Taking a family road trip this summer? Beef up on your knowledge of communications trivia, historic places, and outside plant gear to keep the kids entertained.

It’s the time of year when families all over the world are loading up the car, filling the tank, strapping gear on the roof, and stuffing the car with so many “must have” supplies that it’s a wonder the kids fit in the back seat.

The kids, so excited when planning the trip and packing the car, get easily bored looking at the headrest in front of them. Within 30 minutes of leaving the house, you know “Are we there yet?” will be emanating from the back seat.

If you want to avoid hearing, “Mom, he’s pulling my hair,” you can hand the kids a tablet or turn on the onboard video. Or, you can unplug and entertain the kids with your communications network knowledge. What could be more fun than “I Spy Communications Technology”? It’s a great way to impress the kids with your knowledge of fun technology facts and teach them how information gets to their smart phone. They’ll be riveted by your knowledge!

Still with me? Here are 9 fun things to spy on the road and at your destination:

  • I spy a land-based cable crossing: The cables spanning the Grand Canyon are not squirrel crossings. The trans-canyon telephone line was built in 1938. See if you can find the historical marker.

First telegram Trans canyon telegraph

  • I spy the birthplace of cable TV: Kids addicted to video? Journey to where cable TV was born in Mahanoy City, PA. Find the plaque that commemorates the 1948 connection of channels via a community antenna from the Service Electric Company. And, imagine life with just 4 broadcast TV channels.
  • I spy a telegraph office: There is one in every old town. Tell the kids about telegraph – which, if you think about it, was very similar to Twitter. Short messages with strange punctuation and everyone in town knew your business. Tell them about Morse code and how it’s still used by ham radio operators to this day.
  • I spy Wi-Fi: A little harder to find are Wi-Fi boxes and small cells attached to signs, polls, and buildings. Kids love to know where they can get free Wi-Fi.
  • I spy a cell tower in a tree costume: Cell towers can take many shapes and forms. And, they don’t have to be on a tower. They can be attached to the side of a building or bridge. See if you can spy the “ironing board” looking cells on a building.
  • I spy telephone poles: The first telephone poles were erected in the middle 19th century and used to carry telegraph wires. These may seem obvious, but more and more, poles are being retired with cables placed underground to avoid the hazards of trees and weather.
  • I spy utility poles: These poles have multiple wires and carry more than telephone services. The top set of wires carry electricity, the second telephone and the third fat wire is cable TV.
  • I spy a Data Center: Kids seem to wonder why those big buildings have no windows. That’s because the hard workers inside are rows and rows of computers that store and transport all the data and video kids enjoy.
  • I spy microwave: No, not the oven, the tower that uses a beam of radio waves to transmit video, audio, or data between two locations, which can be from just a few feet or meters to tens of miles or kilometers apart.

The road trip is a good time to share with your kids the importance of the flow of information across mobile and wireline networks. They should know that the Internet is as important as the flow of goods across our national highway system.

Whatever you do and wherever you go this summer, be sure to enjoy the ride.