My kindle has a kind of decorative screensaver, where the faux ink pulls together and forms itself a soft picture, usually of an author. (This isn't specific to mine, I'm sure.) Sometimes the pictures are of other things. Like the typeset of a printing press. At least, that's what I think it was, and that's what I told my three year old son it was when he asked.
I said: the person puts the letters and numbers in this box, and then the person puts ink on it, and then the person presses it against a piece of paper. And then the person repeats that, until we have a book.
And that's when my son fell in love with the printing press. Kids these days, what with their whiz-bang gadgets and their whippersnappin' Playtendos (shout out to Cobra!).
Today he asked me to show him more pictures. I googled printing press and showed him a couple dozen machines, modern and antique, automated and painstakingly manual. He asked how they worked, and I pointed out the things that I recognized. Paper reels. Gears. Levers. I don't actually know how any iteration of the press works, so I made the process up. It might have involved steam power, hobs and alien technology, which may have made it slightly more exciting than the real thing. I'm not sure.
Earlier tonight, my son mimicked setting type and printing a book, which he then presented to us, carefully pointing out and describing the pictures and telling a wonderful story of a small hob who works on a printing press. I think it was magic realism, where the object of the story is telling you the story of the story. Or something.
And I wonder, how many printing presses will be around when my three year old is my age? How strange is it that he learned about the printing press by seeing an image on a electronic reader? How disappointed is my son going to be in his mother when the zombie apocalypse comes along and, as one of earth's last survivors, he decides to start printing books to tell their story, and finds out I made the whole process up?
These are the things that keep me up at night.