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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VTech Precomputer 1000 (1988) 

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In 1988, VTech introduced what may have been the most popular learning computer of the 1980s and '90s. The Precomputer 1000 had a 20-character, one-line LCD display that, though limiting in comparison to a full-fledged computer, was flexible enough to run the system's built-in educational software, which included touch-typing instruction, trivia games on subjects like history and science, math quizzes, and word games. Most impressively, the machine included a fully functional version of the BASIC programming language (regrettably, you lost your programs when you turned off the unit).

Factor in a full-size keyboard, long battery life, and a rugged case with a built-in handle, and you have a classic that inspired a generation of very young programmers.

Photos: VTech/Benj Edwards

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