

Why then, given these highly intelligent, creative people, should they be kept in the stone age learning about and being tested on computer components which are at The Tech Museum in Silicon Valley, CA? At times like this, I humor myself by thinking that if only stupidity were a little more painful, people would stop indulging in it.