While the lure of the Raspberry Pi computer was exciting for many, a lot of people were put off by the sheer rawness of it. Now a company is hoping to change that, with a "build your own" computer experience kids.
Kano comes in an unassuming box wrapped in brown packaging, but as soon as you open it the colour starts to flow. Using bright colours and a simple to understand manual, the set guides you through building your own computer.
The kit, which costs £100, consists of a Raspberry Pi computer, a clear plastic case to protect it, keyboard with built in trackpad, speaker, wireless dongle to connect to the internet, and an HDMI cable to connect to a screen. Basically everything you need aside from the screen itself.
The manual guides you through the building process, which in reality is really just plugging in a couple of cables or USB dongles and then to a screen, in our case the TV in the living room, rather than insisting you start soldering transistors to circuit boards.
The parts are bright and colourful - the keyboard is orange for example - and while the keyboard is flimsy you know it will withstand being thrown across the room in frustration - just.
Once done, including covering your new computer in stickers, all that is left is to turn on the Kano and follow the instructions on screen.
The Kano runs a variant of Linux that has been customised to make it much more kid friendly. It is worth pointing out that after our initial account set-up we had to go through an update that was a mind numbing, sofa hopping, wait of 25 minutes. If you are doing this with your kids it's worth bearing in mind - ours lost patience.
After answering boring things like wireless access and login details you can get going.
In the box you get a coding manual, and pre-installed is Snake, Pong, Minecraft and a few other apps. More can easily be added and the more you play with the system the more experience badges you get - just like your favourite Xbox game.
For us using it on a 50-inch HD TV we had to tinker with the resolution so we could see what we were doing, but accessing the apps and then coding in Python via a command prompt is very easy.
Depending on what app you are trying to mess around with you either get a command prompt or the ability to build in coding blocks and the guidance and approach is great. Both do require patience and some kids might struggle with the lack of instant gratification they are perhaps more akin to with an iPad or PlayStation.
We tested it out on two kids (8 and 6) and while the building of the computer was fun, the fact you had to code before you got to play in ernest a bit boring. We suspect 10 year olds and above would love it though.
With coding now on the curriculum, getting kids involved in computing that isn't just about learning how to build a PowerPoint presentation feels more important than ever, and Kano is certainly a very easy and enjoyable way of getting into that.
The accompanying manuals and overall approach is fun, while the product itself essy to use as long as you find the right age group.