Solar powered RISC OS: wrong place at right timeBy Chris Williams. Published: 6th Sep 2004, 22:26:36 | Permalink | Printable
Before its time, againEditorial†Every once in a while, I come across something that makes me think, "wasn't RISC OS going to be used for that?" Of course, it's not about being bitter, it's about being wryly amused when you hear about the rise of tablets and PDAs, STBs and other things that briefly emerged before their time during the late Acorn era.
A friend pointed me earlier today towards this BBC News article, which reports on solar powered computers being deployed in India. The idea is to use sun powered kit in village schools, which suffer from frequent disruption to their electricity supply, or have no supply whatsoever. It seems a sane, hopefully economically sound idea.
Then you compare the size of the solar panels in the article's photograph to the size of the solar panel in the Explan Solo. You can't help but consider that an ARM powered computing solution would probably work best on such a power source, and would have been an ideal choice.
However, an ideal choice given the right circumstances. Would we have the right software for the end users, the villagers in this case, and with the appropriate language support? Could our platform have been successfully pitched to officials in charge of picking the technology to use?
The Explan Solo was aimed at the Third World, namely Africa, and there was the critical view that perhaps the Third World had other things on its mind, namely issues other than learning about how to use a web browser. The counter-argument to that view is that computers can provide education, technical skills and medical information.
The Solo would have pushed RISC OS some where very new, however by last year, Explan was seriously considering ditching RISC OS in favour of Linux running on an ARM9. I last heard from Explan's Paul Richardson in March this year, when he was working hard on the Solo project whilst facing political hostility in Africa - which may or may not have had anything to do with the almost missionary-esque relationship between the Solo and Explan's HolyBible software.
The World Energy Congress is under way this week and already foretelling the damage our energy hungry global society is causing. If a demand for 'greener' computers that don't gobble watts rises, perhaps RISC OS together with ARM's commitment to efficient, low power design, could be (for a change) in the right place at the right time.
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