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. […]
It’s an ambitious project and one that requires just a tad of youthful optimism to pull it off. Dodge a pothole in China or India and you are likely to bump into the carcass of yet another ambitious attempt to bring low-cost computing to the developing world. The MIT Media Lab-backed One Laptop Per Child project planned to bring $100 computers to those in need. That project has never been able to achieve that price point, although OLPC cofounder Mary Lou Jepsen said Tuesday here that more than a million of the project’s XO laptops had been shipped to kids in more than 30 countries. Recently, Indian government officials made an announcement of a $10 “computer” that proved to be a dud.