Funding Friday: A Computer Anyone Can Make

If you haven’t heard of Kano, you are missing out. This is so cool. I funded it the day the project launched. They are a little bit more than half way to their goal of $500k.

Join the fun and back this today.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. Mike Zamansky

    Oh man, I don’t know about this trend. They keep coming out with these really cool, inexpensive educational computing kits that I pretty much HAVE TO HAVE!!!!If this keeps up, it’s going to cost me a bagillion dollars to get them all!!!

    1. fredwilson

      But you will have so much fun

      1. Mike Zamansky

        But I’m unproductive enough as it is!!!

        1. panterosa,

          Play is when we have our best ideas. Productive is how grown-ups measure things which are no fun to do.

        2. LE

          15% of your time should be spent on this type of pure research that might lead to something else. Not any more. Number is arbitrary but not to far off.That said if you recognize that you have this problem you probably do. That’s the first step to getting better.

  2. jason wright

    Is this in part about the demystification of computers?

    1. Girish Mehta

      There is no mystery about computers for a while now. Which is unfortunate.This might help bring back a little sense of wonder about computers.

      1. Vasudev Ram

        Agreed. I’m working on something towards that end. Will post about it here when ready.

  3. William Mougayar

    We still haven’t seen what the full impact of introducing kids early to technology will be.Vitalik Buterin (inventor of Ethereum) started playing with computers at age 4 when his father bought him one. His favorite pass time was toying with spreadsheets, and look what he ended-up inventing before he was 19.Wait 5-15 years, and we’ll see dozens if not hundreds more teen age geniuses emerge, all over the world.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      The basic computing you are describing is important to crucial, necessary, but for the really bright future, not sufficient. Also necessary is quite a lot of mathematics. E.g., start by seeing how amazingly well Newton iteration works for finding square root. Then program a good random number generator, say,x2 = x1*5^15 + 1 mod 2^47for positive integer n generate 1 million random points in the unit sphere in n-space, and observe, as a function of n, what fraction of the points are over 0.9 from the center of the sphere. Lesson: As n grows, nearly all the volume of the sphere is very near the boundary! Use the random number generator to generate sample paths of Brownian motion and use that to solve the Dirichlet problem and, thus, how to evaluate exotic options! Get or write some software to solve initial value problems for systems of non-linear ordinary differential equations and use it to design rockets to reach earth orbit, travel to Mars, simulate an asteroid belt, etc.! Do a lot of experiments with linear regression (currently the key to AI/ML) and see now the prediction errors go and the threat of overfitting. Play with the Lagrange interpolation formula and see how nicely it works sometimes and how awful it is at other times. Program the fast Fourier transform and have fantastic fun analyzing audio signals, doing digital filtering, and, then, generating synthetic music.

    2. panterosa,

      If you hang out in toys and games, which has a plethora of early childhood and learning experts, then you’d have more info. That’s my world and the results are mixed – based on what tech is introduced, how, at what age, and what support the environment and people around of other ages give to the child.

      1. William Mougayar

        I think the best of this early combustion is yet to come.

      2. Lawrence Brass

        I have a granddaughter. Her parents say that I overexpose her to technology. Instead of playing with dolls she solves problems in an iPad, at least during the time we share. But what she really likes is playing and solving problems together with me.Many times we give them toys and games so our time is free for doing other things, but what children really need is attention and love.

  4. Yonatan Raz-Fridman

    Thank you for the support Fred, our team is thrilled and very passionate about our new products and the impact it will have on young people inspiration and creativity

  5. Vendita Auto

    Followed them for awhile good touchstone for that age group, was expecting new products (dronz) to come into play

  6. kirklove

    Super cool.Like Capsela meets Lite-Brite meets Fisher Price – that you can code! Wish I had this when I was a kid. Gotta grab for Bean and Sprout.

    1. panterosa,

      If they like Lego then look into Brickstuff who make lights for Legos.

  7. jason wright

    i particularly like the trip wire unit for the camera. i have a neighbour with a cat that i often find in my bedrooms and kitchen. having the evidence of the intruder would be so cool.

    1. panterosa,


        1. panterosa,

          We are not pro Goldieblox, for many reasons, that I do not go into in public or on the record, though I assure you I am not alone in my industry.Probably not the reply you expected…..

