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The Fun They Had Summary in English by Isaac Asimov
The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov About the Author
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was bom in Petrovichi, Russia. His family immigrated to the United States in 1923. He was a Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University and a popular writer of science-fiction. He published his first novel, Pebble in the Sky, in 1950. An immensely prolific author who penned nearly 500 books, he published influential sci-fi works like I, Robot and the Foundation trilogy. In fact, Isaac Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre.
|Author Name||Isaac Asimov|
|Born||2 January 1920, Petrovichi, Russia|
|Died||6 April 1992, Brooklyn, New York, United States|
|Short Stories||The Last Question, The Fun They Had|
|Movies||I, Robot, Bicentennial Man, Nightfall, The End of Eternity|
The Fun They Had Introduction to the Chapter
Science Fiction is a genre of fiction in which the stories are largely based on science and technology of the future. It is important to note that science fiction has a relationship with the principles of science. Stories involve laws or theories of science which are partially true and partially fictitious. The plot creates situations different from those of both the present day and the known past. Science fiction texts explain what effect new discoveries, happenings and scientific developments will have on us in the future. These stories are often set in the future, in space, on a different world, or in a different universe or dimension.
Isaac Asimov’s The Fun They Had is a science fiction story which 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). According to Asimov, the story The Fun They Had, written as a personal favor for a friend, became “probably the biggest surprise of my literary career”. He reported that it had been reprinted more than 30 times with more being planned. “Why? I don’t know why.” It is about computerized home schooling, and what children miss out on by not being in school together.
The Fun They Had Summary in English
The Fun They Had is a story set about 150 years in the future; to be precise on 17 May 2157. The writer describes a time in the future when every child has his own machine teacher and schools like today do not exist anymore. There are telebooks, in which words move across the screen. Considering that this story was written in 1951 before personal computers were around, it is amazing how well the author predicts the future. We are not living in 2155 yet, but it is already possible for us to read digital books on handheld devices. Perhaps in the future, children really will be taught by mechanical teachers!
On that particular day, Tommy, a thirteen-year-old boy, finds a ‘real book’ in the attic of his house. The book, which is really old, has been printed on paper and its pages are yellow and crinkly. He and his friend, eleven- year-old Margie, take a look at the book together. Both Margie and Tommy are amazed by the book that is different from the books they are accustomed to. The book has words that are fixed on the pages and do not move as on a screen. Books like these don’t exist anymore. Margie recalls her grandfather had once told her about stories being printed on paper in the time of his grandfather. Tommy thinks of the book as being impractical because, unlike their telebooks that have a million books and are good for plenty more, the book would have to be thrown away after one had finished reading it.
Tommy tells Margie that the book is about school, but Margie, who hates school and cannot understand why someone would write about it, is disappointed. She has been having problems with learning geography from her ‘mechanical teacher’. It teaches Margie, gives her exercises and asks her questions, all in a special room in her own house. It can also calculate the marks in no times. Margie hates the slot where she has to insert her homework or test papers.
Lately, her dislike for her school has intensified because the geography sector of her mechanical teacher is malfunctioning. It has been giving her test after test in geography and she has been doing worse and worse.
Her mother has sent for the County Inspector to look at the mechanical teacher and to rectify the error. The Inspector takes the mechanical teacher apart and finds that Margie is not at fault for her poor performance.
The geography sector in the teacher has been fixed at a speed that is too fast for the little girl. Margie has been hoping he wouldn’t know how to put it together again, but he knows how to repair it all right, and, after an hour or so, the Inspector is able to set the speed to Margie’s level. This leaves Margie disappointed as she had hoped her teacher would be taken away for some time and she would be relieved of the trouble of taking so many tests.
Tommy, who has been reading the book, tells Margie that the book is not about their kind of school which has mechanical teachers with a TV, but rather, it was about the schools hundreds of years ago when students had a person as a teacher who taught the girls and boys, gave them homework and asked them questions. School was a special building the children went to. And they learned the same thing if they were the same age.
At first, Margie does not understand how a person could be a teacher and how the students were taught the same thing because her mother says that education must fit each child’s mind.
Nevertheless, she wants to read more about it. They haven’t even read half the book, when Margie’s mother reminds her it is time for school. Though Margie’s schoolroom is right next to her bedroom, she has to study at regular hours because her mother considers it right to study at fixed timings every day.
Margie goes to the schoolroom in her house, where the mechanical teacher is already on because the lessons are always at regular hours. As the mechanical teacher teaches the addition of proper fractions, Margie is lost in her thoughts about the working of schools in old times. Though at first Margie had been skeptical about the notion, by the end of the story she believes that the kids must have enjoyed going together to school. They must have had fun going to the same school, studying the same things and being able to help one another.
The Fun They Had Title
The title of the story The Fun They Had has been derived from the closing words of the story. They reflect the opinion of Margie, a young girl in the year 2157, about the students centuries ago. In 2157, children are taught individually by mechanical teachers who are adjusted to fit the mind of each boy and girl they teach and each kid is taught differently. Their “school” is just another room in the house. They have no interaction with a human teacher or with other children during school hours. Tommy finds the book about schools, centuries ago when students had a person as a teacher who taught the girls and boys. School was a special building, the children went to. And they learned the same thing if they were the same age. Margie thinks about the old school system and how much fun the children must have had, learning and spending time together.
The Fun They Had Setting
The setting of the story is 17 May 2157. Two children, thirteen-year-old Tommy and eleven-year-old Margie are at Margie’s house looking at a ‘strange’ book Tommy found in his attic. Their life is different from that of children today. Children no longer have a person as a teacher, nor do all children go to a school house and learn the same thing with other children of the same age. In 2157 children are taught individually by mechanical teachers who are adjusted to fit the mind of each boy and girl they teach and each kid is taught differently. Children read telebooks and have no interaction with a teacher and little interaction among themselves.
