Subject: Re: Thoughts on simputer?
From: D Henkel-Wallace <>
Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2001 05:17:22 +0100

On Friday, December 21, 2001, at 08:28 , Russell Nelson wrote:
> Nick Jennings writes:
>> I like the idea of a simputer. Although it seems a little useless in 
>> some
>> ways. Like, what are you really going to do with that thing? A bunch of
>> 486s at the town center would be more usefull that a bunch of these.
> Imagine a nation of entrepreneurs.  Now, give them cheap computers.

I'm not sure this is on topic, but Russ really has the right idea here.  
People in India have frequently managed to use technology in ways not 
"intended" by the designers -- an irony considering how the economy has 
been for so long as centrally managed as was technologically possible!

Perhaps this is FSB content: almost 20 years ago  I (and Danny Hillis 
and a bunch of other folks probably known to y'all on this list) worked 
for Nicholas Negroponte on a superficially similar project called the 
Centre Mondial d'Informatique.  This was just after the socialists had 
come to power in France and among other crackpot ideas that flourished 
at the time was the one that they could help the third world leapfrog 
the "technology ladder" by, for example, sending them locally usable 
technology rather than, say, a huge dam.  E.g. a rugged computer that 
could help you visually identify unfamiliar medicinal plants or (I 
preferred) how to fix a pump.

The harebrained part of the scheme (to make a very long story unfairly 
short) was that it was government managed and really designed to help 
advance French hegemony in preference to the disastrous American 
approach to foreign aid.

This is what (eventually) led me to understand the social benefits of 
capitalism and is why FSBs are so very important.  I think the older 
models are running out of steam to some extent, though I can't agree 
with some of the reasons recently espoused on this list.

The willingness to be flexible and to (via competition) try multiple 
paths simultaneously is crucial.  The central planning approach sucks.  
And as this list (and g.m.d et al ad nauseam) so abundantly proves: not 
everybody involved shares my belief -- _but the old invisible hand of 
the market_ allows us to work together, heh heh!

It's also why I find Ximian's clever licensing experiment to exciting, 
and am somewhat flabbergasted that some might not.  We tried a few such 
hybrid models, unsuccessfully, at Cygnus; they seemed to find their 
level better by abandoning 'em after I left.  But that doesn't mean 
viable models might not exist -- we should be glad someone's trying 
them.  Right now the most viable FSB seems to be IBM, and I know they'd 
drop it without a backward glance if something better came along.  I 
wish we'd see more experiments.

Maybe we'd even evolve a viable micropayment scheme after all, who knows.