          1. Twain Twain

            I respect other people’s choices about what they’re pro / against.Each of us has experiences and relationships with things that are unique to us so it’s impossible to see things and “walk in someone else’s shoes” 100% to understand why they’re pro / against something.

          2. panterosa,

            I agree. It’s bad form for me to not support a fellow woman in STEM toys in public, and share industry chi chat.Do you have children? (Not ny biz of course). I have a daughter, and she is too old for this now. I would have gotten her Roominate over GB.

          3. Twain Twain

            Not married or kids yet, :).It could be that GB needs someone like you to point out the things that still need improving with their offering.Generally, I think it’s terrific that kids today (of both genders) have the choices to make things with kits like Kano and play with code, including Apple’s new Swift Playgrounds.

          4. panterosa,

            GB is made by the marketing team, not inventors.SO happy about Swift after teaching app design to HS girls. Unisex like the Lego ad in the 70’s was the apex of gender neutral, a place we need to return to.

          5. panterosa,

            you would be deeply into our new thing. happy to discuss offline.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          Nonsense. Boys are interested in things. Girls are interested in people.

    2. LE

      An acquihire almost certainly.

  8. falicon

    AVC has just cost me another $560.00 …it’s all good though because by my calculations I’m still about 50x in the black from this little morning habit…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      The prices of computer hardware components have fallen enormously: E.g., for $560 you could get a nice, high end ASUS motherboard, an 8 core AMD processor, 64 bit addressing, 4.0 GHz clock, 32 GB of ECC memory, three 1 TB SATA 6 disk drives at 7200 RPM, a video card, keyboard, mouse, screen, case, fans, USB DVD burner, copy of Windows 7 Professional, etc. with maybe the $60 left over.That’s a powerful computer on any scale.

      1. falicon

        Yes – but for this $560…I get to empower my kids imagination, expand their idea of what is possible — what they themselves can build/do…and we get to build and then play with electronic gadgets!!! πŸ˜€

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Get to do the same with what I described. If want to play with it at the low level, say, machine language, booting from CD, writing own boot code, etc., can do that, too. And can get some adapter cards for interfacing to door bells, cameras, the house HVAC controls, etc. Can write low level code, say, to run on the bare metal, say, without using virtual memory, have just a character display, etc.Also, get VMWare and have both low level and high level running on the one box at the same time!

          1. falicon

            Yes – but I lose my kids within 5 minutes if it doesn’t look cool and easy even before we start.As a “techie” I hate it, but elegant design is not just a “nice to have” when it comes to the general public…and especially the younger you go.Unfort. life-rule but complexity kills.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            “Funding Friday: A Computer Anyone Can Make”Can also do that with the astoundingly powerful computer I described.For complexity, I’m fairly sure the computer I described can be used essentially like the original IBM PC if you want. That PC was not simple enough?Maybe the usual way now for “simple” is to start with just some of the easier games and the Internet. Later learn the “simple” aspects of the hardware, machine language, booting from CD or diskette, etc. Then get to one of the simplest programming languages.

          3. falicon

            They already have computers (and tablets, and laptops, and other mobile devices)…but none they’ve “built” themselves.They’ve played with programming on a variety of levels already too ( my oldest even released a mobile game for iphone and android that has done pretty well – )…so they are actually coming along nicely (IMHO).But they haven’t really dug into hardware or the internet of things yet (and I fully believe those are two massively important parts of the near future to understand and be comfortable with). My hope/excitement is that a project like this is a starting block for just that…

