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9 year old's DIY Cardboard Arcade gets Flash mobbed: Video (danielhope.org)
603 points by danielhope on April 11, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 131 comments

Twenty years ago, a kid who tended a fake arcade in his dad's shop would get teased at school, (how cool is it that he even makes and wears shirts?) and thus convinced much too early to submit to a tyranny of the mediocre. Now, a filmmaker shows him that tens (hundreds?) of people right in his own city love what he is doing and want to support him. He could go on for the rest of his life believing in himself and being determined to express himself no matter what the small minds around him say.

That is something I wish I could have seen when I was Caine's age -- that the people ostracizing me for some kind of non-conformity actually know nothing.

That's an interesting point, that the Internet makes it easier to be an outlier. That could be a big deal. It has a bad side too, but I think I'm not just stupidly optimistic in thinking it will be net good. I think good outliers are probably more varied than bad outliers (e.g. Isaac Newtons are rarer than boys who like to torture small animals) and thus have more to gain from being introduced to communities that will encourage them.

Speaking of being stupidly optimistic.. not sure if that's a phrase with a negative connotation, but I certainly think it's an admirable quality.

This kid is stupidly optimistic. Grown people and some kids would think "I can't build an arcade out of cardboard boxes, there's no way it would ever work", this kid is thinking "of course I can build an arcade out of cardboard boxes. Why wouldn't I be able to?".

Kids think anything is possible. That's awesome, because if they think something is possible and want it badly enough, they'll try it. And even if they fail, they still tried. And they'll try again. And again. As they grow up, most are constantly reassured that they can't do anything, and this is when lose their optimism.

I think what you're aiming for here is ignorance, not stupidity; but I agree with what you're saying - it truly is bliss.

If Isaac Newton lived 50 years ago he would have difficulty finding others interested in physics outside of his immediate area. If he lived today, he still couldn’t read research at no cost, but he could find groups of those interested in physics easily and even find those close to him in intelligence.

The kid that tortures animals has less difficulty finding other animal tortures 50 years ago since there are probably more kids that torture animals than Isaac Newtons, but if he lived today he couldn’t post a pro-animal torturing facebook. He is basically in the same place today he was 50 years ago because of the social stigma. Taken to the extreme, To Catch a Predator and the government help eliminate those that go after kids on the internet.

I’d say the internet helps all collaboration, but it helps collaboration of positive activities far more due to social pressure.

When Isaac Newton came home to spend a summer thinking, he brought a collection of books that contained most of the latest published research in the areas of math and science he was interested in. Then, he spent some months poring over them and secluding himself for some deep uninterrupted thought.

Someone with that level of intelligence and ambition today would have some interesting challenges, I think. Published journals are expensive and exclusive and inconvenient to get, so maybe he'd ignore those entirely. The internet, no doubt, has a firehose of such info from many sources worldwide. You couldn't consume more than a percent or two of the stuff being published on any given day. And you'd still want to tear yourself away and spend some uninterrupted hours on your own work.

In some ways, it seems like Newton had it pretty easy!

Newton returned home (from Cambridge University) due to plague outbreak. If this occurred in modern times, he'd have University-granted access to all the top journals in whatever field he wanted via the web -- not just access to the selection of books he brought with him.

The doom-and-gloom about modern times is unnecessary. Where there is a will, intelligent minds will find a way. Hell... a motivated high-schooler can moonlight in a grad school lab and (pretty much) any of us would dole out authentication credentials for him to download whatever papers he'd like...

I want a personal feed of the latest landmark papers in computer science, right now. What do I need to do?

Would something like this help? https://www.acm.org/sigs

Not sure. I'm having a hard time determining exactly what is being offered here.

What I'd like is "published papers filtered for importance" (perhaps in a citation-count pagerank sense) combined with access to the actual content of the papers.

RSS or Atom. PDF or HTML. Ability to set thresholds would be nice too.

Obviously importance is often not evident immediately after publication. However, I'd be interested in reading a paper published five years ago if people decided just last week that it's awesome.

