I grew up using an Apple IIe computer and I liked several things about it:

  • It had no Internet access
  • It had cool creative apps like Print Shop that I used to make stories and pamphlets
  • It had Turtle LOGO which I noodled around with for hours at a time
  • It had BASIC which I learned to program with
  • It had cool educational games like Oregon Trail and Number Munchers

I'd like to construct a similar computer for my 4-year-old son. Minimally, I'd like:

  • A locked-down UI that only permits him to use the applications I've set up
  • A word processor that can print booklets for him to write his stories
  • A vastly simplified UI, such as no formatting options on the word processor
  • Modern graphics (colors, resolution, etc.)

The nice-to-haves are:

  • A Turtle LOGO application
  • A real-time programming language interpreter
  • DOSBox games

Are there any products or projects like this, or groups of products or projects that I can stitch together? It seems like it would be a common thing to seek -- an airgapped kid's computer with enriching capabilities -- but my search to date has been unfruitful.

I would be willing to pay $20 per month for something like this.

  • $\begingroup$ Did you mean interactive programming interpreter? (2nd to last bullet point) $\endgroup$ Jul 30 '21 at 10:09

What about something like an ipad in airplane mode? You can use downloadable scratch, some drawing programs, and otherwise set up the device however you'd like.

You would have to connect to USB or wifi to print, of course, but I imagine that, after putting a bit of time and effort into the setup, you will be able to get much of what you want in a device that your kid will find very appealing.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting idea. The touch UI might be much more intuitive for a kid. I'm cautious to introduce the iPad since I see so many kids zoned out of life on their iPads but I think this would be substantively different since only creative tools would be available. $\endgroup$
    – Akdinv
    Jul 25 '21 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think this would satisfy the stand-alone and keep-the-child-safe criteria. However I don't think it will give the freedom needed to allow progression. $\endgroup$ Jul 30 '21 at 10:08

How about porteusKiosk https://porteus-kiosk.org/

I think you can install the OS on first boot, where you have to set up everything the user should be able to use (and wifi passwords, etc) because it snapshots this image when firstly 'shutting down' and reloads it every boot to have a clean and 'self repairing' system.

I don't have any first-hand experience, but i let someone explain it to me who used it on our school.

Storing data would at best, (hopefully) work if thumb-drives are beeing used - since the system is self-resetting.

Hope this helps!

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to CSEd! Nice first post. I hope we hear more from you. ☺️ $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Jul 25 '21 at 0:20

Many of those goals are shared with:

  • The Raspberry Pi project.
  • One laptop per child project.
  • The Linux terminal project.
  • Gnu/Linux
  • Various educational tools in (for example Debian or Ubuntu).

These all use Gnu/Linux. Some provide a standalone Operating system, however all provide components that can be used in any Gnu/Linux (So you can use components of all of these together.

The Raspberry Pi project is about trying to get back the control we had in the 1980s: self-contained, free to program it our-self, …

The One laptop per child project is about being child friendly. It has a very nice kiosk-like UI and many child friendly activities.

The Linux terminal project is probably better if you have multiple devices.

A recommendation:

  • Install Gnu/Linux (an operating system)
  • On it install One Laptop per child (sugar: named after the drug of choice for our children). On debian type sudo apt install sucrose lightdm into the terminal of a user that has privileges.
  • Set up an account to start in this mode.

Later as the child get older, add other software.

I would also set up the fire-wall to block the child-user from accessing the internet (later this could be configured in a more subtle way, e.g. access through a filtering proxy). This will then allow the device to be connected to the network, so allowing updates, and you to do remote admin. (I would also block all incoming connections, except those that you need)

I just did a quick search on one laptop per child. It may have poor maintenance (however it may not matter, it may still work fine). However there is much educational software available in Debian (a Gnu/Linux).

Some other packages that may do what you want include: junior-education, education-tasks, education-preschool, education-primaryschool, …. These are meta packages. If you install them, then it will cause many educational programs to be installed. This will be surprisingly quick and use surprisingly little disk space (considering the amount of software installed).

Sorry I can not be of more help. I have not been considering software for this age group for some years (15 or so).


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