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Chapter 1 - The Fun They Had

By Isaac Asimov

Introduction
This is a very light story.It is set in the future. It will make all of you love school.
This story is regarding school life and how those children who do not got to
school, miss school. The setting of the story is in the future when perhaps, there
will be no school, no books. Now how those students will miss going to school
and will feel that their ancestors that is the present generation- you all, had fun
going to school, meeting and helping each other. In the end we come to know
that this is an imagination of a young girl named Margie who comes to know that
their ancestors used to go to school, all the children used to study together.She
feels that they all had a lot of fun when they went to school. So, when we read
the story we feel that school life is very good, and we are fortunate that we have
real schools where we go, meet friends and get a chance to study together.

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Lesson Explanation

MARGIE even wrote about it that night in her diary.On the page headed 17 May
2157, she wrote, “TodayTommy found a real book!”

Margie is the main character of the story. She is a girl of 11 years of age. She
writes a diary on the night of 17 May 2157. (Right now, we are living in 2018. As
th

told earlier, the story is set in the future and it is set in the year 2157, so almost
one and a half century that is 140 years from now). At that time, Margie writes an
entry in her diary and she writes that ‘Tommy found a real book’ and she is
feeling so strange because in her times, real books do not exist. They only have
e-books, the virtual books. So, books in the format of print on paper are extinct
and so, Margie is astonished to see a real book.

It was a very old book. Margie’s grandfather once said that when he was a little
boy his grandfather told him that there was a time when all stories were printed
on paper.

Margie is reminded of her grandfather. He told her that his grandfather studied all
the books that were printed on paper. So, this kind of a book is historical or
ancient for them. Something which they cannot believe, they can’t imagine.

They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it was awfully funny to
read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to —
on a screen, you know.
crinkly: with many folds or lines, something that is crushed.

Margie is talking about the book that Tommy had found. She says that the pages
of the book had turned yellow, and they had been crushed as it was very old. The
children found it very funny to read the words which stood still. (Now what does it
mean by that words that stood still? As the words were printed on the pages,
they did not move). On the other hand, the books that Margie and Tommy read
were online (e-books). So, in the e-books how it happens, the text keeps on
moving as your screen moves but it was different in the books printed on paper.

And then when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it
that it had had when they read it the first time.

This was a very strange experience for these children. When you have a book,
which is printed on paper, whenever you flip the pages, you to get to see the
same thing written on the pages. On the other hand, in an e-book, the text keeps
on changing on the screen. The screen is same. You have the same screen in
front of you, but the text keeps on changing. So, whenever you go back the text
is different.

“Gee,” said Tommy, “what a waste. When you’re through with the book, you just
throw it away, I guess. Our television screen must have had a million books on it
and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.”

Tommy disliked the printed book.He said that it was a waste because he felt that
whenever you complete reading a book, you have to throw it away. You cannot
have some different story written on the same book. On the contrary, he felt that
the Computer screen was very good, because the same screen had shown him
many books and still he could read many more on it.He would not have to throw
that screen away when once he had read a particular story.

“Same with mine,” said Margie. She was eleven and hadn’t seen as many
telebooks as Tommy had.He was thirteen.

Margie agreed with Tommy opinion. Margie was 11 years of age and she has not
read as many books as Tommy had because Tommy was older to Margie, he
was thirteen years of age.

She said, “Where did you find it?”

Margie asked Tommy that where had he found the printed book.
“In my house.” He pointed without looking,because he was busy reading. “In the
attic”.
attic: a space just below the roof, used as a storeroom

Tommy replied to Margie that he found the printer book in the storeroom of his
house. He was so busy reading the book that he did not remove his glance from
the book.

“What’s it about?”

Margie asked that what the book was about.

“School”

Tommy replied that the book was about school. About going to school, about the
life at school.

Margie was scornful.

“School? What’s there to write about school? I hate school.”

scornful: contemptuous; showing you think something is worthless, show your


dislike for something

Margie hated the word ‘school’ and so, she said that what was there to write
about it that an entire book had been written about school.

Margie always hated school, but now she hated it more than ever.