Citation count wouldn't be useful for recent papers. Beambot mentioned university-granted access - I think ACM can be expensive for individuals (depending what kind of access you buy). http://papersincomputerscience.org/ was doing something closer to what you wanted, but it seems to be dead now. It only had abstracts and discussion though. It's hard to find full text due to publishing agreements and copyrights.

I disagree. If you live any where near a university, you can usually walk right into their library, even if you aren't part of the university. I don't do it on a regular basis, but the breadth of knowledge available at say, the UW, library is vastly greater than whatever Sir Isaac Newton had access to.

it helps collaboration of positive activities far more due to social pressure

Instead of 'positive' activities, I'd say, 'societally approved'. Social pressure did Galileo no good. A concern is that the internet might enable enforcement of whatever orthodoxies are dominant at the time more than it helps free thinkers. But it certainly doesn't yet.

If you watched the entire video, you would have seen Caine's father say [sic] "he no longer wears his tshirt to school because kids make fun of him" "nobody believed he made an arcade".

Kids are still kids.

The point the GP was making is that regardless of kids being kids, resources are now available to give the kid first-hand experience that non-conformity and believing in oneself doesn't mean he will go through life alone in his efforts. Had he not experienced this first-hand, there would be a greater chance that he would submit to conformity and possibly mediocrity.

Nirvan, the guy who made the film about Caine, says that not only does he wear his shirt to school now, but they're going to have a screening of the film there too:


I do wonder how that will play out.

When I was in 5th grade, I won a trip to Space Camp in an essay contest. I thought that was pretty awesome. The teachers had me give a talk to the class about it when I got back. I learned very quickly that the rest of the class didn't think it was quite so awesome.

The transition to the middle school years can be tough.

Man, he's going to be chick-magnet now :)

Guys, c'mon donate a few dollars to the kid, right here:

http://cainesarcade.com/ They are raising 100k for Caine's scholarship fund and at the moment about 97k has already been donated :D

Unfortunately they are using PayPal - I would bet that account is already frozen

It started out as a $25K goal, and they blew through it ($24K in the first day). They reset it to $50K, and it was at $49K when I saw it yesterday, which means it gained ~$50K in the last 24 hours.

Holy cow.

EDIT: Spleling

Your edit comment deserves an upvote...

I wonder who contributed the 10 nano-cents that got them to $109484.00000001....

Just less than 500$ for the target! I'm refreshing the page and it keeps rising! Impressive!

They've just made it to the target - awesome!

kids can be mean no doubt

Best soft launch ever on Hacker News!

This one had everything:

  - Build something you want.
  - Build something other people would want.
  - Turn your passion into a business.
  - If you need it, build it. (Love the S-hook idea!)
  - Offer street level appeal.
  - Tiered pricing. (Love the fun pass!)
  - Instant rewards. (Tickets through slot.)
  - Organic growth: more games.
  - Secure technology (calculators).
  - Turn customers into raving evangelists.
  - Leverage others' technology (Facebook, Reddit).
  - Company t-shirt.
  - Bootstrapped with friends & family.
  - Have a customer write a song about you!

I couldn't stop laughing when I saw the calculator security check. What an ingenious solution! It's not the most robust "hash", but it's no more than what he needs for the purpose. It really puts things into perspective when people are talking about how one technology is "better" than another. Pragmatism over pedantry.

It's also a lovely case of someone working out the principal of something. The hash is, as you say, lacking but the mechanism is not that different to digital signatures.

The "checkmark" was pure genius.

It does look like he had a flash of insight about the usefulness of a digest function. And maybe the "checkmark" symbol suggested a security check to him.

Also, unlike 90% of starups; he actually has a business model.

Hopefully all those calculators do the same sqrt calculation or else you're going to be terribly upset when Cane rejects your funpass for fraudulent use.

I'll try it out on my phone if I get a chance to check it out in a few weeks. I need closure too.

You missed perseverance. Kid never gave up.

One thing missing was the proper location.

