Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Really Low-Cost Computers Are Here

The notion that improvements in technology normally lead to lower costs for consumers is taken to an extreme with some of the new devices hitting the market, such as the CHIP computer.

The CHIP website calls the device the world’s first $9 computer. It’s about the size of a credit card and has WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities built in, a 1GHz processor, four gigabytes of storage, and 512 MB of RAM. Keyboard, screen, and mouse are not part of the package, but CHIP can connect to any Bluetooth device and has a USB port to plug into older accessories.

Next Thing Co. created CHIP through a Kickstarter campaign that got the backing of nearly 40,000 people and raised $2 million, according to a report by National Public Radio. A teacher from the Nelson County Area Technology Center, Bardstown, KY, contributed $150 to the campaign and was selected to test the device in the classroom. Students at the school have used CHIP to rewire Star Wars toys with LED lights.

“This is one way to do it, by intriguing their interest and seeing what’s on the cutting edge of technology,’” said Jeremy Booher, principal of the school. “If we were still using typewriters and using Microsoft DOS, then obviously people come in and fall asleep.”

The CHIP is just one of a number of low-cost basic computers now on the market or coming soon. They have been made possible because the price of microprocessors and computer components has fallen so dramatically.

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