Mechanical Teacher Isaac Asimov Bibliography

Asimov´s idea of the future is not absurd at all

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)

The story "The Fun They Had" by Isaac Asimov is about the year 2157 when every child has his own machine teacher and schools like today do not exist anymore. Asimov wrote this story in 1951 for a syndicated newspaper page. Later "The Fun They Had" was published in "Fantasy and Science Fiction" magazine.
In the year 2157 the thirteen-year-old Tommy finds an old book. He and Margie, who is eleven, find it strange that the words on paper do not move after having been read. Nowadays they only read stories on the computer screen. The book is about school centuries ago. Margie is very surprised that in the past pupils had a person as a teacher and that all children of the same age learnt the same thing and went to a school house with other children. Margie wants to read more of the book but first she has to learn with her machine teacher whose level is too advanced for her and she thinks school in those days was much better than today.

In my opinion Isaac Asimov states the following theses in his story:
In the future most things will be done and regulated by computers and technology. In this story everybody has a machine teacher. In line 28 Tommy says to Margie: "Sure they had teacher, but it wasn´t a regular teacher. It was a man." I think that CD-Roms and the internet will be developed more and more. So Isaac Asimov´s idea of the future is not absurd at all.

School in the future will be very bad. School nowadays is very good and the pupils have much fun. For example in line 18 Margie says: "I hate school." And in the last two lines there is written: "Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days." I also think that school nowadays is better than in the story. In the future in the school as described by Asimov the social aspect is lost. There are no forms anymore. Everybody sits in front of his computer and the pupils cannot learn together because every child learns different things. But school today is not as good and funny as Margie thinks. Almost nobody today would say that he likes school. And there are many problems like forms with too many pupils. But I think regular teachers cannot be the solution.
I think the story "The Fun They Had" is very interesting. It shows how the world could be in 2157 when everybody owns a machine teacher. Isaac Asimov´s representation of a non-desirable school of the future gives you "food for thought" how school should be and how much computers determine our lives. So in my opinion it is an excellent story. (V.L. 11d, 2005)


How big should the role of computers in our life be ?

The story "The fun they had" by Isaac Asimov is a science-fiction story about two children who learn something about the school in the twentieth century. Margie, an eleven-year-old girl, and Tommy, who is thirteen, live in the year 2157, where school means learning from a machine teacher at home. Both kids have never seen a printed book, because at their time everything is stored in computers. When Tommy finds an old book, they talk about it and come to the conclusion that it is very impractical to have the letters on pages, so you have to throw it away after reading. The book is about school, when children went out to school every day with their friends and were taught by other people. Margie first does not believe it and is very sceptical, but she keeps on thinking about the old kind of school and begins to think that it was very much better than their new system.
The author wants to show how school could be in two hundred years, when everything is managed by computers and other technology. Perhaps he tries to warn the reader not to let the world go this way, because if this was the future, social life would be neglected more and more. In his story, in spite of all the technology, the two children are still like kids today. Isaac Assimov shows very clearly the typical behaviour of an eleven-year-old girl and a thirteen-year-old boy, so in his story their characters are not influenced by the technical advance.

I think it is very important to think about our future and that we have to worry about how big the role of computers in our life should be. In my opinion all these machines today – and they become more and more – are a big danger for the human race. People need their business, they must have something to do. If computers and machines take over, the people no longer will have to do it, so they will be needless! People need to associate with other people, but when everybody sits in front of his own computer, how would this be possible? All this might be very exaggerated, but I think, this is the tendency.

School today has its good and bad sides. Sometimes you are completely stressed, do not want to go to school and wish there was no school. You have to sit there many hours, listening to the teachers and learn things you never wanted to know. Perhaps there are people in your class you can’t stand or you have problems with the teachers. So if you want, you can regard school as a bad thing. But there are many things compensating all this and making your workday in school more bearable. While having fun with your friends, while beginning to work independently and to have the feeling of being successful and seeing you understand something, while having a funny lesson with a good-humored teacher, you can see that school is not a punishment. If I imagine that the children in the future do not have all those experiences, I think something very important will be missing in their life, because school is also the social education that children need. So I hope school will exist in the future as today. (M.G. 11d, 2005)


School is not as bad as we pupils always think

The text "The Fun They Had" from the book "Earth Is Room Enough" by the famous science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov is set in the year 2157. In this future there are no more real books, only so-called television screens on which among other things millions of electronic books can be stored. At the beginning of the story, the main characters Margie and Tommy talk about a real book which Tommy has found. They think it is waste, because you must throw it away when you are through with it and they are surprised that there are still the same words when they turn back to the page before. The book is about school and Margie cannot imagine that centuries ago a man could be a teacher, because "nowadays" each child has her/his own mechanical teacher and she wants no strange man in her house. But then Tommy explains to her that there was a special building and all the kids went there. Then Margie must go into the schoolroom right next to her bedroom. She inserts her homework in a slot of the mechanical teacher and thinks about the school hundreds of years ago. She thinks about the fun they had and how the pupils at that time must have loved it.