He had no control over that of course and only by pure chance did a filmmaker walk in and make all of this happen.

This further proves why it is so important to be in the right place (physical location critical especially for any retail business).

For an internet business, a startup, located in one of the hubs where others congregate. Not in the middle of nowhere. (Not saying it isn't possible or can't be done but location matters.)

That's why I list my online business on Yahoo! Portal...

Remarkable that he has business sense too, that FunPass is totally a great deal and irresistible.

I can't wait to be in LA in a few weeks to visit him. Everyone who's in LA ever should make a point to tell this kid never to let go of his creativity and aspirations.

In 2nd grade I built a computer out of a tide box, complete with paper tower rolls that scrolled a long sheet of perforated paper that was a game. Everyone looked at me weird, but I had my first computer, and more importantly, could explore imagining how the computer would work to do everything.

Make me wonder where the heck most of us have ended up from the passion we all had as kids and if we've stayed true.

Haha, the paper towel and Tide box computer brings back memories. My cousins and I made side-scrolling video game machines this way.

We set up the paper towel rolls in the box, with paper (half-sheets of copy paper taped together end to end) rolled around them, with a big, long scene/level drawn on it. One person would turn the crank, causing the screen to scroll while the player controlled a character which could move up and down, courtesy of being attached to a popsicle stick poking out a slot on the side of the box. The object of the game was to hit goals and jump over objects and pits.

More complex games had two popsicle-stick controlled sprites, and I seem to remember that we experimented with cannibalizing the motor out of a broken remote control car to run the screen, at one point.

have you seen the teagueduino mario brothers scroller: http://vimeo.com/28781718 ?

Ha! I hadn't seen that, thanks. That's cool. Definitely more refined than our cereal box machines. :)

Around that same age (9-10) my parents enrolled me in a program called FutureKids which held computer classes for young children (we played educational games more than learning about computer architecture, but still).

I went for an hour every Thursday for many months, and loved every minute of it. So much so that I built a computer out of legos and gave it to the instructor -- it included a chassis, a motherboard, ISA cards, CPU, memory.

Dont just tell this kid, tell all kids never to let go of their creativity and aspirations!

"I said what the heck! He figured out how to make a claw machine with a string and a hook!"

Ah, to be a kid again, when ingenuity and imagination can take you anywhere. When I was about his age, after a particularly colorful and extravagant Tournament of Roses parade my sister and I staged a parade of our own. I had a toy monster truck with two gears: low and high. In low gear it went at a nice leisurely parade-like crawl, and was strong enough to haul several styrofoam-packing "floats" with decorations and passengers (stuffed animals, my sister's Barbies). My radio-control tank was strong enough to haul one or two more. The Monkees supplied parade music via my TI Program Recorder ("The Poster" is a particularly good song for this purpose).

But oh man, this kid is hardcore. Look at the way he debugs his soccer game! He play-tests it, solicits player feedback, and adds challenge elements in the form of Army Men "goalies". He's a real game designer.

He needs to apply to YC and show everyone how it's done. After laser tag it would be the 2nd thing one could be afraid of getting their tails kicked.

I love how he sits there and tends his shop; cleaning when idle, drumming up business, or thinking up new ideas. This was really special, and touched me the most.

Totally agree. It was amazing to watch. To me he defines what an entrepreneur is. So inspiring!

And a swing in front of his business for strategy retreats. Take note, folks.

There is a lot to be said for the creativity-inducing boredom of an analog, resource-starved existence. If you grew up in a certain time or socioeconomic situation and became a geek, you know what I am talking about.

I've been following Caine's cardboard arcade adventures for some time now and it just keeps getting more interesting. At first it was just a lark, getting a big group of people to come out and visit this funny kid and his arcade. Over time it's grown into much more and now he's got one heck of a college fund built up just because of his imagination and how he's touched people. Kudos to all involved.

As a parent, I can't imagine how I would feel if a bunch of random internet people had basically taken care of my kid's college education within a few days.