The mechanical teacher had been giving her test after test in geography and she
had been doing worse and worse until her mother had shaken her head
sorrowfully and sent for the County Inspector.
What is Margie’s school? Margie’s school is a mechanical teacher. (A
mechanical Teacher that means the machine which teaches you and not that
school where we all go).

Now why did Margie hate school? Margie’s school was a virtual classroom. It
was not a real school like we have today. So, in the future we are thinking that
the schools will be virtual classrooms. There will be machines that will be
teaching the children. Margie hated this machine because it was giving her so
many tests in geography which were very difficult for her and she was performing
very bad.Finally, her mother thought that there was something wrong with the
machine and so, she had called the County Inspector to check it.
He was a round little man with a red face and a whole box of tools with dials and
wires.

The County Inspector came to check the mechanical teacher. He was a round
little man and he had a red face. He was carrying a big box full of tools with dials
and wires.

He smiled at Margie and gave her an apple, then took the teacher apart.

So, this man opened the machine. He was there to repair the computer.

Margie had hoped he wouldn’t know how to put it together again, but he knew
how allright, and, after an hour or so, there it was again,large and black and ugly,
with a big screen on which all the lessons were shown and the questions were
asked.

Once he had opened the computer, Margie wished that he would be unable to
close it back because she did not like the computer, she did not like to study from
this teacher.But the man was an expert and within an hour he had repaired the
computer and had closed it and made it ready to teach Margie once again.
Margie gives a description of the computer. She feels that it is very huge, it is
black in colour and she dislikes its appearance. It has a big screen and all the
lessons appear on the screen and many questions are asked on the same
screen which are difficult for Margie.

That wasn’t so bad. The part Margie hated most was the slot where she had to
put homework and test papers.

slot: a given space, time or position

Margie hated this mechanical teacher the most because she had to submit her
homework and test papers to it.

She always had to write them out in a punch code they made her learn when she
was six years old, and the mechanical teacher calculate the marks in no time.

Margie had to write her homework and her test papers in a particular punch code
that is a computing language. She had learned the language at the age of 6. The
machine checked the papers and calculated her marks in a few seconds.

The Inspector had smiled after he was finished and patted Margie’s head. He
said to her mother,“It’s not the little girl’s fault, Mrs Jones. I think the geography
sector was geared a little too quick.
geared (to): adjusted to a particular standard or level

So, the County inspector said that Margie was getting bad marks in Geography
because the Machine was not working properly. It was geared to a higher level.

Those things happen sometimes. I’ve slowed it up to an average ten-year level.

He said that sometimes machines malfunctioned and that is what had happened.
He had slowed it down and set is to the pace of a learner of ten-years of age.

Actually, the overall pattern of her progress is quite satisfactory.” And he patted
Margie’s head again.

He said that Margie was learning at a good pace. He again patted Margie’s head
in order to cheer her up.

Margie was disappointed. She had been hoping they would take the teacher
away altogether.

Margie was sad because she did not want to learn, she did want to study from
this machine. And she wanted that the inspector should take it away.

They had once taken Tommy’s teacher away for nearly a month because the
history sector had blanked out completely.

blanked out: it has been erased

Margie is reminded of the time when Tommy’s Mechanical teacher had been
taken away for repair for almost one month and he was enjoying his time as he
didn’t have any teacher. It had been taken away because the History sectorthe
portion of the machine that taught the History subject had been wiped out. So,
the mechanical teacher did not have any memory of it and had to be taken away
for repair.

So she said to Tommy, “Why would anyone write about school?”

Now we know the reason for Margie’s dislike for school. So, she asked Tommy
that why would anyone write about school.

Tommy looked at her with very superior eyes.“Because it’s not our kind of school,
stupid. This is the old kind of school that they had hundreds and hundreds of
years ago.
Tommy was looking at Margie with superior eyes because he knew something
that Margie was not aware of. He said that Margie was silly because she did not
know that many years ago, the school was not the kind they had.

“He added loftily,pronouncing the word carefully, “Centuries ago.”

loftily: in a superior way

Tommy wanted to stress on the time period and said that centuries ago, the
school were not like the once they had.

