Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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Despite the best efforts of companies such as Apple, Samsung, HTC and others, the smartphone hasn't really seen any new killer-features in a while.
Although Apple did introduce fingerprint authentication and everyone is working hard to bring us bigger and brighter displays, the fundamentals of smartphone design have become evolutionary rather than revolutionary of late.
But now, wouldn't you know it, the Russians have come out of the blue with a very smart idea that might just cause the others to sit up and pay attention.
When I think back over all the birthdays and Christmases I've enjoyed, the most memorable gifts were "learning toys".The Philips EE8 "Electronics Engineer" kit I've written about before. The 100x to 300x microscope I got for my 10th birthday. The chemistry set I got for my 9th birthday and the Meccano set I got when I was about seven or so -- these were all wonderful gifts that held my attention for far longer than the usual fare of toy cars, balls, cap guns and other playthings.
It was these toys that helped cultivate a life-long interest in technology and the sciences and gave me the burning desire to learn more about the world in which I live.
But can you still buy such wonderful, inspiring items today?
Have these learning toys been all but totally replaced by the Playstation, XBox and other "pure entertainment" devices?
Perhaps chemistry sets are considered by the fun police to be simply far too dangerous for any child to have or use. Goodness knows the test-tubes containing potassium nitrate, flowers of suphur and iron filings in my set were the first to be consumed in a pyrotechnic display that was a sight to behold. Today, I suspect any kid who mixed up the same concoction would be labeled a terrorist.
Has the Arduino replaced the humble "all in one" electronics kitset? Has hacking with resistors, capacitors and transistors been replaced by cutting software for store-bought boards and shields?
Is Lego Mindworks really a 21st century equivalent of the good old Meccano set?
If you were going to try and find a great learning toy for a kid this Christmas, what would it be and where would you buy it?
Sorry, the headlines haven't been updated today
(sorry Forums are stuffed at the moment)
Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.