I think Isaac Asimov wants to say that we pupils in the present should be satisfied. Most of the children hate school and do not want to go. They bleat that they have to wake up early in the morning etc. But Asimov wants to show that this is a good system, because we have contact with other kids, in the breaks we can talk to each other and we have fun with them. In the story Margie thinks our whole school life is fun.

An individual teacher for each child - no matter whether he is human or a mechanical – can work better and imore intensively with the pupil and when the parents set the school time, a child can start school later whenever there was an important event the day before. Moreover the pupil is not so tired if school does not begin too early. If the school(room) is at home, the children do not have to walk or drive so far and this saves time and money. But on the other hand on our way to school we meet new people and make new friends, which is very important for a child – and also for adults. And the school we know promotes social contacts, the pupils solve problems together – very important for the later life and the development of a child. And a human teacher is definitely a better educator than a machine because he knows the problems of humans and children. A machine will never be able to feel like a human.

So in my opinion our school system is good and better than in Asimov’s vision – although I sometimes say "I hate school", but everybody certainly does that sometimes. And it seems Isaac Asimov thought that too, because I think there is some sarcasm in the sentence "Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it". I think I would find it very boring, if I had to learn alone with a private teacher and I think most children would agree with me. At first glance the option in the story seems to be sensible – you do not have a long school way, you have your own teacher who only cares about you – but the essence of the story shows that the school we know is much better and not as bad as we pupils always think.   (H.B., 11d)


Isaac Asimov´s Story is a Warning

With his short story "The Fun They Had" Isaac Asimov depicts the school system in 2157 and the difficulties of it.
A 13-year-old boy named Tommy has found an old book about school in former times in his house. He and the 11-year-old girl Margie are both surprised by seeing words which not move like they are used to on computers. Tommy tells her that formerly many children went to one school where they were taught by a man or woman and learned the same things at the same age and not individually like they now do with a computer teacher at home. Margie, who does not like school, enjoys the idea of that old-fashioned school because her computer teacher is too difficult for her. While she is thinking about the fun they had she has to do an arithmetic lesson.

Isaac Asimov depicts a school system which is independent of human teacher and based on technical advance. The main advantage is the individual teaching which can train the personal talents. In this system there are no human mistakes and it is a perfect way to give every child the same knowledge and information. But there are some disadvantages, too. Human pupils do not learn like a computer. I think learning has to be a kind of fun, otherwise the probability of forgetting is higher. Studies have come to the result that you can learn things better if you have fun while you are learning. Another disadvantage is that there are no social relationships like at school today. If a child lives in a neighborhood with no other children it is alone and has no social relationships which other children. Learning with friends at school can be a motivation. At schools today the pupils improve their communication and their behavior in a group. In Asimov´s future vision there are no human teachers who can give moral values to the children. Giving moral values is the duty of their parents, because a mechanical teacher cannot give moral values.

I think the school system which is depicted by Asimov is a good way of giving children the knowledge and information for jobs, but it is not good at giving ability for interpersonal relationships. In my opinion the disadvantages are more serious than the advantages. School today is not perfect, but I think it is better than the school Asimov depicts. I hope this warning by Isaac Asimov will help that this kind of schooling will not become reality.   (S.P., 11d)


"The Fun They Had" is a science fiction story by American writer Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in a children's newspaper in 1951 and was reprinted in the February 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, as well as the collections Earth Is Room Enough (1957), 50 Short Science Fiction Tales (1960), and The Best of Isaac Asimov (1973). It has been modified in a Finnish English book called KEY English 8-9.

Written as a personal favor for a friend, "The Fun They Had" became "probably the biggest surprise of my literary career", Asimov wrote in 1973. He reported that it had been reprinted more than 30 times with more being planned. "Why? I don't know why."[1] It is about computerizedhome schooling, and what children miss out on by not being in school together.

Plot summary[edit]

Set in the year 2157, when children learn individually at home using a mechanical teacher, the story tells of eleven-year-old Margie Jones, whose neighbor Tommy finds a real book. The book tells about a time when children learned by age group in large schools that were not merely designated rooms in private houses as in the year 2157. Margie and Tommy discuss what it must have been like to study together with a real person as a teacher, and though at first Margie is skeptical about the notion, by the end of the story she daydreams about what it must have been like and 'the fun they had'.


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