Toddler’s Cardboard Computer

My one-year old daughter looooooves buttons, and always wants in on the action when someone’s using a computer… so I transformed her new car seat box into the BABYTRON, inspired by the Burroughs B205.

It features a keyboard, arcade buttons, and a strip of LEDs from Blinkinlabs.

The LEDs have a built-in controller, so no wiring was required beyond USB power. In fact, the whole computer was assembled only using glue, tape, scissors, and string. The buttons don’t control anything — but they do make a satisfying “click” when pressed.

There are several ways to talk to the Blinkinlabs LEDs. I’m familiar with Adafruit’s NeoPixel library, so I told the Arduino IDE that it was a Leonardo, assigned data to pin 13, and uploaded my sketch. Code here.

I kept the brightness of each LED below 20 out of 255, because they’ll hurt your eyes if fully on. It’s also running off a portable USB battery pack, so I wanted to keep the power draw fairly low.

I did consider adding a tape drive, using a paper plate behind a round plastic cover from a food delivery container, powered by a LittleBits motor. Next time.

It turns out that this is ideal for someone who’s able to stand up while holding onto something, but can’t walk on their own. My daughter’s younger friends love it. But she’s now savvy to the buttons not doing anything, and is most interested in the power button — the one that mom and dad push. Time to build something else and recycle the BABYTRON.