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Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992) was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer who wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. Isaac Asimov was the Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the founder of robot ethics, and one of the world’s most prolific authors of fiction.


"The Fun They Had" is a science fiction short story written by Isaac Asimov. It is set in the future, specifically on May 17, 2157, and explores the theme of education in a futuristic society. The story follows two main characters, Margie and Tommy, who discover an old-fashioned book and discuss the differences between their automated education system and the traditional school system of the past.


Margie's Diary:

The story begins with Margie writing in her diary about Tommy finding a real book. Margie's grandfather had told her that in the past, all stories were printed on paper. Margie and Tommy find it amusing to read words that don't move on a screen like their normal school lessons.

Tommy and Margie's Conversation:

Tommy expresses his opinion that books are a waste since they can only be read once and then discarded, unlike their television screens that can display numerous books. Margie, who hasn't seen many telebooks, asks Tommy where he found the book, and he replies that it was in his attic. The book turns out to be about school.

Margie's Dislike for School:

Margie expresses her disdain for school and wonders why anyone would write about it. She hates school even more now because her mechanical teacher has been giving her tests in geography, and she has been performing poorly. Her mother calls for the County Inspector to address the issue.

The County Inspector's Visit:

The County Inspector arrives with a box of tools and fixes Margie's mechanical teacher. Margie had hoped he wouldn't be able to put it back together, but he does, and it continues to function. Margie dislikes the mechanical teacher's slot for submitting homework and tests, as she has to write them out using a punch code.

The Inspector's Assessment:

After fixing the mechanical teacher, the Inspector assures Margie's mother that her progress is satisfactory overall. He explains that the geography sector was too advanced and adjusts it to a ten-year level. Margie is disappointed that they didn't remove the teacher entirely, as they had done with Tommy's teacher when its history sector malfunctioned.

The Old School:

Tommy explains to Margie that the book is about the old kind of school they had centuries ago. Margie doesn't know much about it, and Tommy tells her that a man was the teacher who told the students things, assigned homework, and asked questions.

Margie's Doubts:

Margie expresses skepticism about a man being smart enough to be a teacher. Tommy compares his father's knowledge to that of a teacher. Margie mentions her mother's belief that teachers need to adjust to each student's mind and teach them differently. However, Tommy explains that in the old schools, all the kids of the same age learned the same things.

Margie's Interest:

Margie's mother interrupts their conversation, reminding Margie about school. Margie asks Tommy if they can continue reading the book after school. Tommy replies nonchalantly and walks away with the book.

The Mechanical Teacher:

Margie enters her schoolroom, which is adjacent to her bedroom, and finds the mechanical teacher waiting for her. Margie's mother believes that learning at regular hours benefits children. Margie inserts her homework into the designated slot.

Nostalgic Thoughts:

Margie reflects on the old schools where children from the neighborhood would come together, learn the same things, help each other with homework, and have fun. Meanwhile, the mechanical teacher begins its lesson on adding fractions, but Margie's mind is focused on the fun the children must have had in the past.


"The Fun They Had" explores the contrast between a future society with automated education and the sense of community and joy found in traditional schools. Margie and Tommy's discovery of an old book opens their eyes to a different kind of learning experience, leaving Margie yearning for the fun and interaction she imagines the children in the old schools had.


From a social perspective, "The Fun They Had" offers several insights into the impact of technology on education and social interactions.

Isolated Learning:

In the futuristic society portrayed in the story, children receive education through mechanical teachers and telebooks. While this system provides individualized instruction, it lacks the social aspect of traditional schools. Margie and Tommy's conversation reveals their isolation and lack of interaction with peers, contrasting with the communal learning experience of the past.

Loss of Social Bonds:

Margie's longing for the old-school system reflects the loss of social bonds in the automated education system. In the past, children from the neighborhood would gather, interact, help each other with homework, and share experiences. The story suggests that technology-driven education might diminish the sense of community and shared learning.

Overall, the story invites us to consider the potential impact of technological advancements on education and raises questions about the importance of social interaction, personalized instruction, and the preservation of human connections in the learning process.


