What a concept!

A homework machine! 

A machine that works out arithmetic problems and grammar questions perfectly, and even does social studies homework.  What happens when the teacher finds out what’s going on?

Synopsis for Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine

 

My son was looking for something new to read the other day.  All the books on his shelves had been read at least once or twice, or, in the case of a particular Wimpy Kid, seven or eight times.  So I directed him to the bottom row of our bookcase in the family room, to the corner where a couple of my childhood favourites sit, dusty and dog-eared.  And I offered him Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.

This book was incredibly popular when I was in 4th class. It was 1975, and my friends and I bought our copies through the school book club.  For weeks, we spent every recess and lunchtime discussing how amazing it would be to have a computer like Danny’s.  Imagine, a machine able to answer any question typed into it, correctly and instantly.  What a world it would be if that were possible.

But of course we knew it wasn’t possible.  It was just a fantasy.  Practically science fiction.  It was right up there with Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone!

1975 was also the year we got colour television in our house.  To me, it seemed like the ultimate in technology.  I can remember thinking that there couldn’t possibly be anything left to invent after that.  Not even Danny’s homework machine.

It turns out I was wrong  :)

As my son scanned the blurb on the back cover, he frowned.

“So, it’s about kids using the internet to do their homework?”

“Oh, um…”  Suddenly, Danny began to lose a tiny bit of his magic.  “Not the internet exactly,” I said.  “Similar idea, though, I suppose.  But it’s still a fun story.”

He looked at the picture on the front.  “Why’s the computer so big?”

“Well, the book was written a while ago.”  We checked the publication info inside the cover.  “See?  1958.  That’s how big they were back then.”

He nodded and glanced at his sister’s smart phone on the coffee table.  The same smart phone she’d used just a little while before to look up Rasputin for a history assignment.

“There are other books,” I said, directing my son back to the shelves.   He finally settled on a comic strip book called Footrot Flats and spent a good couple of hours chuckling at the antics of Dog and Wal.   And I tucked Danny Dunn back on the shelf, but not before I did a quick, sentinmental flick through the pages.  That’s when I noticed a list inside the back cover of other titles in the series.  This one in particular caught my eye…

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint

Anti-gravity paint?  Amazing!  What a concept!  Imagine a world where I could paint my car and float to work!  What a world it would be if that were possible.

But of course I know it’s not possible.  It’s just a fantasy.  Practically science fiction…. ;)