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Old-Style Computers Get New Life in Developing Countries


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CMU graduate student Derek Lomas

CMU graduate student Derek Lomas co-founded a nonprofit that is creating educational software that runs on cheap, low-powered computers like the one he is holding.

Credit: Michael Henninger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hanuman, a divine being in Hindu mythology, is well on his way to becoming a video game hero. It's all part of a project called PlayPower, co-founded by Carnegie Mellon University graduate student Derek Lomas, designed to create free educational software for impoverished families in India and other developing nations.

The inspiration for PlayPower came after Mr. Lomas noticed that poor families all over India were buying $12 computers that consist of a keyboard, a processor, a game cartridge slot and a hookup to the family TV, which serves as the monitor. The computers are rudimentary by Western standards, but their 8-bit processors are now in the public domain and can be freely used to develop educational video games.

Kishan Patel, one of the participants in PlayPower, said that learning simple skills such as typing can have a major economic impact in India, "making the difference between earning a dollar a day as an urban laborer or several dollars a day as a clerk in an office."

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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