Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Conversations With A Pre-Schooler


I was taking the bus with my #1. For kids who are chauffeured around by car most of the time, taking the public bus is quite a novelty. So not surprisingly, my kids love taking the bus. (I hope that will continue through to their teenage years!) We talked about a couple of things, one of which involved the use of the EZ-Link card, and how the card works.

Some questions are easy to answer. Some are easy for me to understand, but I’m not sure I can explain it in a way that a pre-schooler would understand.

Q: Why do I need to tap the card upon exiting the bus?

A: Well, when you first board the bus, the card reader deducts lots of money from the card. When you exit, the reader figures out how far you’ve actually travelled, and how much your fare really ought to be, then it refunds the “change” back into the card.

Q: How does the reader know which card belongs to who?

Oh, of course I know how the whole thing works. But I start to realise that technology is now so advanced it is beginning to get quite difficult to explain to a kid. The technology we use nowadays is practically like magic.


In the old days, bus conductors would punch holes in your ticket. Nowadays, technology makes things invisible. EZ-Link cards are read by RFID. The serial numbers printed on the cards are only there for humans to tell them apart, they aren’t actually read by the machines.

How do the card readers read the card? Yes, yes, they use RFID. But what exactly is RFID and how does it work? Hmm, now that’s beginning to get tough to explain to a child.

We used to be able to see, hear, or touch things, so it was easier to grasp how things work. At least that’s the way I learn how things work. These days, you don’t see, you don’t hear, and you can’t touch them.

For example, how do you top-up the EZ-Link card? The “stored value” in the card will run out, and you would have to go to machine to top-up more value in it. How do you do that? Erm, you use another card (the bank ATM card). Somehow, the machine will magically transfer money from one place to another.

I remember one day as I went to an ATM to withdraw some money, my #1 asked me, “You need to print more money?”

You see how technology has touched our lives with magic.

I can appreciate that jet engines, rockets, and those other wonders of science are complicated to explain. But money is something you’ve got to use everyday. Yet you can’t see them.

Talk about kids who can’t appreciate the value of money… well, they can’t see money, kinda difficult to talk about appreciating them eh.

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