Last night I got to spend some time with Carla's 15 year old son Youssef working on the family computers. One of them no longer boots and they had several documents they needed to recover from it. Pleased to be able to do our generous hosts a favor, I installed a copy of DSL (Damn Small Linux) to a USB thumb drive, managed to get the system to boot to it, and recovered their files.
During the process I explained to Youssef (who listened like a sponge) a little about how computers work, what Linux is, what open source software is, and why both of them are very cool. We also downloaded Ubuntu 9.1 so he could give it a shot. He was blown away by the fact that you could put a CD into a computer and make it run an entirely different operating system without harming the one already on it.
When we were done he told me his family had a few older, broken laptops that his mom said he could keep; assuming he could revive them. There was a Toshiba in the pile which is notorious for failing to boot because its video card often comes loose. I've taken this particular model of laptop apart numerous times and that did seem to be the problem so I grabbed a screwdriver and we went to town. In a matter of an hour we had it running!
It was really a privilege to be the first person to expose a teenager both to Linux and the idea that you don't have to be afraid of the inside of a computer. I hope tonight marks the start of a long and fulfilling hobby for Youssef in tinkering with computers!