Absolute Beginners -- Part 1: The Unraveling

One of our blog’s regular contributors, Brit copywriter, Dave Barton, is a man on a mission: to make sure his kids don’t end up as technically inept as him. So we sent him a Makey Makey to see if he could a) make it work and b) show his kids how to make it work without breaking anything. So far, so good...

26 September 2015. The living room of a 3-bed semi detached house, in Gloucestershire, UK. It’s Noah’s sixth birthday. Unbeknown to him, he’s about to unleash the power of Makey Makey…

Noah:
Wow! What is it?

Dave:
It’s a Makey Makey.

Noah:
What’s a Makey Makey?

Dave:
It’s a kind of toy that you plug into the computer, and then plug into an object, so that you can control the computer with the object. You can play computer games with it.

Noah:
What’s an ‘object’?

Dave:
It’s a ‘thing’.

Noah:
What kind of thing?

Dave:
Anything.

Noah:
It makes anything into a computer?

Dave:
Ummm...not really. Well, yes… kind of. It goes into your computer and lets you do different things. So instead of pressing buttons, you can plug the Makey Makey into an orange and use that to make stuff happen on the computer screen.

Noah:
Why would you use an orange to control a computer?

Dave:
Cos it’s fun!

Noah:
Can we do it now?

Dave:
Not really. It’s 7 am and you have to go to school today. This weekend though, yeah?

5 weeks later… Same location. Noah and his little sister Matilda (4) are poised to use Noah’s Makey Makey for the first time. Dave’s battered Chromebook is ready and waiting.

Matilda:
Is it ready yet?

Noah:
No Tilda, we need some fruit!

Matilda:
Can’t we have chocolate instead? I’ve been good all day…

Dave:
Guys! We’re having dinner soon -- the fruit is for the Makey Makey...

Matilda:
How do we put the fruit in the computer?

Dave:
We have to attach it using special wires. I think.

Noah:
There’s some stickers in the box it came in.

Dave:
You can have those later…

Noah:
Yeah ‘cos it’s mine.

Matilda:
You have to share them with me!

Dave:
Right -- Matilda, can you get me two oranges please? And Noah, an apple and a banana please.

Dave loads up the Makey Makey website, furiously searching for that piano-input thing he found yesterday.

Matilda:
Here’s some oranges!

Noah:
No apples left. But I found a kiwi fruit.

Dave:
That’s fine. Good work team. Now I just need to figure this out...USB goes here… and then…

Five minutes later. Dave has found the Makey Makey How To page and managed to hook up the alligator clips to the console and the various pieces of fruit.

Noah:
We’re playing drums with a banana! Oh it’s stopped working...

Dave:
You need to keep your thumb on this (the neutral) clip… see?

Matilda:
Can we eat the fruit afterwards?

Dave:
‘Course we can… you want a turn now, Matilda?

Matilda:
Do I have to play the drums?

Dave:
No -- try the piano game instead.

Noah:
Tilda, keep your thumb on this clip or it won’t work…

Matilda:
Ha! It’s so weird.

Dave:
But it’s good, yeah??

Can Dave evolve this admittedly limited repertoire? What other materials will the kids want to try out? Will the fruit get eaten? Find out next time...