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[Nosc] another stab at the $5 workstation (was: F21 packet modem idea)

I was thinking about the discussion that started on the Color Forth 
list, about the Ricochet modem and other things said here.

How about building a computer inside a light pen? A wire would go out 
the "tail" to the back of the TV and attach to the video-in or VHF 
antena. Whenever you touch the pen to the screen the computer detects 
the position and so you can have nearly the same funcionality as the 
future "tablet PCs" and do useful computing without a keyboard.

I know a light pen is awkward and can quickly tire your arm and that 
many people would be nervous about sitting so close to a TV set (or 
even worse, seeing their kids do it). But it is a very natural way to 
draw, and I think that is an important thing to do with computers.

It would be interesting if instead of a battery or wall transformer, it 
could be powered by solar cells like these:


At least some on this list wouldn't think it is impossible to generate 
a TV signal at such low power levels, I expect. And do serious 
computing as a side effect. And generate and receive radio signals.

If I have such a computer and my neighbor has one, we should be able to 
talk to each other in some kind of packet radio scheme. Though it is 
still being studied by the FCC (as far as I know), this kind of 
technology seems more interesting to me than mere adaptations of what 
was originally created to carry voice:


This also seems like an interesting application for the F21 Echo Timer, 
from what I have read about that.

Now if one machine has a good connection to the internet, then all 
machines in a neighborhood should be able to share that connection. 
Machines that are close to you can relay packets to those that are too 
far away. If two communities are too far apart to merge, just spread 
some extra machines (no big deal at $5 each) between them. Hang them by 
their "tails" from a tree or pole where they will get plenty of 
sunshine. It might be possible to charge a battery to keep it going 
after dark, though that will be very hard to do.

More when I have a prototype (which will be too large to fit in the 
pen, cost more like $30 and will be much slower than what I was 
thinking about).

-- Jecel

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