Margie was hurt. “Well, I don’t know what kind of school they had all that time
ago.” She read the book over his shoulder for a while, then said,“Anyway, they
had a teacher.”

Margie was hurt at Tommy’s behavior and she said that she did not know what
kind of schools they had centuries ago. She was curious and imagined a group of
children being taught buy a human teacher. She looked over Tommy’s shoulder,
trying to read the book and said that perhaps they had a teacher.

“Sure they had a teacher, but it wasn’t a regular teacher. It was a man.”

regular: here, normal; of the usual kind


(Tommy is referring to a machine teacher as a regular teacher because that is
what they are used to. That is the teacher they had, a Machine). He said that it
wasn’t the machine, it was a man (human being) who taught them.

“A man? How could a man be a teacher?”

Margie could not believe that a man was a teacher because she had always
seen a machine doing that.

“Well, he just told the boys and girls things and gave them homework and asked
them questions.”

Tommy Tells that the man who taught the class discussed many things with the
students,gave them homework and then asked them different questions based
on it, just like their mechanical teacher did.

“A man isn’t smart enough.”

Margie said that a man teacher is not as smart (intelligent) as the machine
teacher.

“Sure he is. My father knows as much as my teacher.”

Tommy asks Margie not to underestimate the human teacher. He said that he is
as knowledgeable as the machine. He compares the machine to his father and
says that his father knows as much as hismachine teacher.

“He knows almost as much, I betcha.”

betcha(informal): (I) bet you (in fast speech): I'm sure

Tommy could bet on it that the human teacher knew as much as a mechanical
teacher did.

Margie wasn’t prepared to dispute that. She said,“I wouldn’t want a strange man
in my house to teach me.”

dispute: disagree with when you are opposing something,

Margie did not want to discuss this further and added that she did not want a
strange man, the human teacher to come to her house to teach her.
Tommy screamed with laughter. “You don’t know much, Margie. The teachers
didn’t live in the house. They had a special building and all the kids went there.”

Tommy found it very funny when Margie said that she did not want a strange
man to come to her house to teach her. He said that teachers didn’t come to the
students’ house to teach them.They had a special building;a school and the
students went to the school to study.

“And all the kids learned the same thing?”

Margie was astonished and asked that did all the children learn the same thing.

“Sure, if they were the same age.”

Tommy said that all the children of the same age studied the same thing.

“But my mother says a teacher has to be adjusted to fit the mind of each boy and
girl it teaches andthat each kid has to be taught differently.”

Margie refers to a machine teacher. She says that her mother told her that the
machine had to be tuned to the level of each boy or a girl who was studying form
it. So, each child had to be taught separately depending on their level.

“Just the same they didn’t do it that way then.If you don’t like it, you don’t have to
read the book.”

Tommy replied that in the past they did not do it that way. He got irritated at
Margie and said that she need not read the book.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” Margie said quickly.

Margie is interested in the book. She is curious to know what kind of schools
were there.

She wanted to read about those funny schools.

Margie was inquisitive. She wanted to know what kind of schools there in were
the past as she felt that they were fun.

They weren’t even half finished when Margie's Mother called, “Margie! School!”

Margie had read just half of the book when her mother called her as it was time
for her to attend her virtual school.
Margie looked up. “Not yet, Mamma”

Margie’s school was in the next room, next to her bedroom. She said to her
mother that not yet, she did not want to go to school.

“Now!” said Mrs Jones. “And it’s probably time for Tommy, too.”

Margie’s mother said to Tommy that it was time for him to go to school too.

Margie said to Tommy, “Can I read the book some more with you after school?”

Margie was so interested in reading the book that she asked Tommy if she could
read the book with him after school.

“May be,” he said nonchalantly.

nonchalantly: not showing much interest or enthusiasm; carelessly

Tommy tried to ignore her and said that maybe she could read it.

He walked away whistling, the dusty old book tucked beneath his arm.

