Several months back, Amy Tiemann posted A kid's-eye view of laptop design on the CNET news blog. The post discussed a "mini-laptop club" at a local elementary school in which kids designed theoretical laptops using pieces of construction paper. The laptop designs employed unusual, kid-centric keyboard designs, including dedicated keys for "movie selection," "shop," "pet shop," "Hamster," and "HP [Harry Potter] trivia." Rosecrans Baldwin followed up recently with The Laptop Club, an interview with Tiemann including more images of the paper laptops (be sure to click the little 'next' button below the big purple image to see them). From Baldwin's article:
A lot of the children’s keyboards have buttons dedicated to different ways to shop, or to pop-culture icons. Where is this coming from?
I used to suspect that the idea of Tween Culture was an urban myth created by marketers, but now I believe that wherever it’s coming from, it is a real phenomenon. Eight years old appears to be a watershed year for many girls in which they begin to participate in pop culture and also crystallize their social structure. Knowing who your friends are, and either committing to a best friend or figuring out how to remain friends with everyone, are very important. That’s what fascinated me about their laptops. It was a way to demonstrate their knowledge of pop culture and social networks. Having your name on your friend’s keyboard is a little like being in someone’s Top 8 friends on MySpace. And yet these kids most likely don’t even know about MySpace yet.
Here's a sample "paper laptop":
This all reminds me of being eight years old and hearing about The Legend of Zelda on the school bus one day, then attempting to recreate the game from memory using the word processor on my home PC. (It was more successful as a pure thought experiment.) These "laptop" designs are clearly indicative of what kids think computers and the internet are useful for, more than realistic designs for laptops -- but there's a lot of surprising information in the button labels kids put on their paper laptop keyboards.
Read the rest and check out the laptop designs at the top.