Posted by: peterhact | July 1, 2012

The soldering iron phase is over, isn’t it?

When the computer came into my life, it was pretty small and pretty cool. I became adept with a soldering iron, as the computer I had didn’t have a joystick for games, I had to change the pin sequences so that it would work. The screen was green CRT, and it was all a mind blowing experience as I learned how to change chips, upgrade components, solder here, solder there. Technology of the time was cool.

Then came the PCs, the 386 I had was pretty cool, I could change the ram, the processor, the hard drive, the operating system, and I was in heaven. If it was playing up, out came the soldering iron. I was able to fix stuff in it, and it was still pretty cool. I bypassed the intel 586 for a AMD Duron 850mhz processor. I could still fix the computer, if it was playing up, soldering iron at the ready, but it seemed that there was less to solder, less components to fix.

Now, I have a macbook. I can’t open, tweak, change or upgrade it. I have no clue where the ram goes, and I am locked into this model. No soldering here. Not to lose touch, I bought a Pentium 4 system as well. This has a turbo button, a case that I can open and fix stuff in it, but not much in the way of soldering.

Now is the time when soldering irons are a relic of the past, right?

Wrong.

There are new computers, designed for use in 3rd world countries, cheap, small and easy to fix with a soldering iron, tiny little things that allow an underprivileged child to have access to the technology of the world.  The problem is that these kids can’t afford these computers. The people currently buying them are adults who have the ability to buy complete systems, who buy these little computers to get back to tinkering. I found I was in an argument with someone tonight about their joy in turning an LED on a computer remotely, over the internet, when they aren’t at their little cheap computer. I itched to say Big Whoop. So I am. Big whoop that you can turn on the LED light on a computer remotely. There are ways to do that on a full blown computer. Never mind that it is an exercise in the inane.

A better use of the time it takes to write the program to light this LED would be to work out a way that a child in a developing country can benefit. remote access to lights could become remote access to a server that allows pen pals to discuss topics banned at home. Kids want to speak to each other across the expanses of the internet. work out ways to help them. A light on a computer being remotely lit won’t solve the problem of access to computers by kids in families under the poverty line, who would love one computer, nothing amazing, just access to the resources that we all take for granted. It would allow a child to use a computer with his schooling, in a slum environment.

It could also get the industry leaders excited about developing products in Australia. For Australians, or the world. Don’t tell me you can light an LED light from the furthest reaches of this planet without giving me a reason why we should be excited. Nobody gets excited when I turn a light on a server via a remote access algorithm. No-one says that it will change the world. If you have been able to do it, great. Now work out how it can assist humanity. Invent ways it can be used in real world situations that provide benefit to us all.

The person I had this argument with is a very smart person. They are far more intellectual than I. They can probably see the benefit of this LED light being controlled over the internet, but I have to say that its importance is escaping me. How does it benefit me? why would I want such a thing? who actually would? what is the reason to be excited about it that can be explained to a child who receives one of these little computers? will they ever get the chance to leave their village / town / city / country to test whether they can turn the light on? What can the light being turned on lead to? whatever it is, out there in the minds of others, excited by a light on a computer being turned on (when they aren’t there), how do they know the light comes on, if they aren’t there?

The soldering phase is still around. The soldering phase will be there for people who want to solder, but for the rest of the computer users, they won’t even notice it has gone.

Until the little LED light comes on.

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Responses

  1. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Kudos!


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