Play with your Food – Tech at Teatime Blog – 05/12/12

Hello and welcome to the first Tech at Teatime companion blog. I’ll be using these posts to go into more detail on some of the stories we talk about during the show. Let’s get started.

On Wednesday’s final show of the year, I asked Dave to bring in some suggestions for silly and inventive Christmas gifts. He duly managed to do so, with a selection of incredibly random gadgets. Here’s my favourite.

MaKeyMaKey – Firebox: £39.99makey

I was initially critical of this product, just because of its name. It’s not exactly catchy, let’s be honest. But with that said, there is a great pun buried beneath the impractical title. Make+Key = MaKey. x2. I just about approve.

It’s one of those great, back-to-basics electronics kits that remind me of LEGO’s Mindstorm project and Raspberry Pi. Their website describes it perfectly: “MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween.”

The kit involves a number of wires and a circuit board hooked up to a USB port. You use software to program which wires are detected as which keyboard input, and away you go. You can make a piano out of bananas. What more is there to say? It looks tremendously fun and there are already some great examples of humorous and practical usage of this kit. Whenever I see stuff like this, it really makes me wish I’d taken an alternative career path and gone into programming.

As an aside, my brother, who is an IT consultant, programmer, web developer etc, used LEGO’s Mindstorm in one of his Computer Science degree projects in 2008 (see video). It’s ‘toys’ like this which should really be encouraged: they allow kids to develop an understanding of electronics, in a practical form, instead of unbelievably uninspiring and dull ICT lessons I received as a teenager. As a result, we should see a greater quantity of  ICT professionals who are incredibly in-demand (and-highly paid as a result), which will most certainly help the UK’s economy as a whole. Bananas for thought, I think.

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