Technology in Education:

Both the futuristic society in the story and the present-day hybrid education system heavily rely on technology for educational delivery. In the story, students use telebooks and mechanical teachers, while in the present day, students use computers, tablets, and online learning platforms. This similarity highlights the continued integration of technology into education.

Individualized Instruction:

In the story, Margie and Tommy receive personalized instruction from their mechanical teachers, which aligns with the flexibility and adaptability provided by the present-day hybrid education system. Online platforms often offer personalized learning experiences, allowing students to progress at their own pace and focus on their specific needs.

Social Interaction:

One key difference between the story and the present-day hybrid education system is the level of social interaction. Margie and Tommy lack the social connections and collaborative learning experiences of a traditional school setting. In contrast, the hybrid education system aims to balance individualized learning with opportunities for social interaction through in-person classroom sessions, group projects, and discussions.

Adaptability and Flexibility:

The present-day hybrid education system, similar to the mechanical teacher in the story, allows for adaptability and flexibility. Students can access learning materials and engage in activities both in the physical classroom and through online platforms. This flexibility enables students to learn in various environments and adapt to different learning styles.

Importance of Community:

Margie's longing for the old-school system suggests the significance of community and shared experiences in education. In the present-day hybrid education system, efforts are made to foster a sense of community through virtual classrooms, online discussions, and collaborative projects. Educators aim to create opportunities for students to interact, build relationships, and learn from one another.

In comparing "The Fun They Had" to the present-day hybrid education system, it becomes evident that while technology has significantly transformed education, there is still recognition of the importance of social interaction, personalized instruction, and the presence of human teachers. The hybrid approach seeks to strike a balance between individualized learning facilitated by technology and the benefits of face-to-face interactions within a learning community.


The title "The Fun They Had" suggests that the characters, Margie and Tommy, are experiencing something different and enjoyable compared to their current automated education system. It implies that the old-school system, with its sense of community, shared learning, and interaction, was more engaging and fun for the children.

The title also suggests that the past educational experience holds an emotional resonance for Margie and Tommy. It implies that they derive happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment from the memories and stories of the old-school system. The title highlights the significance of emotional and social elements in education, which are often overlooked in a purely automated and technological approach.

