UPDATE: The MIT design team referred to in this post is basing its design not on the Apple II, but on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which used the same processor chip. We regret our error, which was originally reported by The Boston Herald article to whcih our post was linked. Thanks to David Zeiler at The Baltimore Sun for the clarification.
Derek Lomas, an American graduate student, has recruited Apple II enthusiasts at this month’s MIT International Development Design Summit “to give Third World schools Apple II computer labs like the ones I grew up with.”
Lomas, Jesse Austin-Breneman and other designers want to create a computer that Third World residents can buy for much less than the ones currently being developed by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte, who has been working since 2005 to provide $100 laptops to Third World kids. “We see this as a model that could increase economic opportunities for people in developing countries,” sas Lomas. “If you just know how to type, that can be the difference between earning $1 an hour instead of $1 a day.”
Lomas discovered kids using a cheap keyboard and Nintendo-like console hooked up to home TVs running simple games during an internship in India last summer and hit on the idea of upgrading the devices’ 1980s-era technology. He and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology symposium hope to get buy-in from programmers to help upgrade the systems – which are based on old Apple II computers – with rudimentary Web access and more.
The six member team at MIT is working on writing improved programs and connecting 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. “We think we can develop a really good educational tool that could give kids exposure to keyboards, typing and mouse usage at an early age,” said Austin-Breneman, a 25-year-old MIT graduate and a mechanical engineer.