Mobile phones, developing nations, an amazing solution! (Article by Shane)

Alex Hudson home at
Fri Apr 21 10:26:15 UTC 2006

On Fri, 2006-04-21 at 10:14 +0100, Shane M. Coughlan wrote:
> Alex Hudson wrote:
> > Isn't this just the same idea Bill Gates had a few months ago?
> > 
> >
> Wow!  I don't remember seeing that :)  Thanks Alex.  I guess I must have
> encountered it somewhere?

Well, I think it's been thought of a couple of times previously to be
honest - I remember seeing something a while ago about plugging mobiles
into TVs for the purpose of running video games (might have been stuff
about Nokia ngage, I can't recall). 

I always thought the phone would be a bad way of doing this. 

I would think in most communities, especially in large continents like
Africa, people would generally receive TV over a satellite link.
Satellite set-top boxes already have the TV output hardware, they
sometimes run Free operating systems, have modems and serial ports, and
could easily be adapted to allow a keyboard and/or mouse to be plugged
in (in fact, Sky systems have come with keyboards in the past). Because
they're bigger and don't have the same mobile size constraints, they
could also be made cheaper, and the cost of providing general purpose
computing facility would likely be most a software one, compared to the
extra hardware required in a mobile phone.

Savvy satellite operators could include satellite broadband systems,
which would mean that they no longer have to access the internet over
some scummy 28k8 system or something, but can get a system with some
real download bandwidth.

Granted it's not as portable as a mobile, but a mobile which requires a
TV and keyboard to work as a computer isn't really a portable computer
unlike the OLPC. Plus, they're still going to need both satellite TV and
mobile phones.

I'm not totally sold on the TV as an output device. Contrary to the
figures you quoted, the maximum horizontal resolution for text is
somewhere in the region of 400/500 pixels, sometimes less (many older
TVs start losing focus, which isn't noticeable on most TV programmes,
but very noticeable on computer displays). Plus, the 576 vertical
display isn't really either - it's 288 lines per scan, then interlaced.
Reading text on an interlaced screen can be horrendous. So, you're
talking somewhere nearer QVGA than VGA in my opinion, and mobile phones
are already at that resolution (I hear there's a VGA one coming out soon

I also thought that the OLPC project would be better served trying to
make a more up-to-date version of the Psion Series 3 or something -
those things lasted for weeks on two AA batteries, and you could get
some really good software for them. I'm sure I bought mine for something
less than £200, and they were always pretty niche machines.



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