  1. What did Margie write in her diary on May 17, 2157, and why was it significant?
  2. How did Margie and Tommy view the discovery of the book differently?
  3. Why did Margie hate school even more than before?
  4. Describe the interaction between Margie and the County Inspector.
  5. Why was Margie disappointed with the outcome of the Inspector's visit?
  6. How did Tommy explain the concept of the old-style school to Margie?
  7. How did Margie and Tommy differ in their views of a human teacher?
  8. What was Tommy's explanation when Margie asked if all the kids learned the same thing in the old schools?
  9. How did Margie's view of personalized instruction differ from the teaching method described in the book?
  10. Describe Margie's anticipation for reading more of the book with Tommy after school.
  11. How did Margie's school differ from the old-style schools described in the book?
  12. What were Margie's thoughts on the mechanical teacher and the punch code system?
  13. Why did Margie's mother believe that regular hours of learning were beneficial for Margie?
  14. What does the phrase "proper fractions" refer to in the context of the arithmetic lesson?
  15. How did Margie feel about the old-style schools compared to her current educational system?
  16. What aspects of the old schools intrigued Margie the most?
  17. Why did Margie think the kids from the old schools must have loved it?
  18. How did the old schools foster collaboration among students?
  19. In what ways did the old schools provide a social experience for the children?
  20. What might be the implications of a fully automated educational system like the one described in the story?
  1. Margie wrote, "Today Tommy found a real book!" It was significant because in their futuristic world, all stories were usually displayed on screens, and printed books were considered old-fashioned.
  2. Tommy considered it a waste and believed that their screens could hold a million books, while Margie thought the book was valuable and comparable to her own telebooks.
  3. Margie's performance in geography had been declining, and the mechanical teacher was giving her numerous tests. This led her mother to call the County Inspector, which made Margie dislike school even more.
  4. The County Inspector was a round little man with a box of tools. He took apart Margie's mechanical teacher, examined it, and then reassembled it. Margie had hoped he wouldn't be able to put it back together, but he did. The Inspector adjusted the geography sector to a slower pace, ensuring Margie's progress was satisfactory.
  5. Margie had hoped that the Inspector would remove the mechanical teacher altogether, as they had done with Tommy's teacher when it malfunctioned. However, her teacher was simply adjusted, and Margie wanted to be rid of it completely.
  6. Tommy explained that the old schools existed centuries ago and were different from their current automated system. They had human teachers who taught the students, assigned homework, and asked questions.
  7. Margie believed that a man couldn't be smart enough to be a teacher, while Tommy argued that his father knew as much as their mechanical teacher. Margie wasn't ready to dispute that claim but stated she wouldn't want a stranger teaching her at home.
  8. Tommy explained that in the old schools, all the kids went to a special building, and if they were the same age, they learned the same things.
  9. Margie's mother had told her that teachers should be adjusted to fit the minds of each student, teaching them differently. However, Tommy argued that the old schools didn't do it that way, and if Margie didn't like it, she didn't have to read the book.
  10. Margie wanted to continue reading the book because it described the old schools, which fascinated her. She was eager to learn more about the fun and social aspects of those schools that her own automated education system lacked.
  11. In Margie's school, education was delivered through a mechanical teacher, a large black screen that displayed lessons and asked questions, and the teacher was always available at the same time every day. In contrast, the old-style schools had physical buildings where all the children from the neighborhood gathered. They sat together in a schoolroom and learned the same things.
  12. Margie had mixed feelings about the mechanical teacher and the punch code system. She disliked the mechanical teacher's method of testing and evaluating her. She had to write out her assignments, and the mechanical teacher calculated her marks almost instantly. Margie felt frustrated with this system and wished for a more interactive and engaging learning experience.
  13. Margie's mother believed that regular hours of learning were beneficial for Margie because she thought that children learned better with a structured routine. She hoped to instill discipline and consistency in her education. Regular hours of learning were seen as a way to create a sense of order and facilitate better focus and concentration during study time.
  14. The phrase "proper fractions" refers to a type of fraction where the numerator (the top number) is smaller than the denominator (the bottom number). In the context of the arithmetic lesson, it suggests that Margie was being taught how to add fractions that fit this criteria, such as adding 1/2 and 1/4.
  15. Margie felt a sense of longing and nostalgia for the old-style schools compared to her current educational system. She was fascinated by the idea of children gathering together, socializing, and learning in a physical school environment. Margie imagined the fun and camaraderie they must have had, which contrasted with her isolated and automated learning experience.
  16. The aspects of the old schools that intrigued Margie the most were the presence of a human teacher and the communal learning environment. She was curious about how a teacher, who was a man in the old schools, could impart knowledge, assign homework, and ask questions. Margie found it intriguing that all the children learned the same things and could help each other with their homework.
  17. Margie believed that the children from the old schools must have loved it because they had the opportunity to be physically present with their peers, interact, and share their learning experiences. Margie imagined that they could collaborate, discuss their homework, and engage in social activities, creating a sense of joy and connection in their educational journey.
  18. The old schools fostered collaboration among students by bringing them together in a physical school building. All the children from the neighborhood attended the same school, allowing them to form friendships, work on assignments together, and support one another in their learning. They had the opportunity to help each other with homework, discuss lessons, and exchange ideas, leading to a collaborative and interactive learning environment.
  19. The old schools provided a social experience for the children as they came from the entire neighborhood to attend school together. They had the chance to interact and build relationships with their peers. This social aspect of the old schools created a sense of community and shared experiences among the children.
  20. A fully automated educational system like the one described in the story raises several implications. It suggests a lack of human interaction and personalized teaching methods. While the mechanical teacher may provide efficient and standardized instruction, it may not be able to adapt to the unique needs and learning styles of individual students. The absence of human teachers may also limit social and emotional development, as students miss out on the interpersonal dynamics and socialization opportunities that come with attending a physical school. Additionally, a complete reliance on technology may raise questions about the potential loss of critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills that can be nurtured through human interaction and diverse educational experiences.
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