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$12 Computers
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All in a Twitter
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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

$12 Computers

During the summer of 2007, Derek Lomas, M.F.A. ’09, traveled to India and marveled at the $12 computers being sold in the marketplaces. The TV-computers (TVCs), which incorporate a TV monitor, keyboard and 25-year-old video game processor technology, eventually inspired Lomas and fellow UCSD graduate students Jeremy Douglass and Daniel Rehn to found Playpower.org. Using the low-tech PCs, they plan to bring computer-aided learning to children in India, Brazil, Ghana and other developing countries.

Earlier this year, Playpower received a one-year, $180,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to fund research and development in three areas: Software and hardware development kits, an online development community, and a series of international workshops to educate user communities.

“With this type of cheap, accessible technology, a child will be able to boot up a system and start learning how to program,” says Douglass, principal investi­gator for the project and a postdoctoral researcher at the UCSD division of the California Institute for Tele­com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Information Technology (Calit2).

“It gives them access to an entirely new realm, not only in terms of computer literacy and career skills,” says Douglass, “but also a sense of the way the modern world works.”

—Tiffany Fox