          4. sigmaalgebra

            For building a computer, your kids with a little help from you are perfectly capable of building a nice computer from the parts I listed. In case of questions, e.g., USB or SATA 6, the Internet, especially with Google, should be plenty sufficient.For IoT, that will be heavily TCP/IP sockets, IP addresses, maybe DNS, etc., and for anything like ease of use that stack needs a real operating system, e.g., Windows or Linux.TCP/IP socket programming can be just dirt simple and a lot of fun. E.g., can do a lot of it just in the interpretive language Rexx.I suspect that IoT will in part draw from XML, CMIS/P, ASN.1, CORBA, and lots of such old stuff.Very soon there will be issues of security, encryption, authentication, capabilities, access control lists, locking, deadlock detection and resolution, and more. So, will get into some computer science.Since the IoT devices will likely be very simple, much of the architecture and system level issues will have to be handled by an abstraction layer via an intermediate real time repository that provides a model of the system of the IoT devices. That will be some relatively advanced practical computing with some good doses of computer science.Then with all that working, the next challenge to some utility will be what to do with the IoT data and the ability to control the IoT devices. So, will get into some math for analyzing the data and how to do the control, e.g., stochastic optimal control. E.g., quickly will be doing feedback control and won’t want the system to oscillate!

          5. LE

            I come from a generation where the sound of the teletype was enough to get me in the game. Back then of course there weren’t as many distractions as there are today. And of course parenting was way way way different.My stepdaughter’s big dilemma the other night was figuring out how to format a paper on her ipad that she was typing where she didn’t agree with the teacher about the font size. [1] So she comes down stairs to get my wife’s help with the formatting and my wife of course (like any mother would) starts to help her and spin her wheels trying to solve the ‘problem’. The step daughter does lego league and all of this tech stuff but she didn’t want to spend the time to figure out how to do this on her own. And I refused to anything other than offer general direction but no specifics.I told her “get the text over to the mac it will probably be quicker than figuring out how to do what you want (line spacing) on the ipad”. Then use word. Figure it out. Most importantly I didn’t want my wife to give her any help at all. My wife was worried because the report was due the next day and she had put it off until the last minute. My thought was to have her work though it out finish it and if she couldn’t? To bad she would suffer the consequences. And learn a lesson to not wait until the last minute. No safety net with parents help for something you can do yourself easily. For god’s sake you have the internet with answer to all questions like this. Shit.My point is you either lay down the law and develop the attitude early on or you will always be making excuses and blaming others and trying to get others to help you.[1] My suggestion was if she disagreed with the teachers font choice she should then prepare two copies. One in the font size and spacing he suggested and one in another font and the way she thinks would ‘look better’. That way she does what he wants but also provides an alternative and does it in a respectful way.

          6. falicon

            +infinity – I have the same “talk” with my wife about letting our kids fail – a lot. I don’t always win. So in that regard I guess I’m usually the only one that is failing forward πŸ™‚

          7. panterosa,

            I actually applaud your kids design snobbery, even though I shun snobbery. Perhaps it’s better to call them standards? Kids today have terrible design skills, which they should not.

      2. Jess Bachman

        “a video card”LOL.

        1. sigmaalgebra


          1. Lawrence Brass

            Maybe Jess call them GPUs.. still video cards for me too, but they are getting fat! :)I crave for this beauty, 11 teraflops, 12GB RAM. Your math would run really fast!https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          2. Girish Mehta

            Through most of ’90s we called them video cards.Sometime after the turn of the millennium, video card term slowly reduced in usage compared to graphics card. But many people still say video cards.Like Laptops and Notebooks.

          3. Lawrence Brass

            I always wonder where and by whom all the new terms are invented. The engineers or the marketeers, by choice or chance?

