Grape County Limited was born out of the desire to teach children to touch type.
In February 2002, during a conversation with the Head Teacher of the local primary school, Martin McAvoy, founder and CEO of Grape County, asked if the school taught the children to touch type. The Head replied that they tried but that the keyboards were too big for the children's hands so they had difficulty in reaching the keys.
Out of that innocent question and reply came the realisation that a smaller sized keyboard; i.e. one designed specifically for children, with smaller keys and spaces between the keys, was required.
The only keyboard available at the time, was from an American company, was designed with the US-Qwerty layout and cost £70! Clearly, that product was not suitable for schools in the UK. If a product was going to succeed it needed to cost less than £25 and preferably less than £20.
After two years trying to raise the necessary backing to design and manufacture a keyboard specifically for children, in 2004 Grape County found a Taiwanese company who only that year had started to manufacture a child sized keyboard and mini mouse, and thereby took most of the hard work, from Grape County's point of view, out of the process. Having already secured a modest amount of backing, Grape County was now ideally poised to take advantage of this fortuitous turn of events.
A pilot study with 5 schools, during October to December 2004, proved beyond doubt that the MyKids keyboard & mouse would be an instant success with children, their teachers and parents. Grape County then exhibited the MyKids keyboard & mouse at the BETT and Education shows in January and March 2005, respectively and like the pilot study at the end of 2004, the MyKids keyboard & mouse was received enthusiastically by nearly everybody who saw it; teachers, parents, LEA & independent advisors, school governors and other resellers.
Most people were wowed by the beauty and simplicity of the products and comments like "it is about time that a smaller keyboard was available as it is needed desperately" and "it's fantastic that somebody is finally actively promoting the need to teach touch typing to children" were heard repeatedly.
The over whelming and enthusiastic response from the thousand or so people who saw the products at the two shows put to bed forever any remaining doubts about the need, or the desire, for a child size keyboard.
Following the phenomenal success of the pilot study and trade shows, Grape County discussed and secured with the manufacturer the rights to resell and distribute the MyKids keyboard & mouse in the UK and Europe. From this, Grape County reached an agreement with a number of UK and European resellers and secured the inclusion of the keyboard and mouse in the "Tesco Computers for Schools" campaign.
Although the MyKids keyboard & mouse was showing fantastic success in it's own right, it was clear that it was only half the solution. The other half of the solution was a computer program that would teach children to touch type. Following an intensive search for a suitable touch typing tutor to compliment the MyKids keyboard & mouse, Grape County entered into an agreement with Controller Games to resell BusyFingers, their touch typing tutor which took a very different approach to teaching the skill of touch typing.
BusyFingers was already well respected within schools, having been available since 1999. However, BusyFingers had not been updated in a few years and Grape County agreed to develop BusyFingers further, adding new features such as the Jungle game, the ability to set the criteria that a user must achieve before they can progress to the next lesson, a verb endings practice area, the ability to display images and text to make it easier and more interesting for younger users to become familiar with typing and, the BusyFingers exam, where a user can prove just how good a typist they really are!
The desire to teach children to touch type still burns very strongly. With the MyKids keyboard & mouse costing only £12.50 (+VAT) and a single computer licence for BusyFingers costing only £25.00 (+VAT), it shouldn't be long before touch typing is taught in all schools.