I assume a used auto-parts dealer in LA isn't rolling in money. In families like that, things like paying for your kid's college education can be difficult, impossible, or at the very least, stressful and a bit frightening.

The outpouring of support for this little boy and his creativity is heart-warming. As a parent, seeing the college fund money pile up it's just completely mind-blowing.

I think on the site is was in excess of $60,000 raised so far. That is just unreal. +1 for the internetz.

Almost 90K right now and it increased by around $300 from when I started and finished the video.

Edit: 3:50 PM Pacific (roughly 1 hour since my previous post) it is at 95K.

Wow, it was at 80 a few hours ago.

I hope that someone helps make sure that this goes into a 529 fund where it can pay for education without being taxed or taken by one of his relatives.

The team behind the website asked for some help setting up a trust fund to make sure it goes where it's supposed to.

I did this myself when I was 8. I saved up my allowance for months, until I finally had a whole $60 to spend on cheap prizes online. I took over the entirety of my parents' garage, and spent weeks building everything from scratch. (I bought $10 of boxes and a roll of vinyl from the party store to make the prize are and the games. I even hacked together some electronics so I could press a button to print tickets. I actually made a shirt, too.

That was seriously some of the most fun I've had. I'm really happy they made this such a success for him. I only ever got 10 people or so, and even having that many customers at that age was amazing. (I somehow made $100 on that!)

This brought tears to my eyes, but also is funny, e.g. the part where he says "I used to play with Hot Wheels when I was little"!

Why not just post the original site instead of embedding the video onto your own website? http://cainesarcade.com/

For some reason the original site was submitted (as were a couple of articles about it) yesterday and not upvoted enough -- I'm glad this has finally made it to the front page. And wow. $100K for his college fund. The Internet is incredible.

It looks as though Caine will be a future lover of HN, like us.

Not afraid to say I teared up a bit watching this film.

> It looks as though Caine will be a future lover of HN, like us.

He's got the hacker gene, that's for sure. With his non-reversible, encrypted, calculator-based hashing algorithm one time pad ticketing system...

Yeah! I'd always wondered what that check-mark button on the calculator was for. :-)

On a related note, ever since I was a kid, every calculator I've ever encountered, I run the square root of 89, and if it returns 9.4339811(..32 on more powerful ones) and thereabouts, then I trust the calculator. Kids do weird stuff. Big kids continue it sometimes.

How come you do the sqrt of 89?

> It looks as though Caine will be a future lover of HN, like us.

I would hope he accomplishes more than getting sucked up in to the startup culture circle-jerk

This is a great story. There is a website for the arcade http://www.cainesarcade.com. They are accepting donations for a scholarship fund for Caine and so far has received over $85,000! It's nice to see that not all kids are glued to the TV or video games.

He should really salt that security function...

I loved how he got in the box and pushed the tickets through...Awesome.

That security check is pretty amazing. I wonder what he was doing to figure out that the square root ("the checkbox") produces the same result for the same numbers and made him say that I could use this as security.

The security check made my jaw drop, I thought it was a pretend thing but sure enough, he thought it way through.

This is great - seeing something like this made me so happy. It's almost as if my belief in the human spirit is vindicated by this alone (of course there are many many other examples).

Kudos to his dad.

I loved how he checks for counterfeit fun passes! "The check mark" on the calculator. So cool.

Especially if he came up with it himself. It's the sort of thing only a child's brain would think of and an adult would say "Oh! Of course!"

This kid's ingenuity, determination and commitment toward his customers are very inspiring. It's obvious his dad is his role model. I expect great things from him in the future.

Caine is of course quite a dear child, I really can see myself (at his age). However, what I find fascinating is the fact that this person chose to make a movie and really create a truly memorable experience for him.

There are many Caines out there ... will you pay attention to them?

It's a good point, let's not forge that it took an outsider who came across it to get the message out around the Internet.

The real hero of the story is the guy or organized the surprise flash mob! Most people would say that was cute and move on, but this guy stopped and took an interest in this kid and in making him feel good about himself. We need more people like that guy!

