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Portables Hardware

Bridging the Digital Divide With PCtvt? 216

maddu writes "Dr. Raj Reddy, a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, plans to unveil his new project, called the PCtvt, later this year - it's a $250 wirelessly networked personal computer intended for the four billion people around the world who live on less than $2,000 a year, according to the NYT (free reg. req.) He says his device can find a market in developing countries, particularly those with large populations of people who cannot read, because it can be controlled by a simple TV remote control and can function as a television, telephone and videophone." We've previously covered the somewhat conceptually related Simputer.
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Bridging the Digital Divide With PCtvt?

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  • Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) * on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:01PM (#9983503) Journal
    No-Reg Link [nytimes.com]
  • Ah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:02PM (#9983513)
    "...it's a $250 wirelessly networked personal computer intended for the four billion people..."

    Ah, well then. Your trillion dollars or mine?
    • Re:Ah... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:22PM (#9983738) Homepage Journal
      Worse yet- he doesn't realize that the grand majority of those 4 billion people not only live on less than $2000 a year- they live on less than $365 a year (since the going wage at the bottom of the third world is $1/day). Does he really expect people to give up 2/3rds of their yearly salary just to get a TV set/Telephone/Videophone? And don't you have to be at least symbol-literate to use a remote control or keyboard?
      • Rubbish (Score:3, Informative)

        by blorg ( 726186 )
        the grand majority of those 4 billion people not only live on less than $2000 a year- they live on less than $365 a year (since the going wage at the bottom of the third world is $1/day)

        Hmm... Can you see where you made a mistake? "Bottom" != "Grand Majority". There are a lot of people for which this device could be affordable. He says in the article that he is targeting people where the cost represents 5% of yearly income - perhaps roughly the same as the proportion of a normal computer cost to average a
        • Ah, ok- he's targeting people who live on an average of $5000/year, as opposed to less than $2000/year (there's a TON of people out there living on less than $2000/year, and the grand majority of those in pre-developing countries do indeed live on $365 a year). As usual the person posting the article is incorrect, and I failed to RTFA. Thanks for the correction.

          As to your last remark- I'm not overly impressed with the code coming out of that area of the world. Perhaps in 30 years or so they'll be up to
      • Re:Ah... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by realdpk ( 116490 )
        I wonder how many of those 4 billion people even have access to electricity in their homes.
        • If he's hitting the ~$5000/year set, they've got electricity in their homes. Not *dependable* electricity, maybe only an hour or two a day, maybe only what they can afford fuel for the generator for, maybe only as much as little Apu can pedal his bicyle to charge the leden jars, but I'm sure they have electricity. Without electricity, the only light at night is fire (gas or candle) and it's REALLY hard to work enough to earn that $5000/year without artificial light, or with only 1 candlepower of light (ev
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:02PM (#9983514)
    Admittedly, my salary is much more, but let's say you make $40,000 a year. Would you be willing to spend $5000 on a computer?
    • It should be noted that in the eightees, a lot of people did, and those were a lot less useful then those we have now.

      Note that a loan for $40,000 at 5% interest is about $170 per month. Would I pay that for a computer if I had to today on a $40K salary? The answer is probably yes.
    • Not unless a computer was my main attraction in life. It seems that marketing this device to people who can't read would make me think that these people wouldn't exactly have the desire for a computer.

      They may want a DVD player but who's going to pay for the media that they are going to watch? 14% of your yearly Salary is a lot. To add another $20 per DVD is asking a bit much.

      Are they going to sign them up for Internet service and cable too?
    • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:09PM (#9983592)
      It should be noted that in the eightees, a lot of people did, and those were a lot less useful then those we have now.

      Note that a loan for $5,000 at 5% interest is about $20 per month. Would I pay that for a computer if I had to today on a $40K salary? The answer is HELL yes.

      (Sorry screwed up the numbers in my first post. Should have realized they didn't make sense. Mod it down.)
    • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:09PM (#9983598)
      No, but split that among 50 families in the village, and it becomes MUCH more palatable.
    • >Would you be willing to spend $5000 on a computer?

