If you have a pre-teen interested in coding, $300 in loose cash and $10/month to spend on a subscription service, the new ‘Hack’ computer might be what you’re looking for.
Most learn-to-code devices are geared toward a younger crowd, often disguised as toys. The Hack Laptop is simply an ASUS computer. It has a 1920×1080 HD display, 64GB storage, 4GB RAM, and an Intel N5000 processor. It runs Endless OS, which is a version of Linux, and that’s where the real magic begins.
Instead of some learn-as-you-go app, the Hack Laptop is itself a teaching tool. With that $10/month subscription, students get new challenges that entice them to hack the device itself. The challenges invite them to pick apart code, and a feature dubbed ‘flip to hack’ reverts to the user interface so students can see their user-facing changes in real-time.
If we’re likening the Hack Laptop and Endless OS to anything, it’s Swift Playgrounds. On both platforms, students can see their code working immediately, and a series of characters guide them through lessons.
As we’ve pointed out before, there’s a large Delta between an iPad app that teaches coding and a desktop IDE. The change in platform alone is a potentially daunting prospect for many novice coders, and the shift from tapping demos on a screen (as in Swift Playgrounds) to typing actual code (as in coding for a living) is immense. Hack Laptop at least eases those learning to code through that transition.
Endless OS is forked from Gnome 3.8, and offers a more limited environment than a traditional Linux desktop. This positions it well for students who will undoubtedly make errors; instead of system-breaking changes, Endless OS maintains the usability of the desktop even when mistakes are made. This is where ‘flip to hack’ comes in handy; it sandboxes all the hacking.
While aimed at pre-teens, Hack Laptop may be great for anyone learning to code who is ready for a proper desktop environment. And if you’re strapped for cash, it comes with some basic (but useful) apps preloaded, such as Spotify and YouTube. Because it’s an ASUS computer, there’s nothing screaming ‘look at me, I’m learning to code!’ with it, either.
You can live your “Mr. Robot” fantasy at your neighborhood coffee shop, except you’ll just be hacking yourself rather than the guy who owns the shop itself.