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Learning to Program with the Cybiko Handheld Computer Using B2C

Chapter 1 : Introducing the Cybiko

Teen Computer

Donald Wisniewski and David Yang created the Cybiko as a portable computer for tweens (ages 10-12) and teens (ages 13-17). It was designed to fill a niche left between the Palm Pilot and Nintendo Game boy.

Look & Feel

The original Cybiko looks like a walkie talkie encased in a transparent shell from one of five colors (black, clear, yellow, blue, and purple – and a promotional red). It has an array of white buttons comprising a QWERTY-style keyboard, a joystick pad, and some function keys. The original, older model (released in April 2000) had a power slide switch on the side, which was later replaced by an "Esc" key.

The new Cybiko Xtreme (CyX2)  is very different from the original Cybiko.  Released in September of 2001, the CyX2 body has a trim feel to it compared to the Cybiko. It is roughly the same size as the original Cybiko. It's molded as all one unit and shaped like a figure 8 (curved edges, wide at the top, narrow waist, and wide near the bottom). In this way it resembles the m100 model of the Palm Pilot. And like the m100 series, there are skins that cover the silverized CyX2 body. There are also separate panels for the areas around the keyboard, arrow keys, and the Enter pad. Red, green, blue, and zebra colors are available. You can even mix and match colors for a unique color scheme.

The CyX2 keyboard has larger keys and they are of a solid black rubbarized material. The arrow keys resemble the Game Boy keys and are separate from the ESC key. In a brilliant and very welcome move, there is an ON/OFF key situated in the center of the keyboard. One drawback to the new, larger keyboard is that Cybiko removed the top row of number keys (1-9). To type numbers into the unit you must use the FN key to 'shift'. The F1-F7 keys still exist at the top of the unit.

The CyX2 antenna is no longer the 6" long rod rising from the back of the unit. Instead, a slim side-antenna (again resembling the Palm Pilot VII antenna). CyX2 sports a mini USB port at the bottom of the case. This USB port will be used to download games. It also doubles as the battery charger connection. A supplied cable connects the USB port to a power adapter.  The display is the same as on the Cybiko. 160x100 pixels, 4-color greyscale.  A slot for additional devices is now at the top of the unit.

 

Donald Wisniewski & Cybiko Inc.

The creators of the Cybiko – Donald Wisniewski (President of Cybiko, Inc.) and David Yang started the company in early 1999. They recognized a need in the teen marketplace for a handheld wireless entertainment device that teens could call their own.

Wisniewski (born in 1960) is a former executive of V-Tech (another high-tech firm in the business of creating devices for young people). He holds a BS in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. "We want to create a social environment where teens can chat and interact," he said in a recent interview, "We see a huge opportunity with 12- to 16-year olds."

The Cybiko was released in April of 2000 with a price tag of $170. At that time, New York-based Cybiko had 85 engineers who had created the device. As of January 2001 Cybiko had a staff of around 170 Russian-based software developers and retailed for about $99. They had successfully delivered a new application daily from about January 2000 to July 2001. The product was first introduced at a number of toy and electronics retailers like FAO Schwarz, Virgin Records, CompUSA, Babbage's, and Software Etc. Now, it is available at over 9000 locations across the USA and online at www.cybiko.com.  Cybiko is privately held and owns all of the intellectual property.

The CyX2 was released in September 2001.  The game-a-day policy has changed to a trickle of just one game per week.

 

Teens and Cybiko

There are 30 million teens in the United States, 65 percent of whom have a computer in the home. 45 percent have Internet access and none of them had a mobile wireless product. That is a market of 13.5 million people. The Cybiko is aimed at Nine to 20-year-olds. They felt interconnectivity and communication was a key feature left out of other devices for teens. "We wanted to create a social environment where teens can chat and interact," said Wisniewski.

And they wanted to create a device that was more than a game machine – so they included single and multiplayer wireless games, support applications like the planner, email, Friend Finder, and a way to chat with anyone in the network. "I've seen users as young as five and old as 55," Wisniewski said in a recent interview.

 

Technical Details

*(Note: See the glossary for a description of new terms)

The operating system for the Cybiko is called CyOS.  It is now (Sept/2001) up to version 1.3.57. The original Cybiko (v1.2) advertised a mere 256KB of RAM. Currently the memory is divided into 2 segments : 512KB of RAM and 512KB or Flash RAM – for a grand total of 1MB. Most of the memory is used up by the Cybiko Operating System (CyOS). Only about 300KB is available for the user. The memory is supposed to be upgradeable to 16MB, but this number is different depending on the published source. (There is a 1MB expansion module but the Cybiko can take advantage of the MP3's memory which can be as large as 64MB).

The CyX2 boasts 1MB of RAM and 1MB or Flash RAM.  With an additional 500KB of ROM, the CyX2 weighs int at 2.5MB of memory.

The Cybiko's display is 160 x 100 pixels of monochrome LCD (actually, its 4-color gray scale). Its Microprocessor is a 32-bit 11-MHz processor manufactured by Hitachi (this is roughly equivalent in capability to an Intel 386 chip – the heart of the original IBM PC) The CyX2 has a 22-MHz processor.

The Cybiko broadcasts on 30 digital channels over frequencies between 902 and 928 MHz with a range of up to 300 feet. There has been a lot of talk on the Internet about improving the range with home-brew antennae and so on, but for all practical purposes 300 feet is as far as the Cybiko can broadcast.  Wireless eMail is possible with the CyWIG software on the PC. Users can send files (including music, games and applications) between two Cybikos. While Cybiko users can chat and game with other Cybikos within a range of 300 ft.  They can also transmit through each other to extend the range, similar to a re-transmitter.

The original Cybiko has a small keyboard allows for data entry. The keys are arranged in the traditional QWERTY layout, but are smaller than those used on the popular RIM pager devices. A stylus is provided to allow easier typing. There is a small joystick pad with up, down, left, and right keys. Seven pre-programmed function keys line the top of the unit. And the help, enter, select, tab, and del keys are along the right side. In fact, you will mostly use the arrow keys and the enter key.

The CyX2 keyboard has black letters that are larger than its predecessor.

The expansion slot is located at the base of the Cybiko. It is able to take an optional MP3 player. Also, a memory card with 1MB of memory is available.   The CyX2 expansion slot is at the top of the unit.

Two rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries that last for 8-10 hours of regular use supply power. The unit can vibrate whenever a similar machine is in range.

An RS232 cable connects it to a PC, which allows users to download new games and applications from the Internet. It is also possible to write programs that access the RS232 port.

The CyX2 uses a USB port to communicate with the outside world.

See also:


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