I don’t know about you, but I remember back in elementary and middle school we would have science fairs. You would pick a subject (paper towel absorption anyone?) and design an experiment to perform. Unlike a lot of my classmates, I loved science, as I’m sure many of you readers did. I would come up with interesting experiments and put them to the test. If I could come up with a long-term experiment, that was even better. I’ll admit it – I was a data hound. A 9 year old data hound.
I would enjoy doing experiments and collecting the data, but when it came down to creating the presentation – I hated it. I wanted to represent my data in a way that told a story. And I would have to use graph paper and colored pencils which never looked crisp. And it upset the inner data hound in me.
My first computer was a Windows 3.11 box. And with it – Microsoft Office 3.0. And I didn’t come from a technologically aware family – I was the expert. When I discovered the concept of a spreadsheet program, I was quite excited. By the time Windows 95 and Office 95 came out, I was well into the science fair projects. And I knew Excel 95 could make graphs!
I remember the first time I eagerly hunt and pecked my way to a data table. I searched around the toolbar looking for a way to make this chart magic happen. I finally found it – in the format menu.
I clicked to add a chart and magically a chart appeared. But wait, this chart doesn’t display the data in the way I want it to! So as a 9 year old without dial-up access I clicked everything. I spent a good hour trying to fix it before giving up and using graph paper – I mean it was the night before it was due. It always was.
I had this fight with excel every year just wanting to make a pretty chart. It wasn’t until 1999 when we finally got Windows 98 and Office 97 and I decided I’d had enough of this wresting match. I begged my parents to get a book and a book I got – Microsoft Office 97 For Windows For Dummies. I spent days trying to understand Excel, but when I finally successfully made a pie chart – I was over the moon!
Despite how frustrating it is to learn how to use a lot of the functions in Excel, as early as 9 years old I recognized how useful a tool it would be. And it took me six years to finally get it. Six years! That’s some next-level persistence for a pre-teen. When I look back to the many times Excel defeated me and I had to go get my ruler and colored pencils I’m amazed that the hatred for the program didn’t turn me off of charts, data or even science fairs. But if a child can persist in a world of clunky interfaces and CPU speeds measured in megahertz – why couldn’t you?