      YES

      http://www.apple.com/powermac/

      A 5K Dual G5 powermac would last you years and years. I'm still on a beige G3, five years old. It's been upgraded quite a bit, but I haven't shelled out enough in upgrades to buy a new machine yet.
      • Dude, are you sure?

        I have a December 1999 G4 Power Mac (Sawtooth - AGP graphics). It is 4 yrs 9 months old.

        This is a second-generation graphite G4 ---> the prior version was PCI graphics. And prior to that, you had the G3 towers with the same form factor, but bondi blue. Therefore, any beige Mac has to be older than 5.

        My G4 has a 23 inch 2-megapixel LCD screen, RAID 0, 0.48TB internal HDDs, Bluetooth, 2GB RAM, and runs its OS X operating system better than when it was new. I have two open PC
    • Guess what? Not everybody in the world needs to own their own PC. Not even every family. A village with 250 families could each kick in a buck, and share it.

      Frankly, if you look at the impoverished, tribal, un-industrialized parts of the world, they have very little need for videophones or email. I doubt, given the choice, that many of these destitute tribes/villages would take the computer over say, a well or access to penicillin or hunting/farming supplies.

      Why don't we get them some agriculture and
      • If the farmer could look up and see which market is giving the best price for his avocados, he'd be able to make a choice. 50 miles east to sell at $0.10/lb, or 75 miles west, to sell at $0.20/lb. Currently, he just has to flip a coin, because he has no way of knowing the prices, out there.

        Or getting information from the local agricultural ministry, about how to combat an avocado blight thats going around.

        Not everything that can be gotten through a CRT is mindless fluff.
        • Currently, he just has to flip a coin, because he has no way of knowing the prices, out there.

          Why can't he just make a quick phone call to his buyers in the two cities? No need to burden the man with fluff technology when the answer can be gotten in his own language, within seconds, and be as up to date as possible (not every buyer would be posting his prices, they depend on who sells, what sells, how much etc.)

          And if the village has no phones, then the computer would be useless too.

          • How many times have you called several stores for a price quote, vs looking them up online? Why can't this guy?
            • The farmer is not a buyer, he is a seller. Buyers don't advertise their prices, the seller does. But even that is irrelevant, the farmer usually negotiates a sale of this particular lot at this particular time, and the price varies depending on many things.

              Besides, the questions would be:

              • What is the advantage of online access?
              • What is the cost of online access?
              • What is the chance that the Web prices are correct and up to date?
              • What is the chance that the seller or the buyer, being simple folks, fail to
    • It's not 1/8 of your salary unless you make $2000 a year. Four billion people may live on less than $2000 a year, but that doesn't mean that all those four billion have $1999 in yearly income. I'm sure that for many people, it's not an 1/8 of a year's salary, but 1/4, 1/2, or even more.
    • Steve would! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by argent ( 18001 ) <{peter} {at} {slashdot.2006.taronga.com}> on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#9983947) Homepage Journal
      There's definitely precedent.

      "When I was in my first year of college, I told my father that I was going to own a 4K computer someday! And he said, 'Yeah, but they cost about as much as a house!' And I said, 'Well then, I'll live in an apartment.'" -- Steve Wozniak
    • The mobile phone is the Internet for the poor!

      (Damn right, that would in realative terms, buy one hell of a machine for many of us in the west.)

    • But that's not necessarily how technology is adopted.

      For example, cell phone service is very expensive relative to a person's salary in a developing country. But they are fairly common. The person with the cell phone becomes the village's micro-phone company, and makes enough money off of it to justify the investment.

      Same thing could be done with computers, or the computer could be a communal resource that several families chip in on.

      By analogy in the 80s, computers were too expensive and not useful en
    • Keep in mind that it's even worse than that. Four billion people live on $2000 or less per year. Two billion of them live on less than $1000 per year, and a billion of those live on less than $500 per year.
    • Well, this might not be the best crowd to ask if you want a fair representation of world population.

