India’s $10 laptop joke

There was a time when “Made in Hong Kong” was a byword for a cheap and nasty knock-off of the real thing, that didn’t really work. This was in the early 1970’s, and was pretty much true. In the late 1970’s I was horrified to discover that I’d bought a piece of electronic equipment “Made in Hong Kong”, but as it turned out, it was of really good quality and still works flawlessly today.

Hong Kong has now been assimilated by mainland China, and it seems that everything is made there – and is often none the worse for that. India has taken over Hong Kong’s mantel, although in this time of political correctness you don’t hear comedians joking about it.

But why is this? India seems to be a country desperate to be taken seriously – it has a space programme for no other reason than this. But artefacts manufactured in India tend to be either rough and ready, or inferior and semi-functional knock-offs of something made better elsewhere.

While still musing on the above I was sent this:

Apparently this thing, which looks like an iPad and runs Linux, would soon be produced for as little as $10. This in incredible. (Not credible). India’s Education Minister knows nothing about electronics or computing, and has announced this in spectacular style to the world. Apparently it was designed by the Indian Institute of Technology, and the Indian Institute of Science. Apparently they’re “elite” and “prestigious”. Their spokeswoman, Mamta Varma, said the device was feasible because of falling hardware costs. What they actually are, if this is anything to go by, is a laughing stock.

Of course, most people don’t know much about computing devices, but generally they have the good sense not to pretend they do. For the benefit of this majority: There is no way you can put a processor, colour touch-screen display and enough memory into a box for $10. It’d cost that for the battery and power supply.

Apparently this marvel has the facilities for video conferencing (i.e. a fast processor and a camera) and can run on solar power. Hmm. You’d need more than $10 worth of solar cells, for a start.

However, this won’t be “Made in India” – Sibal stated they were in discussions with a Taiwanese company about manufacturer. For $10? I don’t think so!

If India doesn’t want to be treated as a joke it needs to start by muzzling its ministers.