Wednesday, July 28, 2010

8 Bit Computer; $12


$12 Computer: Playpower Wants to Save the World 8 Bits at a Time


SAN JOSE, California — The Apple II computer is long gone, but its heart beats on in the developing world, where 8-bit computers sell for as little as $12.

Now, computer scientists see a way of using those ubiquitous, primitive PCs to help kids learn — by playing games.

"It is about bringing affordable computer learning to the 90 percent of learners in the world who can’t afford a $1,000 or even a
$100 computer," says Derek Lomas, who is leading the team.


The $12 computing system itself defies conventional expectations of what a computer today should be. The soul of the Apple II and a geek microprocessor favorite of the 1970s, the 8-bit 6502 processor is the heart of these computers. It is small enough to be contained within a full-size keyboard and sold for mere dollars. The keyboard also has a slot for game cartridges, and is usually sold with a mouse and two game controllers. Many of these systems are currently on sale as "TV computers" in Bombay, Bangalore and Nicaragua. They are often packaged in boxes emblazoned with unlicensed cartoon art (Mario, Spiderman) and misspelled English ("Lerrn compiters the fun way!") and are bundled with games that would likely be copyright violations in the United States. And like the early home computers sold in the United
States, they plug into a TV screen for display.

Although these computers are currently aimed at the gaming market, envisions using them to deliver educational software and learning games to children in developing countries.

The project will run on machines that are within the reach for millions of families that make less than $3,000 a year, say Lomas and his partners, Jeremy Douglass and Daniel Rehn. Lomas and Rehn are students at the University of California at San Diego, while Douglass is a post doctoral research fellow there.

For most Americans, if the 8-bit processor sounds like a blast from the past, it is. The 8-bit 6502 chip technology, along with the Zilog z80, kicked off the U.S. home-computing revolution, aided in part by enthusiast organizations such as the Homebrew Computer Club.

Early 6502 home computers included the Apple II, the BBC Micro and the Commodore PET. All of them included the Basic programming language.

Creating software and games for the $12, 8-bit computer will be easy, says Lomas. After all, it’s something even fifth graders can do, because the Basic programming language remains part of the elementary school curriculum in many schools in China and India.

Want one? Get one here:

1 comment :

  1. I hope it's better than the 40 dollar netbook.