Tommy was feeling very great because Margie was interested in reading the
book. He placed the book under his arm and he went off to his home.
Margie went into the schoolroom. It was right next to her bedroom, and the
mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her.

Margie reached her school. It was a room, next to her bedroom. It was a virtual
classroom.There was a machine teacher for Margie. It was on and it was waiting
for her to begin teaching her.

It was always on at the same time every day except Saturday and
Sunday,because her mother said little girls learned better if they learned at
regular hours.

Margie studied all the days except Saturdays and Sundays,at the same time from
this mechanical teacher. Margie’s mother was very particular. She had told
Margie that she would learn better if she would study everyday at the same time.

The screen was lit up, and it said: “Today's Arithmetic lesson is on the addition of
proper fractions. Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.

Margie sat in front of the machine similar to a computer and the machine was
turned on. It said that the lesson of the day was in Arithmetic and the topic was
addition of proper fractions. Further,it instructed her to insert the homework of the
previous day in the slot for inserting the homework.

Margie did so with a sigh.

Margie’s life is also very mechanical just like a machine. There is no fun in her
classroom. It is very dull and boring just like a machine.

She was thinking about the old schools they had when her grandfather's
grandfather was a little boy.

Margie is thinking of the story told to her by her grandfather. Her Grandfather
told her that his grandfather used to go to school when he was a little boy. As
Margie is bored with this machine, she is reminded of that life.

All the kids from the whole neighborhood came, laughing and shouting in the
schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom,going home together at the end of
the day.

(This is the life that you all are living at present, but for the future kids it will be
just a memory of the past. For them it will be history because their life will be very
different. They will study from machines.)
When Margie comes to know that in the past, children used to go to school, they
sat together, laughed and shouted in the school, she gets curious about it and
wants to go to school. (The writer wants us to realize the importance of schools
in our life. Children sometimes get bored and fed up of going to school, but if you
don’t have a school you won’t get to meet friends. Your life will be very dull and
boring).

They learned the same things, so they could help one another with the
homework and talk about it.

Margie feels that school is so much fun, children get together, they study in a fun
way, they get the same homework, and they can discuss it, take help and talk
about it also. So, all the students become friends and study in a fun way.

And the teachers were people…

She found it very strange that the teachers were not machines, but they were
human beings.

The mechanical teacher was flashing on the screen: “When we add fractions ½
and ¼...”

As Margie had inserted her homework, the machine started with the lesson.
There was no pause, no time for fun, no time for chatting, and no time for
interacting with friends.

Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She
was thinking about the fun they had.

The author ends the story with the title of the chapter ‘The Fun They Had’. (The
fun the students had when they went to real schools). Margie is just thinking
about the kids of the past who went to school and enjoyed studies.

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Summary
The story opens with Margie writing in her diary about an old book that Tommy
had found. Margie was reminded of her grandfather who had once talked about
his grandfather who went to an actual school where the students were taught by
human teachers.
However, Margie and Tommy lived in the future world,in the year 2157 where
education was completely computerized. They did not go to schools. Instead,
they had a special study room where a computer taught them. The computer
teacher was programmed and adjusted according to the needs of each child.
Now and then the computer teacher developed faults which were fixed by a
County Inspector.
Both Tommy and Margie wondered at the book found by Tommy in his attic.
They wondered at it as they read books on the screen of their computer teacher.
Margie felt that the computer teacher was boring; she disliked the mechanical
teaching and learning. She also wondered how much fun it would be studying in
a school. Studying in a fun way, with other children and that too from a human
teacher.

Question and Answers


Answer these questions in a few words or a couple of sentences each.

1. How old are Margie and Tommy?


A. Margie and Tommy live in the future, in the year 2157. They are neighbours
and spend time together. Margie is a girl of eleven years of age while Tommy is a
boy of thirteen.

2. What did Margie write in her diary?


A. On 17 May 2157, Margie wrote that that day Tommy had found a real book in
the attic of his house. It was an old book with yellow, crinkly pages.

3. Had Margie ever seen a book before?


A. No, Margie had not seen a book before the one found by Tommy in his house.
She had only heard from her grandfather that his grandfather went to school as a
boy and that they read books that were printed on paper.

