Contact: Jack Lang, Lecturer, Computer Lab
Mentor: Amy Weatherup

A team from The Computer Lab here at Cambridge is currently developing a low-cost computing box initially designed to allow kids and other enthusiasts to learn how to write programs. Led by Jack Lang, who was one of the creators of the BBC Micro (recently featured in “Micro Men” on the BBC), the team wish to explore all possible markets for the new design, to ensure the greatest possible success.

In this project, the i-Team will be asked to focus on the use of computers in developing countries, and investigate whether these would be appropriate markets for Jack and his team. Other initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child have not yet proven successful for a variety of reasons. The team will need to look at the key features (hardware and software) that would be needed to allow the computing box to be widely used. In particular they will be asked to focus on areas where cost is an important factor, with the understanding that there may well be different answers for different countries, and for different populations within those countries. Questions to answer include the physical limitations of the environment which will affect the hardware specification (such as access to electrical power or TV screens), and the key software applications that will be needed. This may be the first piece of electrical equipment purchased (other than perhaps a mobile phone), so how could it be made as valuable to the customers as possible?

A previous i-Team investigated the use of the computing box as a low-cost programmable computer targeted at children and young adults, and their results will be made available to the new team of students.