Making things on the screen: Vim for small kids
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Today my 3-year old wanted to join me while I was reading through my email. And sitting on my lap she started to ask me which keys she could press. Obviously she wanted to share my activities.
Because I couldn’t think about anything better, to provide her with some reaction to pressing keys, I started vim (a simple text editor) in a terminal. I scaled the font size up to very easy readable. And she happily started to type while I introduced her to arrow keys, the dot, and two different delete buttons (“the buttons that eat up letters”). It turned out that the ability to produce something on the screen was enough to guarantee an hour of excitement.
She probably did not realise the erratic behaviour of automated line breaks, but I wanted to prevent confusion by computer actions without active input and set the textwidth to zero very fast. I don’t think that this would have been an issue, but I am happy that she didn’t stumble upon the strange jumps that would have occurred up and down arrow-keys. It would be much more friendly if I could get vim to more directly move up and down visible lines instead of logical. There probably is something somewhere in some documentation.
For now: Your article, albeit quite dated, is very inspiring and I think I am motivated to give it a try here. I very much like the idea that my kid would explore the computer in a way that provides real knowledge about that tool instead of being provided with some colourful bubblegum-world.
And she reacted very well when I showed her that it is possible to fill the screen very fast by letting the computer do the counting for you. The large numbers that the infinite list [1..] displays very fast seemed to impress the little girl that delightfully counts all the things that she is able to count. (We were later able to count the first ten entries of the infinite list (take 10 [1..]).
Nonetheless, the Haskell interpreter is probably not yet the right tool if you are not yet able to read or write syntactical structures. But it is never to early to be curious.
If you want further inspiration, take a look at John Goerzen’s blog article on how his kids have been raised by CLI and liked it: The Changelog, I introduced my 5-year-old and 2-year-old to startx and xmonad. They’re DELIGHTED!. After all, isn’t shellcoding the biggest text-adventure there is?