Teaching tech with Tinkerbell: A society of tinkerers

Recently I was at a convention where my daughter spoke and one of the organizers toldĀ  me that she had an honest curiosity and that would take her a long way. I think fortunately that this lady was right. This was definitely a lesson that I needed to teach my daughter that is also a lesson for all of us who really have a passion for enhancing technology. We exist in a society of tinkerers.


Teaching grown men this is one thing but teaching a young girl this came easier than expected in the form of an old favorite Disney character: Tinkerbell.

Most of us adults don’t know much about Tinkerbell because she always flew by Peter Pan or Mickey Mouse and made fireworks happen with her wand. However, young girls know her a little better because my daughter watches the straight to DVD releases of Tinkerbell that have Tinker bell movie posterbeen put out since 2008 that show more about her and where she’s from. In short, Tinkerbell is a fairy. Where she comes from there are fairies of many different types that have different abilities. Some tribes may be weather or plants fairies etc. Well, Tinkerbell is named as such because she comes from the fairy clan of tinkerers. They’re snubbed because they aren’t as fancy as some of the other tribes because they like to get their hands dirty and take things that exist and tinker with them to make something extraordinary. This is a concept I knew oh so well already. Why? I’m a tinkerer too. My dad is an engineer and a tinkerer and so is my daughter. She comes from a long line of our “clan.”

I must admit that in watching some of these movies with my daughter I could relate more and more to the character’s trials and tribulations but even more so with her solutions. The key thing about tinkerers is finding solutions. That’s priority number one. Some of the other tribes might focus on things like beauty or social status but the tinkerers made something that not only gave them piece and leisure but even more so pride that they’d created something worth having. As my daughter Keila grows I notice more and more she’ll just need a tiny push into some software or give her a new piece of hardware and soon she’ll start making connections to create something else that will morph into something else and within a little time she’ll sit proud and relax in what she’s created and can’t wait to tell me all about it.

I first learned about Linux in 1993 from a tinkerer like myself. I was 23 and a consultant at my job named Chuck was there for the sole purpose of working on our $100k computer running HPUX. This machine seemed like a might elephant commanded by Hannibal careening through an area destroying all in it’s path with little resistance. The other computers seemed like toys compared to this machine. For some reason the might elephant was great but we had multiple buildings that needed to be connected so a huge bridge needed to be made so this might elephant could cross the buildings. Chuck, being the tinkerer that he was and seeing that I was one also said, “I’ve got an idea for this. We could take some computers and make them into bridges for this machine without spending the big bucks.” I of course was completely on board but the project got turned down and big Cisco bridges were bought. This inspired me though. If this Linux that he spoke of could possibly do this what else could you create with it. He told me to go get a copy of Slackware and learn it good and you can build almost build a clone of this big HPUX machine at home. He needed say no more. Any hardware I came into contact with was used to tinker even more. Not just with Linux but with Windows, Novell Netware and networks… and the rest was history.

I just got it but others out there want to tinker too. They just need what Chuck gave me. New tools. My dad had already encouraged the tinkerer inTinker Bell me.

Explaining it to Keila was easy. Disney had already created the framework for me. They showed her a tinkerer and how that tinkerer succeeded. Come find your place in the Tinkerer Clan. You may slowly start finding yourself opting out of fancy interfaces like an AppleTV or Smart TV for a Raspberry Pi running a media distribution. Take your Windows or Mac into the command line. You may find yourself hacking an Android tablet instead of getting an iPad. You may find yourself running only Linux on your desktop till it spreads to your laptop then work desktop then to servers everywhere you go like I did. You may find yourself compiling your own software and even learning a language to make programs or scripts to make your life and that of those around you easier. For a child like her though, you may find simple things like learning HTML and Python the magic wands you need to create or enhance from others in your society across the internet.

Tinker how you will. Just Tinker. Go. Create. Enhance. Transcend. The other clans have their purpose and they shouldn’t be shunned however if you are honestly curious about everything you just may be a tinkerer too and this is your fairyland.

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