Pip says "Joe's education, like Steam, was yet in its infancy". The story takes place in the nineteenth century, during the early years of the industrial revolution when the steam engine had just been discovered. Like the steam engine, which is just in its first stages of development, Joe's educational level is quite rudimentary. Joe had had little opportunity to pursue learning while he was growing up, and now that Pip is beginning to read, write, and cipher, Joe is fascinated by the skills he sees Pip picking up. The gentle man has managed to realize that "J-O" spells "Joe", and is amazed at "how interesting reading is", prompting Pip to make the observation that his beloved guardian's education, like the steam engine, is still in its very early stages (Chapter 7).
Uncle Pumblechook is Joe's Uncle, "a well-to-do corn chandler in the nearest town (who drives) his own chaise-cart" (Chapter 4). Pumblechook is a tenant of Miss Havisham, "an immensely rich and grim lady who live(s) in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers and who (leads) a life of seclusion". One day, when Pumblechook goes to pay his rent, the old lady asks him if he might know of "a boy to go and play there" at Satis House. Pumblechook, sensing that the "boy's fortune may be made by his going to Miss Havisham's", suggests Pip, and offers to deliver him personally in his chaise-cart the next morning (Chapter 7).