I made sure to donate for the sheer fact that it will change this kid's life to see his dream come to fruition. His story alone has hit the media and will be sure to inspire god knows how many other young children.

Funny, I had exactly the same impulse. When I saw the kid as a proto-hacker, I came to the realization that we have to encourage such behavior. Would be awesome if everyone on HN gave at least the equivalent of a Superpass ($2) and I suspect we'll not only see this kid hanging out around here soon but I also wouldn't be surprised if we see him posting cool projects too :)

I think it says a lot about his determination, that somehow, he has natively. He built a lot until the first customer came. That is priceless and I hope it will not go away someday. I hope that it doesn't. I don't know people that well, but I hope it doesn't. He'll achieve anything like that. And hopefully, he'll go beyond just businesses. He's a great kid.

Don't be surprised about the "somehow". Some kids are just way more curious where others are more reserved.

I'm not looking into a nature vs nurture debate but having enough friends with kids who are all super supportive, some just don't take a liking to some things while others start quicker, and take off way quicker.

So awesome. Have shown everyone in my family.

When I was 11, I made Pinball machines. You would use Popsicle Sticks as the flippers, and I proper Clipboards up on books. Then I designed my pinball machines, with Plastacine, paper, and lego. I charged a nickel to my friends to play them.

Here's where, in retrospect, I think I was particularly smart. I also had a 'Comic Book Rental' program. It was more like a pass, and for one dollar they could take out 3 comics at a time, any time - and when they came over they could play the pinball for free.

I had to do it in my bedroom however, and only to friends. This kid had a storefront location! And access to all the cardboard boxes he could ever dream of!

Loved this - thanks for sharing.

Source site if you want to make a donation or visit the arcade:


those of us who live by the motto "Anything worth doing is worth obsessing over" will immediately recognize this kid as one of ours.

i offered in the reddit thread to buy him an actual claw machine. they don't look that expensive. anyone know an arcade machine dealer in LA?

>i offered in the reddit thread to buy him an actual claw machine. they don't look that expensive. anyone know an arcade machine dealer in LA? //

Success can ruin things.

Someone just donated a pinball machine to Caine:


Perhaps those are tinkerable, one can create new tracks etc.

my understanding is that they are obscenely complex, internally.

Electromechanical games from that era are pretty complex. Lots of reels and stepper gears that get gummed up. More to learn!

Those bastards.

yeah, you are seriously missing the point if your instinct upon seeing this is to buy him a claw machine.

Right way to express an opinion on the parent comment:

"That's a nice thought. Have you considered ${XXX_OTHER_GIFT_IDEA} instead? That would better nurture the tinkering impulse this kid has!"

HN way to express the same opinion:

"You don't get it and probably don't know what it's like to be a dad."

One dad to another: you'd do your kids a favor to teach them to default to the first kind of response.

What is the difference between buying him a claw machine and giving him money for college? Did he earn the money for the college or did the publicity about what he is doing get him the money for college?

Taking it one step further what if someone comes along and wants his input on a real arcade and wants to call it "Caines Arcade". Is that also missing the point?

it's not about "earning" or "rewarding".

your kid says "look dad, i built a clock out of paper". do you respond "that's great, let me buy you a real clock so you don't have to mess with that paper anymore." or do you respond "that's great, let me take you to the machine shop so you can machine some gears and take this thing to the next level/get you a breadboard and some electrical bits so you can work on digital clock/etc etc"

i am seriously missing the point how?

the kid is a hacker and tinkerer. perhaps the most moving part of the story is the myriad clever ways he approximated all the things he wanted to do.

why reward that with giving him the "actual thing"? it may show your generosity as a benefactor but it does nothing to continue to stoke the flames of hacker in him.

donate some breadboards and electrical components, parts for a receipt printer, stuff that will allow him to continue to improve his approximations and simultaneously continue to tickle his mind (in learning how these things work).

Or he could take learn how it works by looking inside or keeping it working.

Or he uses it to start a business and learns new things there.

