Computers are Stupid

When teaching a class on digital media, I start the lesson by telling students that “computers are stupid” that they can only “understand” two things: on and off. This episode from the 1980s animated series, Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips centers around this important fact. Scooter thinks that Mr. Chips is smart, but in fact, Mr. Chips lets his pal in on a little secret.

Having grown up in the 1980s, I remember the series, and the melody of the theme song has remained in my brain since I was a child. I don’t remember this particular episode, even if its story, dispelling a widely held belief that computers are autonomous, informs my thinking about computers.

This was a particularly resonant for the early 1980s. Well-heeled consumers were bringing personal computers into their homes, and their children could learn that their computers were not thinking machines. All they did was execute instructions, faster than any thinking person could.

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