      I (for one) HAVE spent $5,000 on a computer when I was earning less than $40,000. Of course, doing so was one of the many steps that led to my earning much more than 40,000.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:04PM (#9983529)

    ... maybe they should spend their money on food and birth control? I mean, what good is the 'net when you have 8 kids hungry at home? Seriously, the net is a wonderful tool but it's not going to magically transform a shantytown into a utopia.
    • Or use the money learning how to read, write and basic math.

      He says his device can find a market in developing countries, particularly those with large populations of people who cannot read, because it can be controlled by a simple TV remote control and can function as a television, telephone and videophone."

      How much use are they going to get out of this appliance without being able to read? So they'll have an expensive way to watch movies, but they still won't be able to use it to do research that migh

    • Im from a country where the average income per capita is under $2K and none of the people I know have that many kids, usually, the number is closer to 2 (though, I know of more people in this country/US with multiple siblings).
      The target for this PC are people from 'not rich' countries. Remember LowIncome!=TooManyKids, rather LowIncome==MoreReasonToBeEducatedToSucceed
    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:25PM (#9983764) Journal
      ... maybe they should spend their money on food and birth control? I mean, what good is the 'net when you have 8 kids hungry at home? Seriously, the net is a wonderful tool but it's not going to magically transform a shantytown into a utopia.

      I see this, time and time again. It appears to be sound reasoning: Why invest in XYZ information technology when they're going hungry?

      The answer is astonishingly simple - Information is the key to finding out how to feed those hungry kids! If the problem is corruption in the local govt, information is the key to coming up with a solution. If the problem is lack of farming technology, where do you think the solution might be found, if not in what is perhaps the largest information repository in the world?

      Also, information itself has direct value - how many of us here feed our families by accessing, processing, and developing information?

      I feed my 5 hungry kids every day doing this!

      When Gutenberg created the printing press 450 years ago, what he really did, in effect, was leverage the power of knowledge, and extend the reach of those who knew to many, many more people that didn't.

      The Internet is an extension of that same idea. Why would you deny these people the fruits of YOUR knowledge just because they are lacking in some basic amenity, when that knowledge may well help them solve that deficiency?

      Another take: if you have $1,000, and you need to make a $750 house payment, AND a $750 work truck payment, which do you pay?

      Answer: Pay the work truck. Using the work truck will help you make the house payment, but using the house will not help you pay for your truck.

      These computers are roughly analogous to the work truck...
      • You know, this sounds great in theory. And then the theory hits reality and smashes into smithereens.

        Here's the scenario. Stay with me, here; it may seem complicated, but it'll be easier to follow than Ayn Rand's straw men...

        1) Joe Poorguy has very little education. He knows the details of how to operate very simple machinery, and he's pretty good at scrounging bits and pieces from scrapheaps to repair a bicycle or a wheelbarrow. He's also pretty smart, being able to come up with novel and workable solu
    • A little education is a powerful thing.

      Sorry but that witch doctor isn't going to slow down rates of HIV infection.
    • I spent 13 months in a third-world country and I was quite surprised to find attitudes toward population control that differed from what you stated.

      One such attitude is that if you have more kids, there are more people to work in agriculture or the local economy to earn income. Now, this might work on a small scale, but there must be available, viable opportunities, both agricultural and economical.

      This is just one example of one issue; there are many other issues that affect people around the globe. To

    • by i_r_sensitive ( 697893 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @03:09PM (#9984244)
      ...maybe they should spend their money on food and birth control...

      And what exactly is the benefit of birth control to the head of a third world family? Remember, we're talking about subsistence farming here. So when you peddle birth control you're trying to sell someone on greater economic prosperity by denying him the only real way in his environment to materially increase his prosperity, more children.

      In such an environment children are a resource, not an expense. Birth control is only attractive to a culture where children are an expense, not a resource. Until you materially bring up the overall level of prosperity in these cultures you cannot escape that simple economic reality.

      So one is really as useless as the other, the only advantage to the internet appliance is it gives the illusion of greater prosperity, and a view to the wider world. But neither offering materially affects the root problem, until the fundamental inequities in the global distribution of wealth are addressed there is little hope to ending this situation.

    • maybe they should spend their money on food and birth control?

      One of the biggest surprises in development work and family planning of the past decade has been the impact of TV on birth rates.