          4. sigmaalgebra

            12 TF! WOW! Run Linpack in a big hurry! Do QED simulations of nuclei! Get the spacial acoustic power spectrum of the 3 K background radiation!Ah, now I see! You’re talking GPUs!Ah, but the Brownian motion solution to the Dirichlet problem for evaluation of exotic options would likely slow it down (maybe with Dodd-Frank can’t try to do that anymore); so would a lot of stochastic dynamic programming!For the second, do financial planning for five years. Use a spreadsheet. Have one column for each month and one row for each variable. Have some cells free for decisions to be made. Have some cells with random numbers. In the last row of the right-most column have a cell that has the value of the business at the end of the plan.Now, your mission should you decide to accept it is to determine the decisions that maximize the expected value of that value.Now, how to do that? Well, at each month, you get to make the decisions for that month based on everything you know in that month from the decisions and the actual values of the random quantities from earlier months.So, yes, there is a best way to do that. But even for a modest spreadsheet, the computing is challenging beyond belief.The main, early on guy was R. Bellman. Now can look to R. Rockafellar at U. Washington, E. Dynkin at Cornell, S. Shreve at CMU, D. Bertsekas at MIT, etc.Yes, in part this stuff is a lot of math and computing of what the heck would like to do if had a lot of data likely won’t have. But in some cases sort of do have that data. Sometimes supply chain optimization may be be such a case.Such things will rise in importance with IoT due to both the data and the ability to control, both in near real time.GPUs are for gamers! I just want a video card.I’m interested in my business and want a computer for routine things, e.g., e-mail and Web browsing, and then for my business software development and my first server.So, I have no need for a GPU for displaying wildly complicated, high resolution, real time, 2D projections of 3D developed images of battle scenes at 70 frames a second, at however many billion triangles a second, with hidden line removal, shading, textures, fog, dust, reflections, etc.For me, a bigger issue is reading Web pages that put 110 characters on each line of text!The next video card I have in mind is justEVGA GeForce 8400 GS 1024MB DDR3 PCI-E 2.0 Graphics Card DVI/HDMI/VGA 01G-P3-1302-LR by EVGA4.3 out of 5 stars 1,831 customer reviews | 911 answered questionsPrice: $28.98 & FREE Shipping on orders over $49. DetailsSeems to have two plugs on back, maybe one old one and a new one that fits more recent displays… So, $30!Gee, for even 2000 x 4000 pixels at 24 bits per pixel, the video refresh buffer would need only 24 MB, and that card has 1 GB. Overkill, but it’s only $30.The rest of the memory? IIRC, 3D representations of objects with lots of triangles. So, we’re talking hardware approaches to Open GL or some such?

          5. Lawrence Brass

            In the beginning, it was only graphics, accelerated Open GL and the such. But there are fascinating applications in simulation as you mentioned. Perhaps nothing new if you had the luck to use a Cray computer before, but the effect of the availability of all this power is huge. Underexploited because we are obsessed with consumer applications and services but being heavily used in research.All these new AI as a service things are powered by custom and specialised hardware as the new nVidia DGX-1. Got 120K to play?…Toys.

          6. ShanaC

            Man, do I wish I had that money to spare to buy that for shawn as a gift.

          7. Lawrence Brass

            me 2 Shana, me 2.but we are on the struggle, are we?

          8. ShanaC

            Is that the gpu? How much is it?

          9. Girish Mehta

            Costs ~ $1200.

    2. LE

      I was trying to resist the temptation to “buy now”.But then I was thinking that this could actually solve a problem that I have (if you want to call it that) and not just be a play toy and fun. I need something that can give me visual cues for doing balancing exercises [1] that I do at night while I am watching tv. Right now I use the iphone timer but it’s hard to see. So I thought I could take the light display and program it with colors to indicate time periods (including countdowns like a traffic light). My first thought was simply to buy the camera because of what I think is obvious utility.It’s a no brainer to buy for the step kids but they already are to wrapped up in play things and I’d rather steer them to not thinking that something has to be fun in order to learn it.

      1. falicon

        “I’d rather steer them to not thinking that something has to be fun in order to learn it”…there’s what I would like, and then there’s what works…I pick and choose my battles on this based on how much I desire (vs they desire) a given outcome.

        1. LE

          Not going to tell you how to parent (ok I will) but you might want to try and tie the reward system ‘bribe’ [1] for something that they would not take the effort to do or learn in order for them to be exposed to something that they would want that you wouldn’t typically buy them. Ok that’s confusing I will explain.Let’s look at men. They will do all sorts of boring things that women want in order to be able to have sex with the woman. But at the point they know they can have sex without doing the boring stuff what typically happens? They become inattentive and then don’t cooperate. The manipulative woman uses sex as a tool and withholds it though in order to get more even compliance.In this case you simply have to say “ok so we will go to Disney but only if you take that book on C programming and write a program that does x y and z”. All the sudden learning C (or whatever) is tied to a reward that they want. Of course Disney isn’t immediate so just substitute something that they want within the next week.This is a really basic “if/then” situation really. “If you do this I will do that”. It’s kind of basic negotiation actually.Remember how I told you that I got the kids to clean the kitchen floor and table every single night. I just told them they had to. In that case that wasn’t to learn so I just dictated it. And these are normal suburban kids I am sure they don’t have a single friend that does that. I am now going to add that they have to straighten up the towel closet upstairs that is always a mess. They will listen because they know that I will randomly pull things that they do from them if they aren’t in general 95% compliance (I cut them a little slack) with what I want.[1] That way a positive will be created between the two objects.

