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The $9 computer


In Pacific Standard magazine, Rick Paulas writes about a new bare-bones $9 computer that aims to eliminate the financial barrier for low-income people to enter the digital age. The computer comes without peripherals and does only basic computing tasks, but its real value, says the company that produces it, is to make computer literacy accessible to all. An excerpt:

The device in question is C.H.I.P., a $9 computer released by Oakland-based start-up Next Thing Co. It can do mostly basic stuff: word processing, spreadsheets, Internet, games. Those offerings were enough to build some buzz; the company launched a Kickstarter in May of 2015, received more than $2 million worth of funding (overshooting its $50,000 goal), and began shipping out the first $9 computers in January.

There are catches to that price tag. Consumers will need to obtain a keyboard, a monitor, a mouse, and perhaps a USB wall charger if they don’t already have one for their phone. (PocketC.H.I.P., another offering, runs $49 and includes a built-in screen, keyboard, and mouse.) The good news is—and what makes this device special—that most of these “add-ons” are hanging around for cheap or free.

“You can bring these common tools to the party based on what you already have and have access to,” says Richard Reininger, the vice president of marketing for Next Thing Co. “You can get them from us, or at a Best Buy, or a Goodwill computer store.” To those suggestions, I’d add the free section on Craigslist, garage sales, and neighbors’ dusty attics. (I have two keyboards sitting around, if you want to get in touch.) The group also designed the machine to work with composite video, so you can plug it directly into an old television.