      You'll notice the opposite is true here in the "developed" world. Nine months after every major blackout, ice/snow storm, there's a mini baby-boom. People don't get nookie when they're watching Survivor and sitcom reruns (If having sex during Survivor is what turns your crank, I don't want to know).

      TV programmes have

    • by ILikeRed ( 141848 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @03:51PM (#9984696) Journal
      You don't understand the economics of a poor agrarian society. It is in their best interests to have a large number of children because:
      • Many infants and children do not reach adulthood
      • It's their only source of cheap labor
      • It also serves as their retirement plan (Hopefully one or more of the children will do well enough to support them living with them in old age - these are not people with 401Ks who move to a Florida retirement community.)
      Anything that can be done to help their (or their children's) education levels is often better than any other source of help they might receive.
  • Price reduction to match salaries is never a great idea. We all remain at the bottom of the well and bring down others too.

    Instead of just reducing the prices further and thereby reducing margins for manufacturers, we are incuding them to fire more people, bringing down incomes on average and thus again starting off the cycle...

    Increasing prices always bring increasing incomes....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:07PM (#9983574)
    Don't talk rubbish... there is no way anyone who lives on less than $2000/year would even consider spending that kind of money on that kind of thing. There are more important things: food, clothing, housing, heating, health, education, transport... if you can afford to drop $250 on a 'luxury' like this, then you certainly aren't in that salary band.

    • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:12PM (#9983635)
      If the computer is perceived as a means to get ahead in the highly competative education market, many families will sacrifice then. I dont want to sound stereotypical, but many of the Asian cultures value education much more than Americans. People will pay a considewrable amount for private schools, Saturday schools, summer camps, etc.
    • Don't talk rubbish... there is no way anyone who lives on less than $2000/year would even consider spending that kind of money on that kind of thing.

      Enter the government subsidy.

      Or, if that's not enough to your liking, perhaps more than one family can share the computer.

    • I have relatives that have less than $2000 anual income in Asia. In fact, when I send them $250 for xmas, that'll buy them (family of 4) food for 2 months, however, I know for a fact that they are saving that money for college tuition for their eldest because they see education as their way out of poverty. IF there were a computer for $250 I'm 100% positive they'll buy one and go a few months with "less" food (even without my help).
  • Power is problem. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deragon ( 112986 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:08PM (#9983583) Homepage Journal
    Great. Now we only need to find a cheap way to bring power to everybody's hut...
    • Forget the power. Power is doable for many poor countries... it's the monthly Internet access fee which will kill you. At $50/mo for standard broadband in the United States (YMMV), that's far more than the price of the computer in a year. What are Internet access rates like in these countries? How many people can share a decent pipe? I assume the village will go for a pooled Internet connection to the wireless access point, but what's the cost effectiveness of this?
  • by blanks ( 108019 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:09PM (#9983595) Homepage Journal
    http://west.cmu.edu/executive/pdc/projects/pctvt/p ctvt.htm

    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2004/03/13/s to ries/2004031301820700.htm

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/ ms id-423423,prtpage-1.cms
  • Earlier this year Mr. Reddy persuaded TriGem, South Korea's third-largest PC maker, to supply prototypes of a fully equipped computer and Microsoft to support the project with an inexpensive, stripped down version of its Windows operating system.

    Why, oh why didn't he use linux, like the Simputer? Maybe Microsoft are supporting this to use as the next weapon in the battle to keep the developing world away from Free Operating Systems.

    • by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:32PM (#9983831)
      Why, oh why didn't he use linux, like the Simputer?

      Seriously. I mean, the runaway success of the Linux-powered Simputer is impossible to ignore.

      That's why we're all posting to Slashdots from Simputers now, why most artificial hearts are Simputer-based, and why Keith Emerson traded in his Moog synthesizer for a bank of Simputers.

      Stupidity is trying something that's been done before but expecting a different result.
    • Possibly because he got *SUPPORT* from a *MAJOR CORPORATION*. MS are supplying an inexpensive version of windows (probably a customised WinCE build, at a few dollars cost per install), I doubt that this guy could get such support from Redhat and I seriously doubt that he wanted to build and support that software himself.

