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A $20 8-Bit Wikipedia Reader For Your TV

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the thought-experiments-welcome dept.

Wikipedia 167

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired about another entry in the ongoing quest for low-tech-high-tech educational tools to take advantage of distributed knowledge: "The Humane Reader, a device designed by computer consultant Braddock Gaskill, takes two 8-bit microcontrollers and packages them in a 'classic style console' that connects to a TV. The device includes an optional keyboard, a micro-SD Card reader and a composite video output. It uses a standard micro-USB cellphone charger for power. In all, it can hold the equivalent of 5,000 books, including an offline version of Wikipedia, and requires no internet connection. The Reader will cost $20 when 10,000 or more of it are manufactured. Without that kind of volume, each Reader will cost about $35."

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167 comments

A 2-bit Sheet Feeder for your Trash Can (-1, Flamebait)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 3 years ago | (#33073938)

And we're impressed? I can make this for $1 and it will do nothing.

Blurry text (3, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#33073974)

I can't imagine that the audience this is aimed at is likely to own an HDTV, so presumably they'll be trying to read masses of blurry text on an older SDTV. Sounds like fun.

Re:Blurry text (1)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 3 years ago | (#33073996)

Can I use it just until I need glasses?

Re:Blurry text (2, Interesting)

jrmcferren (935335) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074010)

The answers are simple, if the country uses SECAM that isn't a problem usually, if they use NTSC or PAL, simply turn off the chroma signal or use 40 columns.

Re:Blurry text (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074200)

My first 3 computers hooked up to an old SDTV. In fact as I recall it was a Black & White TV.
Now get off my lawn!

Re:Blurry text (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074326)

I don't usually talk to myself, but:
1. Timex Sinclair 1000
2. TRS-80 Color Computer 2
3. TRS-80 Color Computer 3

Re:Blurry text (2, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074572)

My first 3 computers hooked up to an old SDTV. In fact as I recall it was a Black & White TV.

But did you tie an onion to your belt? ;-)

I don't usually talk to myself, but:
1. Timex Sinclair 1000
2. TRS-80 Color Computer 2
3. TRS-80 Color Computer 3

Oh, the irony! :-)

Er, I can't talk, given that the first computer I used was a ZX81 (i.e. UK version of the TS-1000), and the first three machines I used were connected to black and white tellies, including my Amiga at one point(!)

Re:Blurry text (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075318)

Ti-99/4a (with 16k RAM!)

I still have it in it's box with all the manuals and packaging. I figure now's the time to bring it out and show the kidlet (9 years old) what computing used to be. Wish I still have the modem with handset couple. Not that I have any phones it could attach to...

Re:Blurry text (4, Insightful)

drHirudo (1830056) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074302)

Reading from the screen is not hard. Even on old TV sets. Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable. In fact in today technological society there are already more people reading more from screens of some kind, than from paper. With such cheap device as the one in the article, the ratio of people reading from screen versus the people reading from paper will increase even more in favour of the ones readering from screen.

Re:Blurry text (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074642)

It should be noted however that most TV sets have a 200% magnification option for Teletext for a reason.

Re:Blurry text (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074660)

Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable.

People aren't trying to read Wikipedia on it though. And if people didn't complain about it in the past, it's because there was nothing better (it was good for the time, but still limited compared to (e.g.) a newspaper). And if people don't complain now, it's probably because very few people use it. The operator of the UK's commercial Teletext service illegally ditched it last year (in breach of their license) because it wasn't making them money any more.

Anyway, Teletext's 40 columns is very narrow by modern standards, and would spread the average article over countless pages. Even 80 columns is pretty small by today's standards, and that's bordering on unpleasant to read on an old-style TV.

Re:Blurry text (2, Interesting)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074888)

In fact in today technological society there are already more people reading more from screens of some kind, than from paper.

Facts like these could stand a little batter anchorage.

Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable.

They might, if all they had to go on were the screen shots in the Wikipedia. Teletext [wikipedia.org]

Re:Blurry text (5, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074338)

so presumably they'll be trying to read masses of blurry text on an older SDTV.

