In Which I Explain The Cloud To My Five-Year-Old

“A Persian Cat living in the sky” is an equally plausible explanation.

Every so often, when trying to explain something to my children, I am struck by the degree to which the world of technology has outpaced my ability to sound like an adult who knows things. Even TV is beyond me. “See, people stand in front of a camera, and then their pictures and voices go onto a…sort of like a piece of tape? And then that goes into a…like, a TV station, and they…tell the picture to go into…space. And then it comes onto your TV. Get it?”

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Stephen, and complaining about the fact that every time I have to do anything on my phone I have to first delete everything I possibly can (apps, any and all photos that I’m at least relatively unemotional about, etc). And he said, “Have you put them on the Cloud?”

There is no quicker way to make me not want to continue a conversation than to ask me whether I am “on the Cloud.”

I DO NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE CLOUD. I have no idea what the Cloud is, or where it is, or how exactly one might go about using it. Is it a…theory? Is it a physical spot where I can send things that will be kept until…that spot disappears? Can the spot disappear? Where is the spot?

“Wait, I’ll show you!” said Stephen. “It’s so easy! I’ll free up all the space on your phone! It’s amazing!”

It does sound easy and amazing. For other people. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve tried to use the Cloud, but what happens when I try is I get this message:

< Please enter your Apple ID password to continue. >

Sure. Except wait, I had to change it that time when I forgot it. But that’s okay, it’s probably in my email account that…wait, I totally changed the password on my email account. That’s okay, I’m pretty sure I can send a password recovery email to the very first email account I ever had. The one that I set up in 1996. I’m pretty sure my password was “1234,” but I probably changed that at some point…right?


Anyway. I enter sixty or seventy potential password options, and finally get to a place where I’m told to pay for my cloud, because apparently even though I’ve never used it, to my knowledge, there is so much stuff on it that I have to upgrade to a…bigger Cloud. Fine.

(Also please enter the last five digits of the credit card that you last saw three years ago.)

(And the security code.)

So now I’m in my Cloud – I guess – and I’ve paid for it…and now I go to put things in it (and free up spaaaaaace!!!), except I do a quick Google search and discover that if I delete anything from a device, it is deleted on the Cloud. But maybe it also exists forever. …Somewhere. Maybe. Is the information on the Cloud…cached? What is a cache? Is it like a Cloud? Is it on the Cloud?


And then yesterday afternoon it was raining and my kids were going stir-crazy, and my son asked if he could download an app onto our iPad. No problem! I already own the app on my phone, so I can just download the thing onto another device that I own. (Because of the Cloud. I think.) But first I needed a password to access the iTunes store. Except the password I needed was Kendrick’s password. So I found that, eventually. Then I had to pay for it. Again. Why? Don’t know. Anyway, I paid, and then had to upgrade my iOS. How? Don’t know. Googled. Did it.

< Please enter the verification code sent to your alternate device. >

Aaaaaand we’re done.

So here is what I told my sad son who just wanted to launch some birds at some pigs, and couldn’t.

“I know it’s frustrating, my love. Let me explain. There are these things called apps, which are like computer programs except more brightly colored, and sometimes they exist on your iPad or your phone, and sometimes they exist only in the Cloud, which is everywhere. But also nowhere. But I can’t access anything on the Cloud, only the things that are on my account. And this app was apparently on daddy’s iTunes account…or maybe his Cloud…but when I asked him for his password he realized he’s had to change it so many times it’s now just a completely random string of numbers, characters, and anthropomorphic frustration. So he gave me a list of five possible passwords, and by the time I got halfway through the list, I got locked out of my account. SO I called Apple Support, only to realize I could change the password in my settings. So I opened settings in my iPad but my payment information wasn’t updated, so I had to get my card, except then I realized that the card that we use on the account is daddy’s card, and that’s why I was making you be quiet while I called daddy over and over again during the weekly meeting he always tells me not to call him during. And then once I managed to successfully remove daddy from his meeting and get the password, I unlocked my account, but then the iPad told me I needed to update to iOS Sabre-Tooth Tiger, because iOS Velociraptor isn’t…quick enough. Or something. But I did that, and now the iPad requires me to use my thumbprint and explain covalent bonds in order to turn it on at all. So let’s watch some Wild Kratts on PBS. Sound good?

“Wait, where’s the remote?”


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