      And why the fuck are you assuming that MS wants to use this in the constant 'war on OSS'? Cant MS be seen to do a good thing once in a while? (oh yes, the many millions that the Gates
      • *(probably a customised WinCE build, at a few dollars cost per install)*

        still doesn't make sense. few dollars * gazillion = few gazillion dollars.

        MS is NOT going to offer support to the end users of this thing so buying a cripled product doesn't make sense from that point either, only way it would make sense to use ms products if they would get the customization for the os AND all the licenses for totally free and MS would also throw in a few bucks(and if MS made a very extensive set of programs for the p
        • No, MS isnt going to offer support to end users, but it HAS and WILL offer support to the people putting this computer package together. It isnt a simple thing, customising an OS for a given task and system. If he went with OSS then hes going to have to do that himself or get someone else to do it, which by all means isnt a small and insignificant task and in both cases WILL COST MONEY.

          This IS going to be a good product, by and large, because its designed to be essentially the next generation setop box
  • That a AI researcher and professor thinks that he has the best skills to create a mass-market product that requires extreme low cost high volume engineering skill. Engineers spend days figuring out how to save a couple of *cents* on a project like this.

    It's a nice idea and it should be done, but he's not the one that's going to do it.
    • Re:How is it... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:40PM (#9983892) Journal
      >It's a nice idea and it should be done, but he's not the one that's going to do it.

      Yes, its all so clear.

      Attention all good natured people. Please stop what you are doing. You will become utter and complete failures unless you are a Certified Professional Engineer. Forget about your hard work, lobbying and dedicating your life to helping others. Your lack the skills and specialized university-level degree to help others in any sort of worthwhile way.

      Please, just give up. You are just embarssing the rest of us.
      • You missed the whole point. I'm sure that the good professor can make one or two work. That's not the problem. The problem is making millions of them. That's what takes years of experience doing that. As an old boss once told me, "anyone can make something in their garage, the real trick is making 1000 of them with (pick your cheap labor rate) an hour labor.

        You simply cannot make a cheap, reliable product *and* mass-produce it unless you've got the experience and talent to do that. And it's been my
  • Windows? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by endeitzslash ( 570374 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:11PM (#9983621)
    One challenge Mr. Reddy faced was in persuading Microsoft to offer a version of its Windows software for the project for far less than its commercial price. But Mr. Reddy said he eventually won the support of Craig Mundie, the chief technical officer and a senior strategist at Microsoft.

    Strange that they wouldn't consider one of the free alternative OSs instead of going begging. Maybe Microsoft kicked in some research funds or something.
  • Windows? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:11PM (#9983622) Journal
    Considering cost is a *major* factor in this project, and every dollar counts, why the hell did he put Windows on it? Granted, he seems to have worked out a deal with Microsoft for a "reduced price, stripped" copy of Windows, still... $0 is always less than Windows.

    In this case -- a controlled hardware environment -- Linux would have been perfect. And free (as in beer).
    • Re:Windows? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:30PM (#9983811) Journal
      From the article;
      Mr. Reddy is hoping his project - with backing from Microsoft

      Not sure how MS would feel about supporting a project which uses a competitor.
    • Maybe he wants this to actually work in some fashion, and not be stalled at the 0.2 alpha stage like thousands of other OS projects.

      Maybe, with the backing of a major player like MS, he can get other funding (hardware/network).

      Would Linux the OS be cheaper than MS the OS? Yes, but only if you actually get the product to market and in peoples hands. Choosing the wrong parts might well kill it, thereby accomplishing nothing.
  • greeeaaat. (Score:2, Funny)

    by wmaker ( 701707 )
    wirelessly networked personal computer intended for the four billion people around the world who live on less than $2,000 a year

    great, 4 billion more idiots calling tech support.
    • great, 4 billion more idiots calling tech support.

      Well, it might mean that there will be so many tech support people needed they will have to outsource the jobs back to the developed world.

      Imagine someone calling himself Sanjeev, learning to speak on the phone with an Indian accent and being made to watch Bollywood films to pick up cultural references which will hide the fact he's a white guy from California.

