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Toys V. Tools

By Jason Brimhall,

R2D2 unitsToday while working feverishly, my children burst onto the scene wanting to play with some of the items in my office.  My children, more specifically, wanted to play with my R2 units.  I had to explain to them that they couldn’t, which caused me to think for a minute about what is a toy and what is a tool.   Many of us have both (especially those of us in IT). The question for me is: where does the line blur from tool to toy?

Take the picture for example. When you look closely at the image, you can tell that one of the units has USB ports.  What you can’t determine though, is that it has movable legs or that it makes R2 sounds.  This R2 certainly serves its purpose of being a USB hub.  The other is a remote control toy.  The head swivels and it makes noise and can go forward or backward (sorry, it doesn't have a jetpack, yet).

One may say that I have a picture of two toys (and thus understand why my children wanted to play with both of them).  It could also be said that one is a toy and one is a tool.   I could actually make a case that both of these R2 units are tools - albeit different tools.

As IT professionals, sometimes we have little toys/tools like this.  There are software apps that are tools and software apps that are toys.  In some instances, an application that may be a tool for you could be a toy if used differently or by somebody else.  For me, sometimes a simple SQL Puzzle can be a nice little toy that can help me de-stress a bit.

Outside of software, we have examples of power tools that could be classified as both tools and toys.  You may have heard of these referred to as big boy toys.  Who doesn't love to play with a nail gun, air compressors and handheld drills?

I am left to wonder what items out there could we use both as a tool and a toy, applications or otherwise?  Here is one that I think could be classified as both - POWERSHELL.

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