Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

FLY Pentop Computer

FLY Pentop Computer

Spring 2006 Toys
Ages: 8 - 13 yrs.
Manufacturer: LeapFrog Enterprises
Price: $99.99
“How does it do that?” To a person, that was the first, and in many cases, the continued refrain, as the power of the FLY was unleashed.

Young testers were undaunted in their pursuit of ways to use and explore the technology. Computer savvy gadget-able parents and grandparents patiently waited for their turns. Kids adapted easily—almost seamlessly; adults needed just a bit of a learning curve.

The FLY, a pentop computer that resembles a large rechargeable toothbrush, houses a miniature camera in the tip of the pen that records and transmits images from specially coded FLY paper to the imbedded computer. When the images are recognized, the pen instantly responds to written commands as the voice verbalizes a letter, a number or a musical note—without missing a beat. Full words and complex calculations are a few FLY swats away. The pen describes how to access the menu of functions: draw an M with a circle around it, and tap through the menu offerings. Draw a C and put a circle around it for a calculator, an S gives you a scheduler, and so on. The pen is programmed to recognize notes and rhythm; draw a keyboard or a set of drums to play and record music. But for the FLY to connect the dots and recognize these images, good penmanship is key. Careless writing confuses the pen, which parents pointed out is good practice for writing thank you notes. Testers reported that a fully charged FLY lasted almost twelve hours. And, with headphones included, kids will fly through historically bumpy road trips.

Claire Green   ©2006 Parents' Choice
Claire is president of Parents' Choice Foundation and cofounder of Sandbox Summit®. She looks for toys and media that will unleash children's interests, and celebrate the fun of learning.

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