You seem pretty condescending and narrow-minded.

He doesn't need a joshu "real" claw machine game to start a business because he's already started a business.

I'll take your personal assessments of my character under consideration, thank you for the input.

Oh god, are you jealous of the 9 year old? It sure is important to you that he not get anything.

Are you a dad joshu? Just curious. The emotions I feel towards this kid are highly protective ones. He was seemingly happy in his own little world of tinkering and barking for customers. Now the adults have to swoop in and make it a spectacle. It will change him for sure. This kind of spirit in a kid is dangerously easy to snuff out. So yes, I'm going to react strongly when people like you are proposing to helicopter in and give him things that may obviate his innate desire to create. I'm all for him getting "assistance", especially a school fund, I'm not pretending there is any virtue in artificially keeping his head dunked in the tank of East LA austerity, but for god's sake don't short circuit his quest for building an arcade just because you have the financial wherewithal to do so.

I'm guessing you had a very controlling parent and have the terrible urge to do the same.

He's already changed. He's already been donated $120k for a college fund. Someone said he's already been given equipment, too.

I'm just reacting to the simple thing that he did specify he wants.

The suggestion to give him breadboards or whatever is inane if nobody's around to help him learn. I find your need to overlay your morals (running a small business is not as good as hardware hacking or whatever) incredibly controlling.

The kid had a fun hobby making and tinkering with stuff. Buying him a claw machine means he has less reason to create new things. He now has a complex bit of machinery that he needs to service. (Cost of stocking it; running it; repairing it; etc.) How much space does he have for these machines?

Running a business is fine. But does he really want to be someone who owns an arcade, or does he want to be a design engineer creating tech?

> I'm guessing you had a very controlling parent and have the terrible urge to do the same.

You didn't need to say this. You can do better.

> Cost of stocking it; running it; repairing it; etc.

also known as "learning to run a business" which is probably pretty valuable.

> But does he really want to be someone who owns an arcade, or does he want to be a design engineer creating tech

this is a value judgement on your part.

Maybe you should consider donating your time to providing private lessons to Caine in arguing ad hominem.

I didn't assert any superiority to hacking tech or hacking business. Give him a business mentor or tech mentor. A ledger or a breadboard. I could care less. Maybe he'll want to pivot to square foot gardening next week. Who knows. Kids are fickle like that.

I do find your repeated assertions that he is NOT already running his own business quite patronizing. He is already running a 9 year old-scale business, period.

Anyway, I'm done, just going to take the energy being wasted on this thread and just refocus on thinking about how I can encourage my 3yr old son in pursuing all his interests du jour (fortune teller machines, car washes, mount fuji).

and the "i'm a dad, you wouldn't understand" isn't ad verecundiam?

> NOT already running his own business

He had ONE customer, according to the video. Maybe he might get some more? Who is to know?

By the time I got home last night grandma had already pulled this up on the vimeo channel on the ROKU (staff picks) and said I had to see it. this sure went viral.


Someone should teach the kid about HN. I'm sure he will be a valuable member in the future. What a beautiful story.

Any chance Paypal will freeze the college fund? They don't seem to look kindly on donation drives [e.g., 1]

[1] http://www.regretsy.com/2012/03/12/paypal-does-it-again/

720p WebM formatted version on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faIFNkdq96U

About his college fund, a #reprap channel member commented "I wonder what kind of college he'll build."

What an impressive kid... I think he has a very bright future.

Also, go buy the theme song (all proceeds to Caine's college fund).


Excuse me but I have to do this: IT'S OVER 100000!!!!

square root security ftw!

This is great for the boy (who the producer thinks is a genius) but it seems to me like it is a strategic publicity vehicle for the producer's (Nirvan Mullick) other idea http://www.the1secondfilm.com

(The domain CAINESARCADE.COM is registered to Nirvan...)

Of course it is.

So what?

This guy put in a lot of work, he deserves it.

"Of course it is. So what?"

Not sure I can answer a question like that. But from reading the comments here I'm not sure everybody notices the publicity angle which drove bringing attention to this because a filmaker saw an opportunity.