    • More like spam. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU ( 699187 )
      Don't think Tech Support. Think 4 billion more PCs to 0wn and turn into spam-sending zombies. My inbox thanks you.
  • Sounds like a great platform for a portable version of Wikipedia.
  • by MoralHazard ( 447833 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:20PM (#9983705)
    A large part of the reason why the internet has been such a big and fast-growing success is because the propensity to get online has been linked to education and sophistication in the user base. If you put 500 million cavemen and -women in front of these nifty terminals, I think the best you could hope for is some kind of "infinite monkeys" outcome.

    But maybe I'm wrong--if you put halfway intelligent people online, even if they're not all totally literate at the beginning, they will probably get a lot more opportunities and incentives to climb the education curve. I guess that must be where all of these "cheap terminals for the 3rd world" are going.

    And now that I think about it, one of big concentrations of unleashed education, intellect, and technical sophistication on the Internet is Slashdot. You can make up your own punchline on that.
  • I remember many attempts in the USA to offer "less computer for less money". The most famous was the IBM PC Jr in the 1980s with the really crappy keyboard and minimal expandibility. One has to offer a computer with most of the capability of existing models. With prices halving every two years, this is not too hard to do. Thus we see the gradual ratcheting down of computer prices without much degradation of capability. Its the higher end computer that give more speed or storage for more bucks.
  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:20PM (#9983715)
    So, a person who makes less than $2,000 per year and may be illiterate is going to spend the equivalent of six weeks income on a wireless network PC. I don't think so. Or, is the plan to get governments and NGO's to buy it for people with the expectation that they will be motivated to learn how to use it. What's wrong with encouraging the spread of 'Internet cafes' in third world countries? That seems to be a model that is actually working. This sounds like the 'simputer' part II.
  • Power? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 5m477m4n ( 787430 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:21PM (#9983725) Homepage
    intended for the four billion people around the world who live on less than $2,000 a year

    Do these people even have electricity? Maybe we should be examining our priorities here... Clean drinking water for everyone, or email? I'd don't know about you guys, but I'd take food and water over 32 messages about increasing the size of my pen1s!
    • Re:Power? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by danharan ( 714822 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @03:27PM (#9984441) Journal
      Do these people even have electricity? Maybe we should be examining our priorities here... Clean drinking water for everyone, or email? I'd don't know about you guys, but I'd take food and water over 32 messages about increasing the size of my pen1s!
      Well, yes, as a matter of fact, a lot of those people do have power. It's kind of hard to lump them all in one category though...

      Slashdot has covered a number of stories that demonstrated the impact of good communications infrastructure in the "third world". Finding out what the real market rates are for your cash crop (instead of blindly trusting middlemen), getting your land title (instead of going through corrupt notaries), diagnosing diseases in your farm animals, communicating with relatives that are far away, education... the list goes on.

      It's not up to this guy that came up with a cool idea to decide between giving people clean water or cheap TV/computers. If we are to treat third-world people as equals, we'll have to trust them to decide whether they want to spend money on this tool or on something else that's more important to them. To decide for them is rather paternalistic, no?

      One last point - your pen1s enlArgement emails... we need help runnning this network, cause we're obviously overwhelmed. By inviting more people in, hopefully we'll find talented people- perhaps another Srinivasa Ramanujan [wolfram.com]?

      Let's assume these people can handle most of their problems if we're not fucking with them, and that they may actually help us solve some of our problems.
  • Fuzzy math (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Emmef ( 803757 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:36PM (#9983861)

    Umm...there's something seriously wrong here...

    We start with:

    "a $250 wirelessly networked personal computer intended for the four billion people around the world who live on less than $2,000 a year".

    Then, later on in the article:

    "The answer, he decided, was a simple device that would offer entertainment, making it something that even the world's poorest citizens might be willing to pay a sizable share -
    perhaps more than 5 percent - of their annual income to own".

    Maybe it's just me, but $250 sounds like a lot more than 5% of $2000. I might be willing to pay 5 percent of my annual income to own something cool -- but 12.5%? I don't think so.

