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Firsts: Ben and I built our first computer together.

It all began with an unexpected trip to the “Make” store in SF during our holiday trip with the family. If you’re unfamiliar with the “Make” franchise, it’s a cool company that curates and promotes DIY kits and projects of all sorts, ranging from 3D printing to woodworking. A quick look at the website is all it really takes to paint the picture. Today, for instance, the top 3 projects are: “Hack a Teddy Ruxpin to say everything you type or tweet”, “Build your kid a drivable electric tank” and “How to: Turn any photo into a quilt pattern”.

3 top projects on the Makezine site today

So, when we were all walking to dinner on Saturday and we happened to pass by a Make pop-up store, I was very pleasantly surprised. Then and there, I quickly pointed out the store to Ben and told him we had to go back the next day. I didn’t know exactly what we’d find, but I knew it would be cool.

Sure enough, after breakfast, Ben reminded me and we headed off to the shop together. Walking inside the store with my boy, my instinct was confirmed. Our visit to the shop was easily the coolest thing that we did all weekend, which up to that point had included some pretty terrific activities: braving SF during Santa Con, Ice Skating in Union Square, and a couple of quality happy hours with the fam.

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As we passed through the entry, we were captivated by a live demo of a 3D printing pen and then greeted by shelves loaded with drones, robot assembly kits, lock picking tools and more. As it happened, I had a bit of birthday cash burning a hole in my pocket so we cruised every shelf with intent. Finally, when we saw a raspberry pi kit, we knew we’d found a winner.

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The Raspberry Pi is a roughly-wallet sized, computer that can be used for just about anything. A quick google search reveals it to be the brains behind the most outrageous christmas light displays each December, as well as the nucleus of several classic arcade machines and netflix-style streaming media boxes. Still, at it’s core, it is essentially a little unix box with tools to learn python, skratch and more. This is what I was interested in. Having a couple of extra displays, keyboards and mice around the house, I saw the potential for us to introduce ben to the world of computing in a fun, old school kind of way.

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The entire way back from SF Ben kept talking about how excited to was to build “the mini computer” with me. So, when we got home, that was the first thing that we did. The kit was elegantly simple to work with. There is wifi dongle to plug in, a case to assemble and place the board in, and a few other peripherals to add to the mix.

Finally, with our build complete, we flipped the switch on the power strip and watched the screen come to life. I assure you, you’ve never seen a kid so excited to watch a boot screen. That will always be one of my favorite memories.


Raspberry Pi – Boot! from Lindsay hardy on Vimeo.

Since that first boot, we’ve fired up “the mini computer” many times and you can see the interest growing. I look forward to many firsts with both boys in the future, but this is certainly one to be savored.

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