Kidtech My First Keyboard from 1994: It’s Peanut Butter-Proof!

Kidtech My First Keyboard from 1994: It’s Peanut Butter-Proof!

Articles, Blog , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 100 Comments

Greetings and welcome to an LGR thing! And today’s thing is My First Keyboard. Well, not *my* first keyboard, that was one of these
mushy things that came with my Packard Bell 486. No, I mean we’re looking at *the* My
First Keyboard, which sold for $99 when Kidtech first starting manufacturing it in 1994. Now,
colorful input devices and children’s A-to-Z keyboards are something we’ve had on LGR
before, but the My First Keyboard is the first keyboard I’ve covered that claims to be
not only spill proof, but “peanut butter proof.” Hehe, a rather precise claim we
will be putting to the test. It also boasts what they called “one push, one response”
input technology, based on their patented key switch matrix. So you can keep a regular
keyboard plugged in with full functionality, but the Kidtech board stays restricted. The
idea is that it detects multiple simultaneous key presses and temporarily blocks further
input if a kid starts away banging on the thing. It even delays keyboard activation
for a while on booting, allowing your computer to completely start up before recognizing
keystrokes from the My First Keyboard. Clearly, this was designed with a very specific mission
in mind, and it’s no surprise that it was inspired by a very specific event. And that
event was a catastrophic computer crash caused by a little boy named Troy, who was then the
18-month-old son of Victor and Kendall Maynard. After a good 12 hours was lost recovering
data on the machine, he and his wife went out looking for a keyboard made for kids.
But after coming up empty and figuring their must be other parents in a similar situation,
work began on making their own keyboard that would allow a 1½ to 5 year old play on a
computer without damaging it. While Victor was an aerospace engineer, he knew very little
about computer hardware, stating that, We had to learn as you go. When we started, we
actually took a standard keyboard apart just to see what was in it. That’s how ignorant
we were. They ended up building twenty prototypes over the next few years before finalizing
the product and founding the company Kidtech to sell the My First Keyboard. But as a rather
niche device with pretty much zero advertising budget, it only sold 1,600 units in its first
year on the market. According to the Maynards, mothers were the primary purchaser of these
types of kids products, and they weren’t likely to hit up the big box computer stores
they were being sold in. Plus, asking a hundred bucks for what looked like a toddler’s toy
was a bit much for most. It looks like to move in this category, the prices are going
to have to be more at the level of a toy, Mr. Maynard revealed in 1996. So they dropped
the price to $49, spread the word to journalists and show hosts in the media, and relied on
word of mouth to do its job. Eventually the keyboard caught a wave of popularity through
the mid-90s, appearing on shows like Good Morning America and Live! with Regis and Kathie
Lee, on national radio with Paul Harvey, and in print with Good Housekeeping magazine and
the Associated Press National newswire. And of course, they took advantage of the fledgling
internet, where amusingly enough the Kidtech website is still online. There’s even an
option to order brand new units, though I haven’t tested that out. I did manage to
find this new-old-stock example a while back, one of the retail versions sold by RF-Link
in late 1994. And dang, that kid has one meticulously formed hairdo goin’ on, impressive.
[springy sound effects] Enough with the preamble and bouncy hair, let’s get this keyboard unboxed
and set up! First thing we come across is the My First Keyboard itself, which you’ll
note doesn’t even come with a cable installed. That’ll be plugged in around back, right
beside the full-sized keyboard passthrough and a switch labeled “kid” and “adult”
for choosing which board you want activated. The keyboard itself is a tad heavier than
I thought it’d be, at 1 pound 7 ounces or 650 grams, more than some full-sized membrane
keyboards I’ve used. And the keys themselves, well, they’re flat, squishy, and unresponsive
by design. Feels like an Atari 400 or a Magnavox Odyssey 2, just with larger key blisters.
Then underneath the main packaging is a selection of goodies, starting with the keyboard cable
which is of the 5-pin AT variety. It also has dual PS/2 adapters, so that’s nice.
Next is the “Fun Preschool Software” packet, containing two 3.5” high density diskettes
labelled Toy Chest 2.0, as well as a small instruction pamphlet covering the basics of
the two games: Pictures ABC and Action 123. Next is a yellow half sheet of paper letting
you know how important it is to unbox the entire box before complaining to RF-Link.