4.What things about the book did she find strange?


A. As Margie lived in an era where students studied from a mechanical teacher
and all the books appeared on the screen, she found it strange that the words on
the printed book did not move. It was strange to see the same words appear on
the pages as she flipped them over.

5.What do you think a telebook is?


A. A telebook is an electronic book also known as an e-book. It is stored in a
computer and can be read by scrolling up or down the screen.

6. Where was Margie’s school? Did she have any classmates?


A.Margie’s school was in her house. It was a room next to her bedroom. It was a
personal classroom where the computer was adjusted to her level of learning.
She studied by herself and had no classmates.

7.What subjects did Margie and Tommy learn?


A.Margie and Tommy learnt a lot of subjects like Geography, History and
Mathematics.

Answer the following with reference to the story.

1. “I wouldn’t throw it away.”

(i) Who says these words?


A. Tommy says these words.
(ii) What does ‘it’ refer to?
A. ‘It’ refers to the Computer screen on which Tommy reads various books.

(iii) What is it being compared with by the speaker?


A. ‘It’ is being compared to the paper book that Tommy found in his house.

2. “Sure they had a teacher, but it wasn’t a regular teacher. It was a man.”

(i) Who does ‘they’ refer to?


A. ‘They’ refers to the ancestors of the children who went to school and studied
from a human teacher.

(ii) What does ‘regular’ mean here?


A.‘Regular’ means the mechanical teacher which teaches Margie and Tommy.

(iii) What is it contrasted with?


A.The mechanical teacher is contrasted with a human teacher.

Answer each of these questions in a short paragraph (about 30 words).

1. What kind of teachers did Margie and Tommy have?


A. Margie and Tommy had mechanical teachers. They were computers which
had preloaded lessons on different subjects according to the learner’s level.
Whenever they malfunctioned, they were opened and repaired.

2. Why did Margie’s mother send for the County Inspector?


A. Margie’s mother called the County Inspector to check Margie’s teacher. She
thought that probably, Margie’s teacher had a malfunction. Margie was failing the
Geography tests repeatedly which could be due to a fault in the teacher.

3. What did he do?


A. The County Inspector was trained to repair the computer teacher. He opened
the machine and checked it. The Geography sector was set on a higher level. He
reset it to Margie’s level and closed the teacher.

4. Why was Margie doing badly in geography? What did the County Inspector Do
to help her
A.Margie was failing in the Geography tests as the teacher had developed a
fault. The County Inspector told Margie’s mother that Margie was not at fault. Her
progress was good. He reset the teacher to Margie’s level.
5. What had once happened to Tommy’s teacher?
A. Once Tommy’s teacher had developed a fault as the entire section on History
had been deleted. His teacher had been taken for repairs and it took them a
month to set it right.

6.Did Margie have regular days and hours for school? If so, why?
A. Margie studied at the same time everyday, except Saturdays and Sunday. Her
mother was very particular and had told Margie that she would learn better if she
studied at the same time every day.

7. How does Tommy describe the old kind of school?


A. Tommy said that in the old kind of schools, there was a man teacher who told
a few things to the students, gave them home work and then asked them
questions. The man teacher was as knowledgeable as the machine teacher.

8. How does he describe the old kind of teachers?


A. He says that the old teachers were not the regular kind they had. They were
human beings and not machines.

Answer each of these questions in two or three paragraphs (100 –150


words).

1. What are the main features of the mechanical teachers and the schoolrooms
that Margie and Tommy have in the story?
A. Margie and Tommy were taught by mechanical teachers. They had large black
screens on which the lessons appeared. The lessons were followed by
questions. The students had to insert homework and test papers in the slots
provided. They had to write down the work in a punch code which was a
computing language. The mechanical teacher checked the papers and gave
them marks within a few seconds. These classrooms were in the student’s home
itself. Every student studied from his respective mechanical teacher. Each
teacher was adjusted according to the level of the learner. They did not have
classmates. They studied various subjects like Geography, History and
Mathematics. Margie studied everyday at the same time except Saturdays and
Sundays. Her mother said that she would learn better if she studied that way.
The learning process was mechanical, dull and boring for them.

