A team led by MIT graduate Derek Lomas is developing an ultra-cheap computer for the developing world, costing $12.50
The idea is based on a computer that Lomas saw for sale on the streets of Bangalore, which was derived from 1980’s technology.
He and his team hope to develop software for the system and add flash memory and internet access via mobile phone.
The computer, an 8-bit system called the Victor 90 is billed as an educational resource and derived from a 1980’s system called the Famicom. Known in the US and Europe as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Victor is so close to the original technology that it is compatible with NES cartridges.
The Famicom system was advanced for its time, containing a 1.7 MHz 8-bit processor, 2k of video memory and the capacity to display 256x240 pixels through a television screen. Such was it popularity that it inspired a number of unlicensed clones, such as the Victor 70.
Lomas and his team hope to be able to develop software that will allow users to save data on to a flash based memory and will evolve hardware that allows the user to have internet access. This will either be achieved by adapting mobile phone technology or by allowing a mobile phone to be jacked in to the system.
The system will continue to see its prime function as an educational resource. “We see this as a model that could increase economic opportunities for people in developing countries,” said Lomas. “If you just know how to type, that can be the difference between earning $1 an hour instead of $1 a day.”