    • I suspect that he's working on the principles of mass production and Moore's Law - and hoping that they'll become cheaper to produce. I guess the best comparison could be to compare the price-per-Gigabyte difference between the 1st-gen 5gb iPod and the current 20gb entry model.

      Perhaps in 2 years this thing will cost $100.
  • People that make less then 2 grand a year have more important things to worry about, like keeping a roof over their heads and food in their children's stomachs..

    I really dont think a 250$ computer/TV/whatever is a smart buy for them.
  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:47PM (#9983970) Homepage Journal
    Stupid People + Information = Dangerous Stupid People

    Stupid People + Education = Normal People

    Stupid People + Education + Information = Exceptional People.

    Information without understanding is like a gun with no ammo. These "unwashed masses" as they are called don't need information, they lack the skills to evaluate and understand information. They need education not an interactive TV to placate them....
    • Stupid People + Education + Information = Exceptional People.

      No, no, you missed it:

      The answer should be "Exceptionally Dangerous People".

    • How is someone dangerous if they're given a gun with no ammo?

      *ducks*
      • Because with the knowledge that they need bullets they may attempt to make bullets without understanding the technology behind it (to stay in the metaphor). I person that understands the concept of a gun for instance by try to make their own with a small amount of knowledge but without a firm understanding they might end up blowing themselves up. Think of teenagers left unchecking in a chemistry lab versus and adult versus a trained chemist. Varying degrees of knowledge (and wisdom) and varying results.
  • I realize that good information access can really help people make advances in their lives, but really, economic inequality is a much bigger problem that the Digital Divide.

    Perhaps it is more important to defeat one-sided trade agreements such as the FTAA and the WTO agreement on agriculture, which puts economic power in the hands of the industrialized north.

    If more people had access to fair wages, self-sufficient farming methods and nutritious food, people wouldn't need to work so hard at creating Micr

  • by vegaspctech ( 769513 ) <vegaspctech@yahoo.com> on Monday August 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#9984071) Homepage Journal

    The article fails to mention that Raj Reddy was already on the Microsoft payroll. See this four year old MS article [microsoft.com], or poke around where appropriate.

  • After reading numerous references to huts and clean drinking water I figured I'd have to comment. People living in huts with no power in the back woods of africa where the drinking water is vile are not making $2000 a year. If they did make that much they could move to some country where there is power and where 2k will get them enough food/clean water. 2k is a reasonable salary in some countries, just because its nothing here we assume that 2k is nothing everywhere. 2k american dollars... I bet thats e
  • Running out of departments, are we? Or is it some kind of "null" department, or maybe The Department (the place to be)?
  • I don't see this device as selling to 4 billion people in the first iteration. What it _might_ do is sell to a significant fraction of those folks-enough that most of these folks would know somebody that had one--or could go to a local gathering place and use one. What that means is stuff like a lot of interesting 3rd world art work showing up on ebay-and emergence of web sites geared to the concerns/needs of the 3rd world.

  • Anyone remember the interfaces in The Diamond Age? The population didn't need to read or write because interfaces had become iconographic and voice/speech based.

    I suspect that having access to computers will be beneficial only after some specific infrastructure is in place first. Dumbing down an interface doesn't seem to be a way to improving the chances of that infrastructure will improve to the point that such a device could actually be used.

    A far more productive revolution in computing has come about v
  • by Dave21212 ( 256924 ) <dav@spamcop.net> on Monday August 16, 2004 @03:11PM (#9984269) Homepage Journal

    targeting "particularly those with large populations of people who cannot read"

    Hmmmm, and I always thought that's what AOL was for ?

    Here's my 2 pence, they/someone should include software to help teach people along with TV, DVD player, and whatever internet browsing tools they feel these people "need"

    What separates Mr. Reddy's approach from other efforts is his belief that even the world's poorest communities can become a profitable market for computers...

    He's no saint...
  • He says his device can find a market in developing countries, particularly those with large populations of
    people who cannot read, because it can be controlled by a simple TV remote control and can function as a television, telephone and videophone.

    I don't want to sound negative but...
    Isn't it wise to learn these people how to read? how are they going to absorb any information?

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