Until the "IBM PC" came along, most of us hooked our home computers to our televisions:

http://www.vintagecomputer.net/apple/appleII/appleII_display_graph.jpg [vintagecomputer.net]

We wrote BASIC programs, played ZORK, and labouriously keyed in source code printed in the likes of "Creative Computing." Today, none of us are blind. Well, some of us are. But likely for other reasons than reading text on an SDTV.

Now get off my lawn.

Re:Blurry text (2, Informative)

blincoln (592401) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074696)

We wrote BASIC programs, played ZORK, and labouriously keyed in source code printed in the likes of "Creative Computing." Today, none of us are blind.

While this is true, the text back in those days was pretty barebones. I couldn't find a screenshot of what the TV output looks like from this device. Is it that same sort of old-school no-frills monospaced font with 40 (or 80 at most) characters per line? Or is it an attempt to shoehorn something with more modern formatting onto a TV via composite signal? I set up a Linux PC as a classic game emulator a year ago, and via composite I had to make the font *much* larger than on my old Apple IIe for it to be readable on a TV connected via composite. I think it was something like 25-30 characters per line. With S-Video it was better, but I would only assume that maybe 10-25% more characters could be squeezed onto each line.

Re:Blurry text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33076660)

You called it, about 40 characters per line on the old Vic20 if I'm not mistaken, with very simple block, equally-sized and spaced letters. I imagine reading a Wikipedia article at that level of zoom would be brutal to say the least.

Re:Blurry text (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 3 years ago | (#33076526)

Until the "IBM PC" came along, most of us hooked our home computers to our televisions:

The early IBM PCs also could be hooked to TVs. For games, this was preferable because a lot of games exploited "bugs" in the NTSC encoding chip, thus allowing them to render more then 4 colors.

Re:Blurry text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074528)

It's not going to be unreadable by any means -- doesn't anyone else remember C64s and even earlier machines using TVs as monitors? -- but you'll get a maximum horizontal resolution of about 4-500 pixels and a vertical of 480 interlaced (NTSC) or 520ish interlaced (PAL).

That's pretty much on par with a low-end featurephone, and cellphones (of some sort -- mostly dumbphones, right now) are even more widespread than TVs. So while there may be a legitimate market for this now, I expect it'll be all but gone within 5 years, as more of those dumbphones are replaced by featurephones.

Re:Blurry text (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074552)

I've used my Nintendo Wii on my SD TV to browse websites and the text isn't blurry. They should be able to pull off clear text even if the TV isn't high-definition.

My apple //e had composite out (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074764)

I remember the first time I dared hook it up to the VCR input
(5 siblings, one televison, and i was going to do something that made it single use person only)
and DAMN it looked good in color on the TV...

Re:Blurry text (1)

MoeDumb (1108389) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075102)

Perfect! The inventor can sell ad space to Lenscrafters.

I think their website must be on one of them... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33076196)

It's been overloaded for hours and there's no real details on the linked page.

Nice, but... (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#33073980)

Most places where this would be useful can't afford a TV to hook it up to.

Re:Nice, but... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074702)

Most places where this would be useful can't afford a TV to hook it up to.

Where I live (*not* a particularly rich town), there is a total glut of old-style portable CRT TVs- no-one wants them and charity shops aren't even accepting them any more. I'm damn sure you could get one for bugger all if you wanted to.

Re:Nice, but... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33076194)

Am I the only human in the world who has reverted to CRTs on the desktop and in the living room?

Cheap to buy. Colour looks right from all angles. Nice range of dark to bright. And built to last for decades - every LCD I've had to use is so fucking flimsy by comparison. Backlights fade and power supplies seem to be built with a self-destruct.

Hell, on a larger non-HDTV screen (btw I want better writing, not more eye candy) the softness of an older set is much nicer than the blockiness of a new LCD.

But then when I'm on the move it's with a Psion Series 3a and a 7-year-old mobile, wondering how the hell anyone does any real work on an iPhone thumbpad.

