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Building your own kiosk

There are four important components to any kiosk:

  1. Computer Hardware

  2. Furniture

  3. Software

  4. Graphics

I started with the hardware. From Best Buy I bought a computer: HP Pavilion 610N with Athlon processor. 512 MB RAM and 160 GB hard drive, DVD and CD burner, built-in 9 in 1 card reader in the front panel plus boatloads of USB and Firewire ports on the front. With a 17 monitor and a printer, after rebates, it came to $569. Networking was easy, it came with a 10/100 card built in. It has 2 USB 2.0 connections and a Firewire/1394 connection on the front panel behind a sliding door, plus 4 more USB 2.0 connections and another Firewire/1394 connection on the back. We plunked it down on a counter and started using it to take orders. One of our staff members would copy the customer pictures to a folder with the customer name and order bag number. We'd "harvest" the orders over the network and bring them to our Konica QD-21 for printing. It was an improvement, but we weren't done yet.

Furniture

There are lots of ready-made kiosks available, complete with housings and great looking graphics

However I wanted one that didn't look exactly the same as everybody else! In particular, I didn't want people saying "You've got the same machine as Wal*Mart."

So I built my own.

I bought one sheet of 3/4 red oak plywood from Home Depot for about $45. Had them rip one strip 9" and another 16", which left another 22 3/4" wide after the kerfs.

The two sides were cut out of the 16" width and are 45 1/4" high. The angle cut at the top is 8" and comes back 4" if memory serves.

The top, front insert and shelves were cut from the 9" width material. That's enough wider than the computer case to let some air get to the sides. Opening for the computer is 17" high, which makes enough of the computer visible to get to all the drives and the card reader.

The base and the desktop were made from the 22 3/4" wide strip. The desk is about 28" wide at the front and 24" at the back, base with the same angles but a little narrower. I wanted a wide base so the darn thing wouldn't tip over! Click on any photo to see a larger view

Under the computer shelf is plenty of room for an uninterruptable power supplies and cables. There is no cover on the back side of the housing. We wanted to be able to hide stuff in the back and let plenty of air flow past the electronics.

The front of most of the plywood was finished with iron-on red oak wood tape. The edges of the desk and base were rounded over with a router.

About 4 or 5 hours cutting and assembly, and I spent another couple of hours sanding, filling and varnishing the casing. Norm Abrams probably could have knocked out the whole job in 20 minutes.

Click on any photo to see a larger view

All the pieces came from the one 4'x8' sheet of plywood, with enough left over for some table tops. I had the drawer slides and the varnish left over from some other projects, so the out-of-pocket was probably only about $60 max. Counting the drawer slides and varnish, probably about $85. And it was fun and satisfying, knowing I have the only one exactly like it!

The sliding drawer for the keyboard lets customers and staff use it when wanted.

We started out using a trackball rather than a mouse, but quickly switched back. Today everybody knows how to use a mouse, so I didn't feel the need to use a touchscreen monitor.

Click on any photo to see a larger view

Caution: Make sure that your monitor is fastened securely. Make sure that your table top is strong enough to support a squirming 40-pound child. I haven't seen it happen yet, but I just know that somebody is likely to plunk her child down on the countertop. That could lead to disaster! That's one reason I made the base so wide.

For comfortable use, this design actually puts the monitor a little too high. That was dictated by the fact that the card reader built into the computer is about eight inches below the top of the casing.

Software is the key. Software is what makes the whole system run. After a lot of agonizing I chose software from Silverwire. As of November 15th, 2004 the system was up and running. In about a week I'll post a full review of the software and how it's improving our orders, but let me sum it up in one sentence:

I was an idiot to wait so long to do this!

Next: software makes the kiosk