Kids' computers through the ages

The evolution of toy computers for children mirrors that of real-world systems for adults. We look at some of the changes the play-along versions have undergone in the past 70 years.

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Science Fair Digital Computer Kit (1977) 

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In the mid-1970s, when using a home computer usually meant building and programming the machine yourself, an educational computer like the Science Fair Digital Computer Kit made sense. In the absence of any true electronic components, the user programmed the arcane kit by attaching wires to various spring posts and by flipping switches to form rudimentary digital logic gates.

When the user pushed a button on the console, electric current would flow through the wires in a way that would show a result on the row of lamps above. By following the included booklet, users could set up the kit to solve simple logic puzzles (including one that requires a farmer to transport a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage across a river without any of the items getting eaten). Its fundamental operation was simple in theory but very complicated to set up in practice, which probably frustrated many kids on post-Bicentennial Christmas mornings.

Photo: Radio Shack

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