A very educational computer

Filed under: Teens, Activities: Babies, Day Care & Education, Toys, Gadgets, That's Entertainment

When I got started in the computer industry, computers were big and expensive. They were kept in air conditioned rooms behind huge glass windows. I learned to write programs in COBOL and BASIC on a DEC PDP-11/70. It was a wonderful thing, to be able to figure out how to make the computer do what I wanted it to. These days, however, the complexity of even the simplest PC makes learning the basics of how computers work a difficult task. It wasn't always like that though. Once upon a time, there was the Digi-Comp 1.

An original ad from the early 60's described the Digi-Comp as "A working digital computer that demonstrates simply the operations usually hidden in electronic circuits." In 1963, when it debuted, the Digi-Comp 1 sold for $5.95. Today, on Ebay, an original Digi-Comp 1 can sell for as much as $150. If you've got a teen who could get interested in digital logic, you don't have to go to such extremes. A modern replica, still in kit form, is available from Mind's-On Toys for $55. This would make a wonderful gift for any budding computer scientist to learn about the basic logic that makes computers work. As it says on the website, "perhaps the rarest thing about Digi-Comp is the combination of hands-on and minds-on fun it affords." When Jared and Sara get a little older, I think they may be getting one of these.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.