What he is doing isn't that spectacular. The quality of seems about average for his age and probably wouldn't win any awards in an elementary school fair or anything. (I'm somewhat familiar with what kids this age produce and this really isn't all that great.) The father didn't appear to put in any effort to helping him understand how to put a little more quality in the construction (which is of course different from building it for him).

By "this guy" who are you referring to? The boy or the film producer?

"This guy put in a lot of work, he deserves it."

I'll assume by "this guy" you mean the boy. So you think that this is worthy of all the donations he is getting to pay for his college? He is getting the donations as a result of a random meeting with the film maker.

No, I meant "he" as in the subject of your post - the filmaker.

I find it a bit odd that you, I assume an adult, are saying things like "what he is doing isn't that spectacular" in regards to a nine year old boy.

I don't get why you have so much cynicism toward a nine year old boy but it is not my place to challenge your view.

Simply put, this boy is very creative; that it's relative to some arbitrary set standard threshold level of creativeness does NOT matter to me, I don't care - he's creative. As an adult, I feel it part of my responsibility, and part of the greatness of being a Good human being, to cultivate young minds.

This is what I got from the film - I think it's great. I think this kid is great (again why does his greatness have to be relative to "other kid's greatness") and I think the filmaker put in a lot of work to create value for all involved.

Beautiful story, it brightened up my day, I'm happy. =D

"why does his greatness have to be relative to "other kid's greatness""

What's the point of a trophy if everyone is getting a trophy? Sorry, the generation I was raised in didn't think that way. Awards for being special weren't passed out to everyone. And it was relative to what others have done.

> He is getting the donations as a result of a random meeting with the film maker.

Let me tell you a story.

I'd say this story takes place when I was 11 or 12, around this time I went to a private school. I was transported there by a private bus service. It was a long drive. And the only person I had for company in these (small) buses was the person who happened to be driving it. During this time I grew to appreciate the "brilliant failure" quality that bus drivers seem to have. They knew all sorts of interesting tidbits about the world, and it was usually fun to talk with them on the drive to and from school.

One driver in particular stands out in my mind, a man named Brian. Brian loved those morning radio stations that brought up social issues and asked listeners to comment. I liked them too. So we'd end up talking about these (in many cases esoteric) social issues and I'd present misguided positions. Which Brian would go ahead and tell me didn't make sense. It was fun. I'd always get Brian on the morning drive, rarely in the afternoon. It felt good stepping off the school bus having just had a discussion about the world. Gets you in that learning mood.

This situation persisted for some time. During the intervening period I related my (then) dream of becoming a video game designer and computer programmer. He thought it was funny because he wanted to get into a similar field. Eventually it was the last day of school. While I'd had a great time and knew I'd miss all the staff greatly, it didn't really hit me until I was on the bus home. By chance, that day I had Brian. As I was tearing up, conversation didn't really happen. I had finally realized that this would be the last time I would ever see Brian. It wasn't a comforting thought. Eventually it came time to step off the bus. My mom came home at the same time and got out of the car to greet me.

I knew it was going to sound awkward, but it had to be said, I went up to her crying and the first words out of my mouth were "Mom, I'd like you to meet my bus driver.". It was an odd request, but she did it. In the ensuing conversation I learned that Brian's parent company was about to shutter it's doors and that he'd be out a job. His hope was to attend a trade school and become a sysadmin or some such. We exchanged contact details and he was off.

A month had passed. While I hadn't forgotten him (And the rest of my school experience.) he wasn't exactly the top thing on my mind. My mom walked in with a large package; addressed to me. That was a rare thing but not totally out of the question, my aunt would occasionally send me gifts in the mail. I asked if she knew what my aunt had sent. I was utterly shocked to find out that it hadn't been sent by my aunt. With a modicum of confusion an infusion of excitement and insatiable curiosity I started to tear the package open.

When I finally had it undone the item inside may or may not have produced tears of joy.