Re:Nice, but... (4, Informative)

gorzek (647352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074762)

You might want to check out the statistics [humaneinfo.com] as related by the company making these devices. The developing world has a glut of TVs but very few computers and little Internet access. These devices can help fill that gap.

Cool, but (2, Interesting)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074018)

Cool, but places where people have televisions also have public libraries. It's not like they can't find knowledge if they want to.

Re:Cool, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074194)

So let's say you need to find some knowledge in a place that doesn't have any televisions. Which is easier: bringing in a TV (even if it means bringing in means to power it) and this device, or building an entire public library and stocking it with books? A small LCD display, battery, and this thing can easily fit in a backpack and go anywhere in the world.

Re:Cool, but (3, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074264)

On the other hand, a public library might not be updated as regularly as Wikipedia. Or if your library is like the ones in my neighborhood, the computers often have a wait time. This is something I think would be a great tool to be used in conjunction with a public library. At the start of every semester or school year, some kid's parent could go to the library and download the latest version of Wikipedia. Then the kid can access information at home. I know it's hard to believe, but not every home in America can afford a computer and a $30 a month DSL bill.

Re:Cool, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074700)

No, but they can afford a nettop or netbook.

Re:Cool, but (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075332)

I'd say pay for the 802.11 chipset and allow the device to update wirelessly. I've found it much easier to find WiFi than an ethernet plug almost anywhere in the world except Japan (WTF Japan?)

Re:Cool, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074536)

Cool, but places where people have televisions also have public libraries. It's not like they can't find knowledge if they want to.

How can you be so sure. Have you traveled the world and seen the various conditions in which people live? It seems that many people at slashdot have a difficult time thinking outside of the united states.

Re:Cool, but (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074912)

A public library is where devices like this really belong.

WRONG! It's not about the USA (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075606)

places where people have televisions also have public libraries

I'm Brazilian and you wouldn't believe how few public libraries there are in Brazil. Even most public schools don't have libraries. But every family, even the poorest ones, have a TV.

Optional Keyboard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074038)

Browsing wikipedia sans keyboard is only for the seriously 1337.

Re:Optional Keyboard? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074966)

And, Wikipedia will not need an Internet conx, so what ever version it is will soon be stale. When they discover that Abraham Lincoln was a Jewish meat-cutter on Staten Island who liked hardcore punk, the people surfing Wikipedia on this thing will remain ignorant.

"the each"?? Is proofreading too hard? (0, Troll)

euxneks (516538) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074160)

How the hell do people keep making mistakes with their english all over the internet? Are you really too busy to re-read what you've just written? "the each"?? really? Every time I read something like this I get a hiccup in my mind and have to mentally process what it is you're actually trying to say. Granted, it's minor and easy to figure out but it's annoying none the less. A little proofreading goes a long way towards legibility.

Re:"the each"?? Is proofreading too hard? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074734)

Can't see the forest for the trees, huh? Some guy is trying to create a device to try spread knowledge and you're bickering over a simple typo.

I mean, you're using double question marks in your topic and failing to capitalize a bunch of stuff. Oh, and 'nonetheless' should be contracted into a single word. If you're going to wail about grammar and spelling, then at least try to contribute a comment that's properly formatted, rather than paint yourself a fool.

Re:"the each"?? Is proofreading too hard? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074810)

You made two capitalization errors (three, if you count "the internet") and spelled nonetheless as three words. I really don't care, but since you're being a pedant...

Re:"the each"?? Is proofreading too hard? (0, Troll)

Schemat1c (464768) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075858)

How the hell do people keep making mistakes with their english all over the internet? Are you really too busy to re-read what you've just written? "the each"?? really? Every time I read something like this I get a hiccup in my mind and have to mentally process what it is you're actually trying to say. Granted, it's minor and easy to figure out but it's annoying none the less. A little proofreading goes a long way towards legibility.

Go outside and get some air you miserable fuck.