And lastly there’s the full manual, wrapped in plastic that appears to have been fingered
open at some point in the past. The manual is brief but helpful, with a sheet letting
you know what they got wrong, and five pages of information on setting up and using the
My First Keyboard. All right, it’s finally time to try this thing out. Just gotta plug
the male end of the cable into the back and yep, we are ready to go! Okay, so we’ve got
the My First Keyboard plugged into the Lazy Green Giant Windows 98 PC down there and it’s
ready to go. Well, almost. One more thing we got to plug in here is the lovely IBM model
M keyboard that I normally use, but, well the poor thing’s been relegated to just being
a pass through adult keyboard. Plugs in the back here. Make sure it’s switched into kid
mode because we’re not going to be using this right now, but if we need to it’s there because
of course this is missing a whole lot of keys. There’s no control, alt, shift, delete or
any of those. Anyway, yeah, let’s just turn it on and see what happens. Because one of
the first things that I wanted to test is one of the first things that happens with
it and that is nothing. It’s not supposed to recognize any key strokes on boot up. Well,
there’s no delete here so I can’t actually try that, but once we get to the booting of
windows, you can press F8 and that’ll bring up a boot menu and other functional things
maybe on boot up. It’s not supposed to recognize any of those. I’m just pressing stuff like
a like a crazy kid. Nothing seems to be happening at the moment. Yeah, it did not recognize
anything. So now it’s actually started to accept keystrokes. So it just basically just
times out the keyboard while the computer is booting up so a kid can’t mess things up
as the computer is starting. So that’s cool. And yeah, you can hear these little audible
clicks. There’s a little speaker inside there almost like a terminal keyboard back in the
day. Well before we pile this thing up with peanut butter, let’s go ahead and test some
normal stuff out. OK, sorry Windows. So it has a couple of programs that it came with.
That Toy Chest, Pictures ABC, and Action 123 here, but let’s just go ahead and open up
Notepad and type a little bit. Hello… there. It’s an alphabetical keyboard of course, A
to Z, so it’s a little weird. According to the Maynards who made this keyboard, the reason
that they went with this alphabetical layout is because they figured that kids aren’t going
to be learning actual touch typing with a traditional keyboard layout until after the
age range of this keyboard. So this was meant for up to five year olds and they figured
touch typing is probably not going to happen until you’re seven or eight. Anyway, whatever
the case may be, there were a lot of these educational keyboards that went with this
kind of layout. There’s something oddly satisfying about this. I don’t really know. Actually,
these switches aren’t the worst. I’ve used crappier. So yeah, you do have the function
keys on here, which potentially brings up some shenanigans that a kid could get into.
It only goes up to F10. F11 and 12 aren’t on here. And as mentioned before, control,
alt, shift, delete and a bunch of other things are not on here either. So there’s only so
much a kid could really screw up mashing with this thing. But let’s just go ahead and try
one of the programs it came with. Oh Wow. This is a very simple one. What even is…
Pictures ABC, what are we supposed to be doing here? [MIDI music plays] [Program voice] “A, Alligator.”
Oh, what the crap? “B, bear. C, cat. Y, yak. P, pig.” “X, xiphias.” What? Xiphias? Is that all
they could come up with? Wow, okay. I guess this is animals, so.
“X, xylophone.” There’s xylophone. What’d they come up with for this? “X, X-ray technician”
X-ray technician. Well, you know. “X, Christmas dinner.” Hm. That’s a little confusing. Xmas dinner. “Y, yam. Z, zucchini.” Enough of that. Let’s try Action 123. Do we get any more music? Oh there it is. [Itsy Bitsy Spider MIDI plays] “How many? Rabbits?” [goofy laughter] Uh. “Good job.” “How many swans?”
I don’t know man, two. “The correct answer is eight.” Alright okay, I think we get the idea. This sucks. Oh come on. Let me out of here! Well, that was the Fun Preschool
Software. Let’s try some Duke Nukem 3D. Also fun preschool software from 1996, the first person shooter. And I have already preconfigured this to work with the My First Keyboard, not
that it really needed much configuration. It just needed a little bit of remapping to
work with this unconventional keyboard layout. So what I’m going to do here is instead of
having it mapped to WASD as I did before this, I’ve just got it mapped to the mouse for aiming
and then the movement is over here on B-N-O-P, BNOP. So the BNOP layout is going to allow
me to play it pretty much as normal. Space still jumps and otherwise… It’s a little
sticky and I haven’t even poured any peanut butter on this yet. But yeah, totally playable,
a little clunky, but with a little practice I could get pretty good at using this My First
Keyboard to play first person shooter. Not bad at all. Something else that was immediately
wondering about is platformers, especially since the arrow keys are kind of laid out
in a bizarre kind of way down here. I mean, it’s not the weirdest. I’d actually seen some
laptops and older computer keyboards that have kind of a layout like this, but yeah,
“It’s still a little strange, especially since there’s no control and alt. So I’ve mapped
the keys over here to N, O, and P. Nope, I didn’t. I mapped them to N, O, and space.
That’s right. I mean, this is not the worst membrane of every used. It’s responsive enough
to play games, that’s for sure. I mean, it’s keyboard that is not made for any of this,
but it is completely capable of doing so. So it’s totally stands up as a usable keyboard,
oddly enough. More so than I anticipated just looking at it. But really this is a pretty
quality membrane and it’s nice and solid and feels all right. So yeah, about the only other
thing to check is it performs under pressure. Ah, fresh peanut butter. [sniifs] Mm. So. I mean, let’s just go for it. We’ve got some spreadable goodness, let’s get whole bunch it and just… [THOCK] Ohhh, this feels wrong. Oh no, this is a bad idea. This is a bad idea.
[chuckling] Okay well, let’s
just make sure it gets all across all the keys cuz I mean, peanut butter proof means peanut butter proof. It said it in the marketing, it said it in the testimonials on their website. Unfortunately, now I have to touch it. Well, this is disgusting. My word. You know what?
