SolarPC has announced the SolarLite PC, a $100 (when you buy $10M worth!) PC based on the VIA chipset and DSLinux (Damn Small Linux) which includes a fairly complete set of tiny apps in just 50MB. It isn’t clear if it includes a display in that price — there is a mention of a 7″ LCD screen — but even that size would push the price limit. Runs on a 12 volt battery. Check it out at http://linuxpr.com/releases/7357.html
And guess what: no hard drive! There is a compact flash drive, in keeping with their admirable low power consumption and no moving parts philosophy. For that price they might be able to affort a 128MB CF drive. Not a word about performance, which will stink given the modest bandwidth and slow access times of standard CF. Yet compared to the original dual-floppy PCs or the single floppy 128k Mac of 20 years ago, it will scream. It will do everything that people need doing, for a low price. What could be better?
Pardon my parochial interest, but some large scale storage would be nice. Computing in the now is nice, but persistence is the core of memory, learning and culture. OK. so let’s not freight a cheap computer with too much cultural baggage. But what is the point of a computer for the masses with out masses of storage?
This isn’t the fault of the SolarPC folks. Hard drives are too expensive. Not just dollars, but power, cooling, fragility and for the maximum price/performance, size. For the masses, what is the right, or minimum amount of mass storage? It depends. But 10 to 20x the size of the OS and basic apps (or 500 to 1,000 MB for DSLinux) seems like a fair start.
What about backup and data transfer? I suppose CF is reliable enough that backup is less important, but accidents still happen. And one could use the network. assuming there is one, for data transfer. But it is very helpful to be able to archive work, to move large files without a network, to publish, samizdat-style, without putting it up on the web for everyone to see.
Kudos to SolarPC for bringing a sensibly designed low-cost PC to market. I hope the next iteration will have more and better storage capabilities.