          1. Twain Twain

            OUCH & lol!”Let’s look at men. They will do all sorts of boring things that women want in order to be able to have sex with the woman. But at the point they know they can have sex without doing the boring stuff what typically happens? They become inattentive and then don’t cooperate. The manipulative woman uses sex as a tool and withholds it though in order to get more even compliance.”

          2. LE

            The sex is a bit of a dramatization. This would actually apply to even just companionship during the initial and uncertain part of the relationship.In other words there are things that you will do that you won’t do when you are more secure and certain of where you stand with the other party.So here’s the thing. If, at the start of the relationship, the other party is not willing to be uber cooperative with what you want it most likely won’t get any better going forward unless there is a reasonable explanation for why that is happening.

          3. Lawrence Brass

            Two things:1) Believe me, programming in C doesn’t make you sex life any better.2) I would rather be @sigmaalgebra:disqus’s cat than your stepson.;)

          4. ShanaC

            I’m in @falicon camp. I never articulated it to my parents, but I would have loved a kit like this growing up

  9. Jess Bachman

    Looks awesome. If only they would deliver by Christmas instead of next summer.edit: Is there a site for stuff that was on kickstarter and is currently shipping?

      1. Girish Mehta

        Did you see this from a few days back Kirsten ? – “I feel 50 pounds lighter without Twitter” – Andreessen…

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Ha! He was famous for randomly blocking people on Twitter.I don’t get it when people ‘quit’ Twitter (except those who are being subjected to horrendous harassment). Like it’s a thing that needs to be quit. All things in moderation, no?

          1. Girish Mehta

            I wonder if there is a broader question about the sustainability of a social media presence.I like what Naval Ravikant says and writes.And my ears perked up when he said this in a podcast earlier this year – “….things like Twitter and Facebook are not making you happy, they are actually making you unhappy. You are essentially playing a game that is created by the creators of those systems”.Naval Ravikant was an early investor in Twitter, and he is very much active on twitter.Interesting.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Maybe I’m one step behind people like those guys. I’ve experience almost 100% benefit from Twitter. I pop into FB when I need it (find it a much less valuable experience, for me).I don’t see either one as capable of making me happy or unhappy. They’re just tools that I’ve used to my benefit. When someone gets attacked en masse on Twitter, that’s of course something else. But I’ve been lucky to not be a target so far.There’s a teeny part of me that wonders if people like Naval and Andreesen are unable to see Twitter from a non-elitist view.

          3. LE

            Marc is an interesting case. He is like a child actor thrust into the spotlight of the world prior to being able to be fully formed as a person. As such whatever his view is of the world (ditto for someone like Zuckerberg) it is going to be distorted by the fact that he gets such early and intense attention from people surrounding him. It’s abnormal. Abnormal in the sense that the vast majority of people don’t have it that way.

          4. LE

            A great point. But the truth is many people don’t have the willpower to modulate moderation. So need to go cold turnkey.

          5. Cam MacRae

            Having quit Twitter, I totally get it. There comes a point at which Twitter actively starts making you dumber.

          6. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I suppose that’s possible. You don’t seem dumber to me. Pretty sure it’s made me smarter so far ;-)All social media, I suppose, is like wine or coffee or sweets. It’s a personal choice and sometimes a matter of health whether or not to abstain. Not for everyone, as the saying goes. No judgement.