It was a copy of Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner. Which I guess you could say is what really got me started on the whole "Program your computer thing.". My mom told me to pen a thank you letter to inform him that I received it. I never got around to it and I have since lost his contact details. I hope to one day track him down and give him the thanks he deserves.

Sure the difference in monetary expense is $60 to over 90K. But the principle is the same.

For all that you do, a successful life relies on the luck and chance of meeting the right person at the right time.

My cynicism is directed at the filmaker who I feel was being more opportunistic than altruistic and had ulterior motives.

I don't see it the same way with your bus driver. He stood nothing to gain from helping you and it was genuine what he did.

The bus driver didn't even get a thank you while the film maker will stand to gain plenty from what he has done (and he knew that when he seized this opportunity).

Nothing is wrong with that of course. It's a smart move.

>The bus driver didn't even get a thank you

I really regret that one. It'll be one of those flashbacks I have when I'm on my deathbed and I'm looking around the room reflecting on my life.

>Nothing is wrong with that of course. It's a smart move.

Well for what it's worth, I think your right. You make very valid points and I'm not going to try and refute them. However:

A story that ends with a starving artist making his career and an imaginative kid getting a college fund doesn't produce any knots in my stomach.

EDIT: Though at the same time, what I said doesn't really have anything to do with how kind the Bus Driver was. (And make no mistake, he was a very kind man.) The moral could be more aptly written as "The random people you meet during your days have an effect on your life, up to and including making or breaking your career. Weather you think that's fair or not." (And in many cases, it's not.)

A more positive way of thinking about it is that a bunch of Internet strangers gave a piece of their wealth in the interest of a young boy's dreams. It's better for it to happen to one than none.

Which in my case backfired. While the story itself may be inspiring, the film making style was cloying and cliched. I couldn't actually watch the whole thing.

I would have been more impressed if the father made the video and it went viral. The slickness was actually what prompted me to make my comments (which as I would expect have been downvoted)

So I saw this video on reddit and thought it was really cute but said to myself at the time, "I hope this doesn't wind up on hacker news because it's not really hacker news". So I'm honestly not trying to "big bummer guy" but I always thought of HN for more tech and startup news than heartwarming stories. I think we all agree that memes and +1 are not for HN, so where is the line?

This story was really touching and inspiring (and my first exposure to it since I don't read reddit) and I hope one day to create an environment where my own child can build as prolifically as this kid has.

Some highlights to take away if you're focused on the entrepreneurial lessons from this kid:

- Ability to see the core value proposition: that S-hook with string is the fun part of the claw game, you don't need the complex mechanical arm and flashing lights to make it fun

- Scrappiness: use what you got, he only had his toys so made those the giveaways in his arcade.

- User testing: soccer game wasn't hard enough so put up army guys

- Lean startup: don't build a ticket dispensing machine while you're still testing development, just sit in the box and dispense tickets while you watch the balls fall through

- Pricing: make the upgrade plan really easy to justify to yourself (4 plays for a dollar, 500!!! plays for $2)

- Marketing: he even had the cool web startup t-shirt going!

I'm sitting here with practically unlimited web technology in front of me and all that kid had was cardboard... and I think if the flash mob came to my creation they'd have a lot less fun :)

Your argument makes sense and I agree with you. Too bad I got so many downvotes, I thought it was a fair question.

This is exactly the type of thing that would end up on HN. The kid has both the hacker and entrepreneurship spirit in him and that's exactly what this site is all about.


This is a startup. It has all the salient features of one.

Except this kid's actually generating income.

An upvote, in my opinion wouldn't be nearly enough to let you know how funny I though this comment was... as a fellow entrepreneur just starting out without income it helped remind me that maybe I don't have to do everything perfect the first time around, that I can take some small shortcuts, so long as the end-user enjoys using my application how or what it is made out of doesn't matter.

not only are you the "big bummer guy", but you're also totally wrong about the appropriateness of this to hacker news. so, bummer, big bummer guy.

This is one of the best things I have seen on HN in a while :)

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