Several points: 1. I myself am not sold on the idea of an underpowered, Minitel-style computer. Pass out third-rate equipment and you'll turn many people *against* the personal use of high-tech, especially for serious purposes. I've been writing about laptops for years and, yes, am horribly opinionated on the subject. Especially I loathe shrunken LCDs. But that's just me; I'm delighted to see the issue raised. I worked in Lorain, Ohio, as a newspaper reporter two decades ago; and recently I dialed into the community network there, and saw some demographic information which indicated that the average FreeNetter earned far, far more than the average county resident. Equipment and truly mass training would help make FreeNets more representative of Lorain-Elyria and other communities. What good will community networks do for average citizens if they lack the equipment to take advantage of them? And don't say that TV-computers are the answer. The early HDTV sets will be too expensive, and even at that, I wonder how well suited the equipment will be for real computing, as opposed to TV watching and games playing. The problem is even worse, of course, with existing television sets, which Prodigy and others are trying to tie in with. In any event, the idea of a basic-level computer is terrific; let's just feel a little more compassion toward the folks who can afford nothing better (or whose initial investment is low because they haven't been educated about the potential of high-tech). 2. Good used equipment is indeed better than bad new equipment. Perhaps librarians in local communities can start the ball rolling by passing out FreeNet fliers to patrons. The fliers might ask, "A $50 computer for work, school or mind-expanding fun? If we can get it for you, would you be interested?" The fliers could explain the FreeNet concept and round up names for a mailing list. Also, perhaps school administrations or teachers unions could do mailing to teachers to encourage them to apply and spread the word among bright students. (FreeNetters also might try to get local newspapers to write about the fliers.) The fliers, of course, would stress that the community nets were simply trying to document the need for such machines. Then with names in hand, the nets could make a more convincing argument in appealing for donations from businesses. FreeNetters could interview the prospective recipients to say exactly what they would do with the machines. Businesses would know how the project would help *individuals*. Perhaps the fliers could go out with the names and photos of average citizens who'd already benefitted from Free-Nets and other community networks. (I'm using Free-Net, of course, in a generic sense.) 2. If you can't get good used equipment as donations from local businesses, why not at least try the Boston Computer Exchange? Its founder, Alex Randall, has been shipping discarded computers overseas, and I *suspect* he'd be delighted to see these PCs and XTs end up in the States as well. Just a guess. But why not try him? Last I knew, BCE's MCI Mail address was BOCOEX, which, if I'm not mistaken, will be reachable from the Internet as [log in to unmask] I have no connection with the exchange or Alex's overseas project--other than having mentioned BCE in a book and in magazine articles. I just think he might be sympathetic to the cause. If anyone follows through, let me know what happens. BTW, Alex wrote an informative book on buying used equipment, and the same concepts might be of use when evaluating donations. Publisher is Microsoft Press. The name is something *like* The Used Computer Book or Alex Randall's Used Computer Guide. 3. People interested in developing a low-cost computer might want to catch up with William Murrell, [log in to unmask], an Afro-American computer dealer in the Boston area who for years has been promoting high tech among minorities. I've been in touch with him in connection with my TeleRead idea--in regard to the development of a prototype. An MIT-educated hardware designer, sympathetic but overworked already, has expressed some *possible* interest as well. And if I get some good grassroots response, that just might be the carrot he needed to start work on this project eventually. 4. For those of you tuning in just now, the TeleRead idea involves (1) the feds eventually buying up scads of sharp-screened reading-computers for schools and libraries to lend out, (2) the program driving down the cost of technology to the point where almost everyone could afford the machines from private vendors without subsidies, (3) the creation of a digital library containing virtually all newly copyrighted books and educational software as well, and (4) the use of the same computers for electronic forms for tax returns and other transactions with government at local, state and federal levels. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans spend at least several hundred billion a year in time and money on government paperwork. So electronic forms could save tens of billions of dollars a year and cost-justify a national electronic library for rich and poor. The same network intrastructure could be used for community projects such as FreeNets, whose real assets are not the host computers but the people supplying the content. Keep the telcom gods happy by having the feds simply *lease* wires and other infrastructure, even the national hosts--a good idea anyway since technology is constantly changing. TeleRead has evolved considerably since it was last discussed here, and I'd be happy to e-mail to interested people the newest version of the full proposal, which is now 20,000 words and which contains some material on TeleRead as a way to make government more responsive. Last May William F. Buckley, Jr. endorsed the basic TeleRead concept--the universal library--in his syndicated column. That was consistent with his advocacy of property rights. TeleRead would reduce the incentive for bootlegging and protect e-books much, much more effectively than encryption alone. In any event, the TeleReader, the universally available computer, is a key part of the TeleRead concept, and I'm delighted to see FreeNetters discussing this ancient but ever-relevant issue.