Re: Great idea and all that...
The difference is chiefly the availability of easy passive entertainment
Back then :
* 1 hour of kids TV on a weekday
* Typically only 1 TV in a house (so it was often monopolized by the adults)
* Computers were expensive (the BBC was £1,400 in inflation adjusted money, and that's before you sprang for an extra TV or heaven forbid, an actual monitor).
* There was a 5 minute wait for a game to load, if it worked (who remembers developing the gamers equivalent of a piano tuner's ear for tape azimuth?)
It was inevitable that given all this, you'd eventually reach the point where you were bored enough to try programming.
* There is no time at which you cannot get "free" passive video entertainment because of YouTube
* It takes less than 5 minutes to find, install, and start a new "free" game on your mobile
* You can buy a powerful graphical computer, complete with screen, for the price of < 50 beers, rather than 555 beers (price of Worthington Best Bitter, in a pub, in 1986, £0.72, price today ~ £3.00)
The computers of the day were
* Set up to be programmable, most booting into a BASIC interpreter out of the box
* Selling the computer to you was the point
Computers today are
* Mostly designed to sell you something
(phone service, freemium app purchases, showing ads, games, commercial software packages)
The difficulty of gaining traction with the kids is less about the platform, and more about the space it competes in.
In order to fight this, the software is going to have to get a lot better. You need to "gamify" the whole learning experience, make something akin to the "Young Ladie's Illustrated Primer" from Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age".