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On Sale at Last: Kano, the Charming Kit for Building Your Own Computer


The last time we wrote about Kano, the London company was in the middle of blowing through its $100,000 Kickstarter goal, on its way to raising $1.5 million. It’s since shipped 18,000 of its DIY computer kits to early supporters, and as of yesterday, you can buy your own.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kano, here’s a little refresher: The company, started by Alex Klein, Yonatan Raz-Fridman and Saul Klein, makes kits that give kids (and adults) components to build their own computer. The kit is comprised of a single Raspberry Pi board, a wireless keyboard, a dongle, some cables and a memory card that comes with the Kano operating system.

The idea is that kids will take these components and construct their own computer that they attach to a monitor. Storybooks will guide them through the process, also teaching them how to code within the Kano OS. They’ll be able to make a wireless server, reprogram Minecraft to build custom worlds, create music and even just word-process. The main point being, of course, that they do all of this on a computer they built themselves.

“Over the past two decades, we’ve sealed up our devices, locked them away under sapphire screens with swipe and grab,” says Klein, one of the co-founders. “When you open up those bits and pieces, give them personality, and put them in front of a young person, you catalyze more than a coding kit—you spark creative confidence.” Kano speaks to a larger trend, one where hardware startups are replacing passive acceptance of technology with curiosity—and answers—for what the hell this stuff is really all about. Forging a connection between software and hardware, they say, will give children a deeper understanding of both.

You see this sentiment in other kits like littleBits and Technology Will Save Us, and it’s not uncommon to see DIY kits that build on top of Raspberry Pi, but there’s a certain glossiness to Kano that the others lack. This is thanks to MAP Project, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s design firm that helped give the kit its polished look. The kit reads as modern, but Kano’s main inspiration dates back to the 80s. “We wanted Kano to feel end-to-end, a bit like the Apple I, but for a far wider audience,” he says.

Few children have seen the guts of a computer, and for good reason. It’s pretty confusing once you get in there. The real beauty of something like Kano kit is that it simplifies and streamlines a process that otherwise tends to be reserved for people with college degrees. After just a few days of officially seeing Kano in the world, Klein can say with confidence that kids can and want to learn about this stuff. “Kids don’t need to be talked down or pandered to, especially not when it comes to technology,” he says. “If you use clear language, good stories, and genuine game mechanics, you tap into something universal.”

You can buy a Kano kit here for $150


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