Re:"the each"?? Is proofreading too hard? (0, Troll)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33076058)

How the hell do people keep making mistakes with their english all over the internet? Are you really too busy to re-read what you've just written? "the each"?? really? Every time I read something like this I get a hiccup in my mind and have to mentally process what it is you're actually trying to say. Granted, it's minor and easy to figure out but it's annoying none the less. A little proofreading goes a long way towards legibility.

Boy, I wish I was so smart that a little phrase like 'the each' would make me bang my fists on the keyboard.

$20 for 8 bits?!?! (4, Funny)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074184)

That's $2.50 per bit!

Outrageous!

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (4, Funny)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074468)

Yeah... that's a bit expensive.

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (1)

hydromike2 (1457879) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075492)

That bit rate gonna byte you in the ass when the bill comes!

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33076098)

Yeah... that's a bit expensive.

I remember when things like that were as cheap as a shave and a hair cut.

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074508)

[quote]two 8-bit microcontrollers[/quote]

Reading comprehension fail. $20 for 16-bit. $1.25 each.

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074778)

isnt 8-bit + 8 bit = 9 bit? (10011001 on controller 0 or controller 1, so could be represented by 010011001, or 110011001 respectively).

Perhaps if you concatenate them, THEN you can have 16-bit.

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075194)

what if the real value is in the info?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Database_download [wikipedia.org]

Warning: the compressed file enwiki-20100130-pages-meta-history.xml.bz2 is over 280.3 GB in size, and decompresses to several (>5) Terabytes of text. Before consuming Wikipedia's bandwidth, which is needed to serve millions of users around the world, ask yourself: do you really have enough hard disk space and computing resources to work on this file? Can't you use Wikipedia's API instead and work on a small random sample of the dataset?

@ $20 = 8.30648033 × 10^-12 US$ / bit
@ $35 = 1.45363406 × 10^-11 US$ / bit ...

what's more likely to be on the SD card

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_CD_Selection [wikipedia.org]

The Wikipedia Selection is a DVD selection of articles taken from Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, and was first produced in April 2006. There have been two major revisions since then, the 2007 version in April 2007 and the 2008/9 version in October 2008. It was the first available English language CD version of Wikipedia. The disc is produced by the charity SOS Children.

4.7 GB

@ $20 = 4.95384348 × 10^-10 US$ / bit
@ $35 = 8.66922609 × 10^-10 US$ / bit

8.5 GB (double layer)

@ $20 = 8.66922609 × 10^-10 US$ / bit
@ $35 = 4.79357208 × 10^-10 US$ / bit

pretty steep :\

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075220)

Sure beats my data charges...

Re:$20 for 8 bits?!?! (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075746)

That's $2.50 per bit!

Outrageous!

You must have an unlimited texting plan, or you'd be used to those rates by now.

Bits or books (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074190)

it can hold the equivalent of 5,000 books

...if the books are 200 pages long each. Or it can hold 500 books if they are 2000 pages long each. In other words it either holds a dump truck full of books, or a Volkswagen full of books. Hope that makes it clear for the non-technical readers out there.

Re:Bits or books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074482)

In other words it either holds a dump truck full of book...

So you're saying it's a lot like the internet, right?

Re:Bits or books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074712)

Not until we can figure how to fit a book into a tube

Re:Bits or books (3, Funny)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074568)

But are the books paperback or hard covered?
Inquireing minds want to know.

Re:Bits or books (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075030)

Hope that makes it clear for the non-technical readers out there

It won't really be, until the values are based on "Numbers of Libraries of Congress."

Re:Bits or books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075186)

Well, there's 142 million books in the LoC. That would mean that one of these can hold 3.52 * 10^-5 (0.0000352) Libraries of Congress.

Re:Bits or books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075580)

Or, for those of us who are engineers, 35.2 microLoC (does anyone know how to put a 'mu' on Slashdot?)

Re:Bits or books (1)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075814)

I'm sorry, I don't understand your crazy metrics. Can you give it to me in Libraries of Congress? You know, something understandable?

come on... (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074214)

I want a $35 kindle with a SD slot and not monthly fee. I'd buy that in a heart beat.

