For most of us, the inner-workings of a MacBook Air remain a pleasant, whirring mystery. That is until, something goes horribly south and we realize we need a Genius to fix it. But what if there was a way to demystify the mechanics of computing and simply build your own?
That’s the promise behind the new Kano computer kit, which is touting itself as "the first computer that anyone can make."
Using a basic kit of parts that includes a simple motherboard and a keyboard, the Kano lets you turn a TV into a functioning computer in about 20 minutes. You can then use it to make spreadsheets, word-process, create and play games like Pong and Minecraft, watch high-definition video, synthesize music, or learn to write code.
The London creative consultancy MAP—founded last year by noteworthy designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby of BarberOsgerby—helped London-based company Kano Computing with the product design. The goal, they said, was to close the chasm between users and technology.
"A computer is now cheaper than a textbook and the Internet is almost everywhere, but for all the power this brings, we don’t really understand these tools," says MAP design director Jonathon Marshall. "There are other computer kits out there, but there is nothing that has such a forensic approach to user-friendliness."
Every aspect of the Kano’s design was created to be straightforward and easy to understand and was aimed particularly at teaching kids. The hardware, packaging, instruction books, and operating software each work in tandem to explain the technical reasoning behind each step, from assembling the hardware through using the software. There are two manuals, one for putting the computer together—from popping in the SD card for memory to connecting the keyboard—and a second that serves as a workbook of creative projects to teach the basics of computing. Kano worked with hundreds of kids, teachers, parents, and makers around the world to create the manual and early designs were tested on kids including Marshall’s own 8-year-old son.
A great deal of thought went into the graphic design behind the product’s packaging as well. MAP designed it to be kept and used as storage for the kit instead of being tossed out. So the top of the lid of the inner box includes a diagram of the cable connections to ensure fast, easy set-up. The protective outer sleeve was sized to slide through most letterboxes—which cuts costs and makes delivery easier. "We made about 30 different package sizes," Marshall says, "and went out trying to push them through doors."
Kano's DIY computer kit is available for $99 through their Kickstarter campaign, which went live today.