  10. sigmaalgebra

    Compared with this Kickstarter project, the real, high end, professional stuff is MUCH better and about the same price.In a car analogy, end user computing, say, desktop size, is getting like being able to build a car in your garage. So, get a nice, stiff tubular frame, aluminum or chrome moly steel. Get choice of engines, e.g., the Corvette super charged one, the Dodge super charged one, the Ford Mustang super charged one. Get choice of transmissions, from Tremec or automatic, get a body, steel, aluminum, fiber glass, or carbon fiber, to bold on, choice of seats, …. Bolt it together in a few evenings. Maybe $10,000 to $20,000 in parts. Cover the standing 1/4 mile in about 9 seconds!Gee, now, for the money, computers are more fun! E.g., a while back, just for fun, I wondered how to do the computations for a tube frame. So, I guessed that the key was the implicit function theorem and wrote the software. It ran fine! So, it calculated stiffness, which is the first cut thing to do.Ah, boys and toys!But, after a while, boys with toys discover something else — GIRLS! They can smile, giggle, and squeal, can be cute, sweet, pretty, darling, adorable, and precious; they are great fun to tease; it’s horrible to see one cry or even frown; they are soft and smooth, much more complicated than either cars or computers, much more expensive to care for, but WOW! E.g., if stay up till dawn getting the computer or car working and in the afternoon lie down to take a nap, then when wake up there is a blanket over you and a great dinner ready! Nice!

  11. panterosa,

    I’m not sure my teen girl will be interested, but I am!

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Teen girl? What happened to 7? Have I known you that long? Enjoy the ride!

      1. panterosa,

        IKR? 15. She grew out of my shoe size, but not my clothes. Waiting to see what’s next!

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Next? I would say its your car keys. πŸ™‚

          1. panterosa,

            No car. YAY!

          2. Lawrence Brass

            Good for you, little carbon footprint (is Kirsten looking?) girl! πŸ™‚

      2. ShanaC

        I feel old hearing panterosa say her daughter is 15

  12. Vasudev Ram

    Interesting …I’ll pass it on to parents of a few kids who I am teaching programming basics.

  13. Vasudev Ram

    The Raspberry Pi is another option. Can be programmed in Python and Scratch too.…According to that article, they’ve sold 10 million units.

    1. Twain Twain

      Love my little Raspberry Pi. We hacked one to make a wearable for visually impaired people in 2015.My kit — which I’ve been collecting since childhood — is now looking like this. Not in this picture are the Intel IoT Edition for Intel Galileo Gen 2 and Edison and a couple of other circuit boards companies gave me at IoT World 2016.I’ve also won a Phantom DJI quadcopter, an Amazon Echo and an Xbox in my time because of tinkering …So I’d say that every parent should get a Kano kit for their daughters too, @panterosa:disqus @MsPseudolus:disqushttps://uploads.disquscdn.c… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

      1. Vasudev Ram


      2. panterosa,

        I’d love to get a Kano, and I’m not a pessimist, but 15yo girl is not right fit right now. She will think I bought for me. And would be right since I would end up making it.

          1. Lawrence Brass

            Wow. That would be a 21st century Meccano.

          2. Twain Twain

            It’s the princely sum of … Β£17.99.I bet your granddaughter would love it when she’s of age!* https://uploads.disquscdn.c…We had lots of STEM toys at home. Apart from 1 doll and 1 Teddy bear, everything was STEM or music/sports-related.Hence my adult nerdiness, haha.

          3. Lawrence Brass

            Awesome toys! Robotics gamification.I didn’t have many STEM toys as a child in the 60s [1], but I did have a STEAM toy :). It was not ours really, it was my Dad’s. My brother and me also used his ancient Meccano to build things. I think our first engineering achievement was to build a steam powered vehicle. The joy of seeing the thing actually moving is unforgettable.I was very lucky.I kept the engine.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…[1] Thinking again, we did have a lot of cool toys and loving parents too. We were very lucky indeed and I am very thankful for that.

  14. Vasudev Ram

    I had also blogged this some time ago. Subsequently saw that they had made progress. Not sure of current status:Parallela low cost desktop supercomputer coming, w/ Python support: Just checked, the 2nd link above is active.$99. Linux.

  15. Lawrence Brass

    Awesome. Love the design, the colours, the story. A Christmas hit.I guess it is easier for kids less technically inclined than those playing with the Raspberry Pi. May give kids a good chance to get in love with machines and computers.

  16. kellercl

    This is awesome.

  17. ShanaC

    Weirdly, I actually need to look at build your own computer stuff to budget a prototype of somethingToo bad this isn’t going to work for me

  18. ShanaC

    I wish the architecture of the raspberry pi was open source in its entirety