The Fun They Had Theme
The main theme in The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov is that of education. Specifically, the story deals with the future of education which will become increasingly computerized. As a result, students will become estranged from social interactions.
By contrasting the schools of present day with those expected to exist in the twenty second century, the writer draws the conclusion that present day schools are much more fun. Schools in the future schools will impart knowledge but students will miss out on the fun they can have while going to the same school, studying the same things, adjusting with the same teacher and being able to help one another. The author’s message is one of warning against the dangers of computerized homeschooling which deprives children of the benefits of the personal interaction between students and teachers, which helps them develop social skills.
The Fun They Had Message
The author’s message in the story is that education is not merely accumulation of information. Computerised homeschooling can certainly help gain information in a better way, but present day schooling is much more than acquisition of facts. It is a life-experience where children interact with others, have fim and leam the values of sharing and caring. If in the future schools have mechanical teachers attuned to specific needs of every student and books available only in electronic form, our children will be deprived of the privilege of interaction with human teachers and other students and developing of social skills.
The Fun They Had Characters
Margie is an eieven-year-old girl who lives in the twenty second century. She is taught by a mechanical teacher in the comfort of her home. The mechanical teacher is highly personalised and adjusted to suit her level. Yet, Margie dislikes her school. Probably this is because she is confined to a room and has to study alone at a fixed time every day.
Margie is a curious girl. When she finds a real book in Tommy’s hands, she is eager to know about its contents.
In fact, she wants to read the book herself. However, she is surprised that the book describes a school of the yesteryears which had real men as teachers and classes were conducted in a special building. She is fascinated to leam that in those times the students of the same level studied together.
Margie seems to be a friendly and social girl. She concludes that the old system was much better as the students had so much fun when they studied together and could help each other, rather than studying in isolation.
Tommy, a thirteen-year-old, plays an important role in the story as he is the one who finds a book about the schools from yesteryears. The entire action of the story begins after that. He, too, like Margie represents the students of the future era when education will be mechanised and automated.
Tommy is very curious. He has gone looking in the attic and found the old book. As soon as he discovers it, he starts reading it. However, he does not like the idea of printed books which, according to him, are a waste once they have been read. Compared to Margie, he is not as sensitive to the contents of the book.
He has an air of superiority—he snubs Margie when she expresses her ignorance about old schools.
However, Tommy is warm and friendly and he does believe in sharing. When Margie’s mother calls her to attend school he assures her that they can finish the book later.
The Fun They Had Summary Questions and Answers
Who are Margie and Tommy? How old are they?
Margie and Tommy are students from the year 2157. Tommy is a thirteen-year-old boy and Margie is an eleven-year-old girl. Both are neighbours and good friends who like to spend time together like children of their age usually do.
What did Margie write in her diary?
On 17 May 2157 Margie recorded in her diary about the discovery of a “real” book by Tommy. It was a very old book printed on paper and had yellow and crinkly pages, unlike the telebooks of the twenty-second century.
Where had Tommy found the book? How was it different from the books Margie and Tommy were used to?
Tommy found a real book in the attic of his house. The book was at least two hundred years old so pages had turned yellow and crinkly. It was a different from the books Margie and Tommy were used to because they had teiebooks to read from while the book Tommy found was printed on paper.
Had Margie ever seen a real book before? Did she know about such books?
No, Margie had never seen a book before till she saw the one Tommy found in the attic of his house. She had only heard about books from her grandfather who himself had not seen any. He too had heard about a printed book from his own grandfather.
What things about the book did Margie and Tommy find strange?
Margie and Tommy read telebooks where words moved on a screen. Books were stored in a machine that could store a million books on it and still be good for plenty more. So they found it strange that the words in the printed book remained fixed unlike the moving ones on their television screen.
“What a waste!” What is Tommy referring to as a ‘waste’? Is it really a waste? Why/Why not?
Tommy thought the paper book he found in his attic with words that were printed and did not move was a waste. Once a book had been read, it became useless and must be thrown away because it had the same content.
YES: Printed books are a waste as telebooks are more accessible. They can be stored in a television and read again and again. They occupy very little space as compared to the printed books and need not be discarded once they have been read. In addition, paper books consume resources like trees from which paper is made and water that is consumed in the process of making paper.
NO: Printed books are not a waste as they can be read by many people over and over again and can be preserved for future generations. Moreover, the data in a telebook can be lost or stolen, but in a printed book, the data printed on a page remains for ever.
What do you think a telebook is?
A telebook is a book made available in text on a television screen. Many books can be stored and read in this manner. (The telebook is the author’s imagined version of an e-book as this story was written in 1951, long before their advent.)
Did Margie like the printed book? Why/Why not?
Margie was really excited to see the ‘real’ book Tommy found as it was unlike the telebooks the two were used to reading. It was such a novelty that she recorded the discovery in her diary. As she turned the yellow and crinkly pages of the book with Tommy, she found it quite fascinating, unlike Tommy who found it a waste. In fact, she was really reluctant to stop reading the book and go to study. She wanted to read the book again after school.
Where was Margie’s school? Did she have any classmates?
Margie’s school was a room next to her bedroom in her house. No, she did not have any classmates as her school was a customised school, set up exclusively for her according to her level and needs.
What kind of teachers did Margie and Tommy have? How were they different from teachers in the book?
Margie and Tommy had mechanical teachers, which were large and black and ugly, with a big screen on which all the lessons were shown and the questions were asked. There was a slot where they had to put homework and test papers and the mechanical teacher calculated the marks in no time. Margie and Tommy’s teachers were different from the teachers in the book as the teachers in the book were men and not mechanical teachers.