2. Why did Margie hate school? Why did she think the old kind of school must
have been fun
A. Margie hated school because it was not fun. There was a mechanical teacher
and the learning process lacked life. It was like a machine carrying out the usual
working, there was nothing new, no fun or laughter. Margie’s mechanical teacher
was giving her tests in Geography and she was performing bad at them. Later it
was discovered that the teacher had developed a fault due to which it was giving
her tests of a higher level. Margie’s mother called the County Inspector. He
opened the teacher, found the fault and rectified it. Margie disliked the teacher
and hoped that he would not be able to repair it. She hated inserting the
homework and test papers into the slot provided.
She thought that the children in the past must have had a lot of fun when they
went to school with fellow children. She found it amazing that all the children
studied together, the same things and could discuss studies and help each other
with the homework too. As the teachers were people, they would not behave like
machines. The human aspect of education in the past made her feel that the
school of the past were fun.

Grammar Exercises
1. Find the sentences in the lesson which have the
adverbs given in the box below.
Awfully Sorrowfully Completely Loftily
Carefully Differently Quickly nonchalantly

1.They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it wasawfully funny
to read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to —
on a screen, you know.
2. The mechanical teacher had been giving her test after test in geography and
she had been doing worse and worse until her mother had shaken her head
sorrowfully and sent for the County Inspector.
3. They had once taken Tommy’s teacher away for nearly a month because the
history sector had blanked out completely.
4. He added loftily, pronouncing the word carefully, “Centuries ago.”
5.He added loftily, pronouncing the word carefully, “Centuries ago.”
6. “But my mother says a teacher has to be adjusted to fit the mind of each boy
and girl it teaches and that each kid has to be taught differently.”
7. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” Margie said quickly.
8. “May be,” he said nonchalantly.

2. Now use these adverbs to fill in the blanks in the sentences below.
(i) The report must be read _________so that performance can be improved.
(ii) At the interview, Sameer answered our questions _________ ,shrugging his
shoulders.
(iii) We all behave _________ when we are tired or hungry.
(iv) The teacher shook her head ________when Ravi lied to her.
(v) I ________ forgot about it.
(vi) When I complimented Revathi on her success, she just smiled _______ and
turned away.
(vii) The President of the Company is ________ busy and will not be able to
meet you.
(viii) I finished my work ________ so that I could go out to play.

A.
(i) The report must be read carefully so that performance can be improved.
(ii) At the interview, Sameer answered our questions loftily, shrugging his
shoulders.
(iii) We all behave differently when we are tired or hungry.
(iv) The teacher shook her head sorrowfully when Ravi lied to her.
(v) I completely forgot about it.
(vi) When I complimented Revathi on her success, she just smiled nonchalantly
and turned away.
(vii) The President of the Company is awfully busy and will not be able to meet
you.
(viii) I finished my work quickly so that I could go out to play.

3. Make adverbs from these adjectives.


(i) angry ________
(ii) happy _________
(iii) merry _______
(iv) sleepy __________
(v) easy _________
(vi) noisy __________
(vii) tidy _________
(viii) gloomy ________

A.
(i) angry angrily
(ii) happy happily
(iii) merry merrily
(iv) sleepy sleepily
(v) easy easily
(vi) noisy noisily
(vii) tidy tidily
(viii) gloomy gloomily

4. Complete the following conditional sentences. Use the correct form of


the verb.
1. If I don’t go to Anu’s party tonight, _____________
2. If you don’t telephone the hotel to order food, ___________
3. Unless you promise to write back, I ____________
4. If she doesn’t play any games, ______________
5. Unless that little bird flies away quickly, the cat __________

A.
1. If I don’t go to Anu’s party tonight, she will be angry.
2. If you don’t telephone the hotel to order food, you will miss your meal.
3. Unless you promise to write back, I will not write to you.
4. If she doesn’t play any games, she will not become strong.
5. Unless that little bird flies away quickly, the cat will eat it.