Re:come on... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074412)

You realize the kindle doesn't have a monthly fee right? Not saying anything about your other requirements, just that one.

Re:come on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075326)

I want a $5 blowjob, but your mom won't return my calls.

Re:come on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33076236)

His mom told me some dude was leaving her voicemail offering outrageous prices; she figures it must be some kind of prank, since she only charges $0.75...

Offline Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074268)

Is there an official offline Wikipedia for download?

If so I haven't been able to find it, would love one for my not very smart phone.

Re:Offline Wikipedia (2, Informative)

blai (1380673) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074360)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=download+wikipedia&l=1 [lmgtfy.com]

You didn't try at all did you?

Re:Offline Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074532)

No I did try, but oddly enough did not come up with the same answer as you.

So thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

And go fuck yourself for being an asshole about it.

Re:Offline Wikipedia (2, Informative)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074582)

http://www.free-soft.ro/pocket-wikipedia/pocket-wikipedia.html [free-soft.ro]
It's not official, but it's fine.

Re:Offline Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075010)

Thanks, that is much more helpful than the terabyte file I would get straight from Wikipedia.

Much more likely to fit on my phone.

Noble but useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074304)

So then, who is going to buy this device? Where will you find 10,000 buyers? And what real impact will this have on education? Given recent study reports on the effect of computers in educational systems, how can introducing to other, less well-off cultures or settings an electronic babysitter that kids won't even enjoy or use have an impact outside of those individuals that are already highly driven learners?

You want to increase education, increase quality teachers. Better yet, increase quality of parents... that's the biggest influence on children.

Re:Noble but useless. (3, Insightful)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074470)

Considering India just announced a $35 Linux laptop INCLUDING screen, memory and hard drive this product is overpriced and under capable. In the longer run the Linux laptop should be under $20. IThe laptop also allows the user to learn anywhere not just where the TV is located. I think most people would be OK carrying a laptop versus a TV. I would also think it takes less power for an LCD laptop than for a TV. Nice invention, only 10 yrs too late.

Re:Noble but useless. (2, Insightful)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074558)

The difference is that this can actually be built for around $35, less than that in bulk. The Indian announcement is very unlikely to actually result in a $35 laptop.

Re:Noble but useless. (1, Insightful)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074666)

I seriously doubt that $35 claim on his device. If he sells it in the USA the requirements to make it "safe" will drive up the cost. Who even makes 8-bit microcontrollers? The last time I played with them was the Intel 8051 and 8031 in the early 1990s and they were hard to get then. The $35 laptop made in India for use in India..yea they can do that.

Re:Noble but useless. (2, Informative)

xiox (66483) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074828)

I might doubt the cost too, but 8 bit microcontrollers are very popular now, even with the widespread availability of 32 bit systems. Many consumer devices include Microchip and Atmel chips if they don't need more power. There's also a bit Arduino (Atmel) hobby crowd.

Re:Noble but useless. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074876)

8-bit microcontrollers are easy to buy. You just have to buy the part micro-controller. The arduino has an 8-bit micro-controller.

Re:Noble but useless. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075024)

Considering that the 10 dollar computer that was also announces is turning out to be a 30 dollar plastic box with no input or screen, and it costs no less than $30? that $35 tablet is going to be at least $60 when they are done with it.

Re:Noble but useless. (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075292)

Even if it is $60 or 60 rupees, for double the cost you get one hell of a lot more utility!!! Plus the laptops can also access the Internet where it is available. IIRC, this thing you hook to the TV you need a PC to download then xfer to an SD card, unless of course they catch on and someone starts selling books on SD cards. With Kindles at $139 now, and laptops under $100 the cost vs utility of this device is poor.

Re:Noble but useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074556)

You want to increase education, increase quality teachers. Better yet, increase quality of parents...

How do you propose to do that? Increase quality of education so future teachers and parents aren't stupid by the time they're adults?

Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074340)

Just kinda underwhelming?

Maybe I've become a relic, but I don't enjoy reading for long periods of time on a screen.
If I do, I want a book, or at least, a printout.

