impact as in "this could positively change the lives of a whole generation in the same way that the first home computers did". I really do think the project is that important
Nah, that's never going to happen. The computer is not novel anymore and it won't be again.
My first computer was a zx81, I once stood (probably around 10-11 years of age) in WHSmith amongst a huge crowd around a display showing the zx81 completely transfixed by it, watching 2 people plotting quadratic functions.
At the time the most exciting piece of technology I had was a digital watch (as noted by Douglas Adams in HHGTTG) and a calculator.
Technology wowed that audience easily, especially kids.
My knowledge of computers was from watching Blakes 7. So completely wrong.
I learned basic from the zx81 manual. Later got a spectrum (as a recent register article on the beeb's anniversary notes, our playground was divided between kids that could afford a beeb and those that made do with a spectrum)
I wrote a few programs to solve maths homework (like input a, b and c and work out ax^2 + bx + c = 0 using the (-b +/- sqrt(b^2 - 4ac)) / 2a formula)
Of course, I did that to try and make the page of homework easy, but I probably learnt more writing the program than if I had sat an done the homework "properly" (and realised the significance when 4ac > b^2 when the program crashed with some inputs)
I got a book on z80 machine code and learnt some but didn't get far.
See, as a youngster I can tell you having the computer wasn't that useful to finding out about the computer. I wanted to know how it worked - especially when, for example, a game or other piece of software could do something that you seemingly couldn't do in basic. You learnt, from magazines, that machine code gave access to some mysterious hidden internals, but you also learnt from these same magazines how people are willing to tell you it's too complicated for mortal man and to dismiss this knowledge as only available to geniuses of whom the knowledge must have been implanted at birth.
I didn't really want to sit and write noddy basic programs. I wanted to know more. The machine code book was teaching me how to add 2 numbers, but not about how the zx81 actually worked.
If your parents, teachers and, as far as I knew, the rest of the planet except Clive Sinclair knew nothing about computers how to find out?
The irony is, all the things as an 11 year old I wanted to know about the spectrum or the beeb or the zx81, but there was no one around to tell me, I can now find on the internet. In fact the same way I know far more about the way my PC works (including having the full source code to an OS for it) has become, retrospectively how I know had the internet been around when I had my spectrum, it probably would have changed my life.
I spent hours typing in machine code programs from magazines and even more hours fixing the typos when the game (it was always a game) crashed. But I learnt little about those programs from doing that because they were just rows and rows of numbers.
But, like most of the other kids, 99.999% of the time I played chuckie egg or elite or some other game. That was the draw.
Years later, I did get into programming, but I got lots more bigger and better computers and consoles to play games.
So our house has 2 gaming PCs, a 360, a PSP, a DS, a smart phone and obviously there's the internet and so on. Far, far more computing distraction than was around when this 11 year old was spellbound in WHSmith.
As Alan Cox suggests in another thread, my 12 year old can program his smartphone in java. Or any number of those other devices in whatever language he wants to use (it's possible to write games that run on the 360 for a bit of cash) so I don't see another device that can be programmed will interest any large group of people.
In fact, I think you'll be struggling to get the interest of the small %age of kids that may well end up working in programming.
Indeed, it seems most interesting to people who already know how to make use of this device and who need little introduction to it or the subject.
Ironically, some of them, they are already noting the biggest problem with modern computing is you get an API or blob to code to because no one wants to give away their "secrets". But the secrets are the only interesting thing this project would have to offer imo and it's ironic that one of the people on board is saying how it's too complicated for mere mortals to comprehend.
The same patronising guff this 11 year old learned from magazines, that only geniuses can understand how computers work, because it's 600 pages of stuff you see.
So, imo, our bright kid will be just as well writing opengl or directx on a gaming PC in whatever high level language he wants to, or to his smart phone or hacking on linux. Using the internet as a reference / source, which is where the real secret sauce in learning about computers lies - having access to source code, knowledge and details even if mom and pop and teachers seem clueless.
I'm sure a few schools will be interested, but, that's a waste of time, you won't learn anything about computing from school unless you happen to be extremely lucky and go to the handful of schools that might have some knowledgeable teacher (maybe someone on their second career, their first being in computing or electronics)
When I went to school, decades ago, the teachers knew nothing about computers. As kids we knew nothing about computers too, but we knew more than them. Perhaps understandably, but decades later, now my son is going to school the situation is pretty much the same.
My knowledge expanded year on year, but seemingly the computer revolution bypassed anyone that ends up teaching. It seems almost something they wear with a badge of pride.
My son's primary school teachers didn't know how to switch one on. Literally, as a 4 year old he was helping his teacher with the computer.
His middle school is better, but only just.
As for the zx81 et al, it was a toy. A kids fad. Like CB Radio and Skateboards. That's all.
Real computing, mainframes, the PC and so on was going on at the same time, just in a very expensive way, and no one had figured out what the point of having a computer in the home is (I'd still argue they haven't - afaict, computers are for playing games and little else)
I learnt when I was 11 and couldn't afford a beeb all about why I didn't really want a small, cheap computer then, let alone now. I really wanted the computer that could play the best games, that had the most memory and the fastest graphics card.
I didn't think 'well the nice thing about this is it's simple' - that's an adult thinking.
Look at it this way, Linus Torvalds had a 386 and wrote an OS as a teen, not the fully fledged OS linux is today, but he didn't need a simple cheap computer to do that, he needed the specs that told him about task switching on the 386, and the basic design of an OS (unix in his case)
Perhaps at that stage he was older than the target for this?
AIUI he had a few micro computers when he was a kid (VIC 20 rings a bell) I've no doubt that piqued his interest in computers, but I've also no doubt that had PCs been as cheap as they are today, he'd have had one of them from the get go.
Similarly, John Carmack didn't need a simple computer to write games, he had the specs for the VGA chip and figured out a way to sidescroll smoothly, and then started writing 2.5d and 3d renderers in software on the PC.
So, I doubt you will spellbound my 12 year old, even if I can persuade him to try his hand at programming on one. He's not anti-retro computing, he's happy to play some of the older games, but his jaw isn't going to drop with something that's less powerful than his phone.
Even if he's one of the people who may well go onto becoming a programmer. For the rest of the kids, the kids at my school who just had a computer to play games? They won't be interested at all. The smartphone and the internet is currently changing their lives. This device won't.