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Humane Reader: the $20 Computer

by Paul Strauss

I’ve certainly seen our share of low-cost computers, but I can honestly say that this is the least expensive computer system I’ve seen yet.


The Humane Reader is designed to provide computer technology to homes or schools without internet access or the budget for traditional PCs or Macs. The 8-bit computer can turn any television into an e-Book/Wikipedia reader. As a matter of fact, its makers say you could store 5,000 books or more on a single 2GB SD card (included in the $20 cost). The creators of the Humane Reader state their value proposition simply: “The Humane Reader can provide a virtual library to any developing world school or individual with electrical power for less than the cost of a single textbook.”


Based on the Atmega328p microcontroller (there are actually three of them in there), the open source Humane Reader can be loaded up with educational content via USB, and it can display output on any video display with composite input. Basic control can be achieved through buttons on the face of the device, but a keyboard can be connected with an optional USB or PS/2 port. As an added bonus, its creators are hoping the computing platform will become an easily extensible and hackable general platform for developing low-cost applications and systems.

Sure, the television and keyboard will add a little bit to the cost of this system, but it’s still a pretty amazing feat to pull this off for just $20 bucks. In fact, they estimate that in quantities of 10,000 or more, they could get the cost down to under $15 per system.

You can find out more about the Humane Reader here.

[via Make:]

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