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074480)

That's why the majority of eReaders on the market use eInk as their primary display. It basically eliminates the problem of eyestrain from reading off a screen. The older ones don't have very high contrast though, which makes Amazon's recent announcement of 50% better contrast very intriguing to me.

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074506)

That is where e-ink comes in. Seriously, the first time I tried a Kindle I thought there was a sticker on the screen, it looks that much like paper.

Yes, trying to read it on your iPad, laptop, etc. is going to be underwhelming, but the Kindle/Nook e-readers with e-ink is very easy on the eyes and just as good as paper.

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074724)

I second that. Plus the you can change the font size to help the hard of seeing.

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33076772)

Plus, oh I dunno, the cost of publishing is reduced to NEGLIGIBLE!
(or should be)

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074566)

Just kinda underwhelming?

Maybe I've become a relic, but I don't enjoy reading for long periods of time on a screen.
If I do, I want a book, or at least, a printout.


That's where the whole e-ink thing comes into play -- a screen that uses reflected (instead of emitted) light. As much of a cliché as it is, the screen really does disappear once you get into whatever you're reading.

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074596)

It's just you.

This thing isn't even an e-reader (those are typically portable including the screen).

This thing is extremely low-cost access to information, which you probably don't need (the extremely low cost part).
It is low-cost to the point of being primitive, yet still useful. I'm sure many people would be happy to read from a screen instead of not read the information at all. Got any idea what it would cost to print wikipedia on paper?

Re:Is it just me? Or is the e-book thing... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074992)

I don't disagree completely, I'm just wondering about how much this is going to be useful where it's really needed. I mean, it's a "bring your own screen", and that means it's going to need a TV. Oh, and be somewhere you have enough power to run a TV.

I suppose you could find enough of those little 9" black and white portable jobbies to fulfill some of the need, and those take various voltages of power both in AC and DC, but the kind of power a hand-crank generator puts out isn't going to run any TV anyone in Middle NoWhereistan is going to be able to get.

By and large, the market that can afford this and a TV and power to run the whole thing isn't going to want it. Or am I missing some significant market segment?

Except maybe as a portable schoolbook in areas where TVs are common, I suppose. Kid hooks it up to a TV at school, has access to textbooks, hooks it up at TV home and has same access, and if kid drops it school district is out a replacement cost that's far less than the cost of one printed textbook, and two orders of magnitude less than the cost of a brandy-new MacBook Pro.

VGA-out, if it's not terribly expensive, could at least allow it to be hooked up to a computer monitor - slightly better resolution, not all that much harder to obtain, etc.

Fuck Wikipedia (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074358)

I know Wikipedia admins are reading this so fuck you. You are all scum who like raping kittens and you abuse your power.

You would merge Albert Einstein into the General Relativity article per BLP:1E if you could get away with it.

Text only? (1)

sleeping143 (1523137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074504)

The wikipedia articles are alright, but it seems to me that having photos with short articles would make this much more compelling. After all, people don't love reading old copies of national geographic just for the articles. The pictures are generally what make it interesting and exciting, which is exactly how we want to portray learning to third-world children.

Re:Text only? (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074822)

Sure, but seriously remember how expensive encyclopedias used to be? Really, times have changed immensely, I remember back when I was in school you had access to an edition of The World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopaedia Britannica that was older than you, that never seemed to have the article you really needed. You had a library filled with old outdated books and no real easy way to search them (remember paper card catalogs?). And something like this for cheap would have been a godsend, far better than the old encylopedias and reference material.

Re:Text only? (1)

sleeping143 (1523137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075266)

I'm not entirely sure where you're disagreeing with me. I'm not saying that I want them to use old National Geographic articles, I'm saying that the format is good for drawing people in to the reading. The format doesn't require that the device be massive (though it certainly would require more storage), and it certainly doesn't need to be out-of-date.