I’m going to go ahead and unplug the Model M before we… You know what? Actually you
can see the passthrough works. Okay. That’s fine. That’s all we needed to test. Let’s
just get rid of that. Just in case. I don’t know man. I don’t want this thing near peanut
butter. Okay, typing tests. Let’s see if I can type my name. Oh where’s the N? Right.
So it actually works perfectly fine. I mean, as it should really. Let’s get that outta
there. Because there are no areas for anything like peanut butter to get through. But I mean
I can’t just stop there. What about chocolate syrup? I mean it said it resists super sticky
kids fingers. So you know, let’s get some of that in there too. Now that definitely
makes it a little gooier, but once again, no problems at all, at least so far. Because
they also claim that it protects against liquid spills, you know, spilled milk. I’ll take
a bit of precaution here. Do not try this at home. I’m at home, what am I doing? So
for example, oh whoops, ‘I just spilled some milk all over the keyboard, mom. What now?’ ‘Don’t worry about it, darling. Just keep on using the keyboard!’ [chuckles] Cuz nothing is getting through this thing whatsoever. Yeah. My First Keyboard. This
thing’s a boss. Right. So can you play Duke 3D on a keyboard with peanut butter, chocolate
syrup and milk? [squishy key pressing] Hehehe. All right, where are the keys? Oh crap. I need to clean off my finger here for the mouse. So! Oh, this is so wrong. Oh, it feels disgusting. But in a kind of liberating
way, it’s like I’m sticking my fingers into a desert and just playing games that way.
[laughs] Just forget the RPG, I’m just going to go this way. Yep. Alright. Beating the
first level of Duke 3D… with a milky, peanut buttery, chocolate syrup keyboard from your nightmares. [laughs] Get all that crap off the main keys there. There we go. Y’know using a white towel was perhaps the wrong choice now that I think about it. [peanut buttery gameplay] Aw forget it. I’m just getting
out of here. Oh, thank goodness it’s over. Oh, I’m never doing that again. Well that’s
about it for this video. Oh my word. I guess you could just kind of wash this thing off
or something? Let’s just go ahead and [chuckles]
[running water and washing sounds] This is so messed up!
[water rushing] Ah crap I just noticed I didn’t have the camera recording while I was washing
it off. But as you can see there it just all cleaned off quite nicely. You got a little
bit of water in there so we’ll let that dry off before powering it on again. But uh here
we go. About as good as new or you know, something close to that. So I was taking it apart just
to make sure everything was dry inside. Yeah, I figured I’d take a look inside anyway because
why not? Yeah, there is, as expected, not a whole lot going on here. Really just got
this control board which does all of the things and the ribbon cable going to the membrane
right here, which is seriously just a flat thing that is glued in place, and I would
remove that if possible, but I mean it seriously is just… There’s no way to take it off without
ruining the entire keyboard far as I can tell, but yeah, there’s the bottom side of that,
which if we take this off… Yeah, that’s all you get. So you can see the little tiny
speaker there in the top right. The Kid Tech Integrated Circuit Board, which takes care
of all the things like timing out the keys at certain moments and controlling stuff.
And other than that, it’s just the membrane keyboard that’s really well glued together.
Alright. PC turned on. Everything all put back together and cleaned up. There it is.
Had me worried for a second. That key time out. Yep. Seems to be just fine. And where
you’re going to try out 4×4 Evo. 4×4 Evolution. Haven’t played this in a well a couple of
hours. I was playing it earlier today and I thought I’d play it on here because… I
don’t know why not. It’s a fun game. Used to enjoy this back in the day. Still do. It’s
one of those I hope to cover at some point, but yeah, pretty much just have the arrow
keys to steer and all that kind of stuff. You know, that little beeping of the little
speaker inside every time you press stuff still just amuses me on any kind of keyboard
whatsoever that I’m using. Especially in this one though, since it’s like a membrane keyboard,
it reminds me of this really horrible point of sale system that I used to use at one of
my jobs. Somehow that membrane was even worse than this. It’s just really… It was really
squishy but it beeped in the same way like a lot of terminal keyboards do. I think I
mentioned terminals earlier in the video. I like terminals. Let’s just go this way.
Oh, that didn’t work at all. Well anyway. Alright, escape key. Yeah, that’s pretty much
it, for real this time. There’s the My First Keyboard, it’s just a keyboard, but at the
same time it’s kind of interesting because I say so. And you know, it’s got the whole
aesthetic of children going on. I don’t know what that means. I don’t even know what I’m
saying anymore. I hope you enjoyed this video. If you did, then awesome. I’ve done some other
kids kind of devices before and Oddware and such. This was kind of Oddware, kind of not.
I didn’t put it under Oddware, obviously, but yeah, if you like this you’d probably
like my Oddware show. Anyway, new videos here every week on LGR. So watch them if you want to. And as always, thank you very much for watching what you just did!

100 thoughts on “Kidtech My First Keyboard from 1994: It’s Peanut Butter-Proof!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *