A new proposal out of MIT (original home of the so-called $100 laptop from the OLPC) has gotten quite a bit of traction in the blogosphere and around the Web. A group of students, recalling their own early computing experiences in Apple II labs, is attempting to resurrect these ancient workhorses to facilitate computer education in developing countries.
So just what can students learn about computing on a green-screened beast? Before you're too scornful of this effort, keep in mind the words of project leader Derek Lomas:
"If you just know how to type, that can be the difference between earning $1 an hour instead of $1 a day..."
Imagine call-center staff accessing customer data through terminal applications or the increasingly mobile-phone (and therefore text-based) applications for which many websites are being optimized. A Core 2 Duo just doesn't matter here and neither does Windows Vista.
The students are working with programmers to develop simple applications and are making minor upgrades to the hardware. The Boston Herald (and fellow blogger Andrew Nusca) report:
He and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology symposium hope to soup up the systems - which are based on old Apple II computers - with rudimentary Web access and more...A six-member team at the MIT conference is working on writing improved programs and hooking the devices to the Web through cell phones. The group also wants to add memory chips - which the devices currently lack - to allow users to write and store their own programs.
Good stuff. At $12 a pop, I have to wonder if these just might be a lot more useful and accessible than the XO.