Re:Text only? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075346)

I'm not disagreeing with you, but I'm just saying that if we look back the fact that all this can be done for $20 or $30, technology has come a long ways and the fact that we can put this in the hands of the third world they would have stuff that we wouldn't have had 30 years ago in most schools. Less of a disagreement and more of a "lets take a step back and think of how far we've came" post.

Re:Text only? (2, Informative)

Mr.Radar (764753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074886)

Unfortunately Wikimedia Commons, the source for all the images on Wikipedia, does not guarantee that all the images it hosts can be redistributed (even solely for the purpose of inclusion with "offline" versions of Wikipedia) and doesn't provide a one-stop download to get all of its content (like Wikipedia provides). Tools to download (scrape) all of Wikimedia Commons do exist, but as of a year or two ago there was already 500 gigabytes of content if you wanted a full mirror and I can only imagine that the amount of content has grown significantly since then. So even if they could do it legally, they wouldn't be able to practically unless wanted to add a hard drive to the design (drastically increasing the cost).

Re:Text only? (1)

sleeping143 (1523137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075360)

I understand that the device couldn't reasonably store all of Wikimedia Commons, but then it certainly can't hold all of Wikipedia either. Obviously, there would need to be some editorial work to make sure that the included information is useful, and I think that, while the effort is being put in, good photos to illustrate articles could be a very valuable addition.

Hmm. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074546)

I wish I'd thought of that.

Just convert the E-Book to 1920x1080 jpg's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074586)

If you convert your E-Book to a slideshow of 1920x1080 pixel images you can put it on a USB stick and stick it directly in your modern Full-HD LCD or plasma TV. It would be a far better/sharper reading experience than the 3 to 5 MHz bandwidth most composite video inputs can handle...
Just my $0.02

Re:Just convert the E-Book to 1920x1080 jpg's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075086)

yes, because the people that this $35 device is targeted at are definitely the kind of people that have HDTVs, access to a computer, and knowledge of how to convert an E-Book into images.

Re:Just convert the E-Book to 1920x1080 jpg's (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075222)

Oddly enough that might not be the demographic they are aiming at, but I would think that would be the demographic more likely to buy one.

Much like the OLPC, they may have been targeted at undeveloped nations, but I would bet more geeks bought them as toys than how many were deployed to undeveloped nations.

Well Good timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33074796)

You see if I could buy this thing right friggin now I would, but its more or less a an arduino with some plywood glued on top

And by the time they get done hyping it up for market there will be a billion DIY versions of it, including mine

40-column text? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074862)

It doesn't say what the display is but it's probably going to be 40 column text. 80-column is possible but I remember 80 columns being almost unreadable in my home computer days (and it took 16k of RAM for a black/white 80-column screen).

Will there be graphics....? Decoding JPEG images on an 8-bit chip will be painful. The device won't be able to hold all the bitmaps for a page in RAM so they'd have to be decoded on the fly as you scroll. Ick.

Doing this in 8 bits is reducing it too far. A 16-bit chip wouldn't cost much more but would make this device much, MUCH better.

Size (1)

adeft (1805910) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074874)

No mention of actual storage capacity that I could find...or does it rely on SD cards....or what? Wikipedia is in the Gigabyte range afaik

That is neat (1)

the_hellspawn (908071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33074930)

I could see a use for this. Lets say after watching a PBS episode of NOVA and a topic that was really interesting to a young one. The young one starts investigating the topic of interest. The young one goes and researches further when access to books and/or the internet unveils itself. The young one later becomes the next person that advances us monkeys into a status of smarter monkeys. Also be aware I suffer from false hopes and lies. My fantasies and delusions are awesomes.

Sounds over-engineered (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | more than 3 years ago | (#33075172)

Two micro controllers sounds like at least one too many to me, and it looks like they're using reed switches instead of the much cheaper membrain type.

Let's face it, $35 isn't cheap. $20 is a lot better (you're now in impulse purchase range) but it's still not cheap - there's a link to a $12 computer on the same page as the article.

I like the idea, but if you're going to wish for 10,000 units, then you might as well wish for enough units to support full scale integration and put everything on a single chip.

sex 3itH a taco (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33075984)

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