Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Wikipedia Education Television News Hardware

A $20 8-Bit Wikipedia Reader For Your TV 167

Posted by timothy
from the thought-experiments-welcome dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired about another entry in the ongoing quest for low-tech-high-tech educational tools to take advantage of distributed knowledge: "The Humane Reader, a device designed by computer consultant Braddock Gaskill, takes two 8-bit microcontrollers and packages them in a 'classic style console' that connects to a TV. The device includes an optional keyboard, a micro-SD Card reader and a composite video output. It uses a standard micro-USB cellphone charger for power. In all, it can hold the equivalent of 5,000 books, including an offline version of Wikipedia, and requires no internet connection. The Reader will cost $20 when 10,000 or more of it are manufactured. Without that kind of volume, each Reader will cost about $35."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A $20 8-Bit Wikipedia Reader For Your TV

Comments Filter:
  • Blurry text (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wjousts (1529427) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:03PM (#33073974)
    I can't imagine that the audience this is aimed at is likely to own an HDTV, so presumably they'll be trying to read masses of blurry text on an older SDTV. Sounds like fun.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jrmcferren (935335)

      The answers are simple, if the country uses SECAM that isn't a problem usually, if they use NTSC or PAL, simply turn off the chroma signal or use 40 columns.

    • My first 3 computers hooked up to an old SDTV. In fact as I recall it was a Black & White TV.
      Now get off my lawn!
      • I don't usually talk to myself, but:
        1. Timex Sinclair 1000
        2. TRS-80 Color Computer 2
        3. TRS-80 Color Computer 3
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dogtanian (588974)

          My first 3 computers hooked up to an old SDTV. In fact as I recall it was a Black & White TV.

          But did you tie an onion to your belt? ;-)

          I don't usually talk to myself, but:
          1. Timex Sinclair 1000
          2. TRS-80 Color Computer 2
          3. TRS-80 Color Computer 3

          Oh, the irony! :-)

          Er, I can't talk, given that the first computer I used was a ZX81 (i.e. UK version of the TS-1000), and the first three machines I used were connected to black and white tellies, including my Amiga at one point(!)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MichaelSmith (789609)

            My first 3 computers hooked up to an old SDTV. In fact as I recall it was a Black & White TV.

            But did you tie an onion to your belt? ;-)

            Of course, because that was the style at the time.

            My system was called the Ohio scientific super board 2. It had a 6502, audio cassette interface and video modulator. Software was a little boot menu which you got after reset. The menu said D/C/W/M. D was for mysterious disk drives and I believe it would load a sector from a disk and jump to it. We weren't millionaires so we never used it. C reset RAM and jumped to BASIC. W Just jumped to BASIC. M jumped to a machine code monitor in a 256 byte ROM. The syste

          • by ColdGrits (204506)

            Er, I can't talk, given that the first computer I used was a ZX81 (i.e. UK version of the TS-1000)

            Sorry to be pedantic, but the TS-1000 was the US version of the ZX81 - the ZX81 (invented by Sinclair) was the original, the Timex was the version branded for sale in the US subsequently.

            Speaking as the former owner of a ZX80, ZX81 amd ZX Spectrum... :-)

            • Not just in the US, also in Canada.

              And it had an extra K of RAM!

            • by Dogtanian (588974)

              Sorry to be pedantic, but the TS-1000 was the US version of the ZX81 - the ZX81 (invented by Sinclair) was the original

              Well yeah, I know- I honestly didn't elaborate on that point though as I didn't want to be pedantic(!)

        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          Ti-99/4a (with 16k RAM!)

          I still have it in it's box with all the manuals and packaging. I figure now's the time to bring it out and show the kidlet (9 years old) what computing used to be. Wish I still have the modem with handset couple. Not that I have any phones it could attach to...

      • by wjousts (1529427)
        Yeah, me too. But I never tried to read an ENTIRE BOOK on it. Which was kinda my point.
        • No, but I did a lot of BBSing, and programming on them. Hours and hours of looking at blurry text.
          The point I was trying to make is: If a SDTV is the best you have, it will be good enough.
    • Re:Blurry text (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drHirudo (1830056) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:23PM (#33074302) Homepage
      Reading from the screen is not hard. Even on old TV sets. Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable. In fact in today technological society there are already more people reading more from screens of some kind, than from paper. With such cheap device as the one in the article, the ratio of people reading from screen versus the people reading from paper will increase even more in favour of the ones readering from screen.
      • It should be noted however that most TV sets have a 200% magnification option for Teletext for a reason.

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable.

        People aren't trying to read Wikipedia on it though. And if people didn't complain about it in the past, it's because there was nothing better (it was good for the time, but still limited compared to (e.g.) a newspaper). And if people don't complain now, it's probably because very few people use it. The operator of the UK's commercial Teletext service illegally ditched it last year (in breach of their license) because it wasn't making them money any more.

        Anyway, Teletext's 40 columns is very narrow by mo

        • People aren't trying to read Wikipedia on it though. And if people didn't complain about it in the past, it's because there was nothing better

          But if it's meant for developing nations, they may well NOT have anything better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by westlake (615356)

        In fact in today technological society there are already more people reading more from screens of some kind, than from paper.

        Facts like these could stand a little batter anchorage.

        Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable.

        They might, if all they had to go on were the screen shots in the Wikipedia. Teletext [wikipedia.org]

        • In fact in today technological society there are already more people reading more from screens of some kind, than from paper.

          Facts like these could stand a little batter anchorage.

          Wikipedia Channel 65534

      • Re:Blurry text (Score:4, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @06:59PM (#33077466) Journal

        Reading from the screen is not hard. Even on old TV sets.

        Yes. Yes it is. Interlacing is BAD. VGA-resolution is bad. No magic will fix that.

        Teletext exists since ages and nobody complains about it being unreadable.

        Teletext takes up, what, 1/5th of the screen for TWO LINES of text? Yeah, at those sizes, anybody can read them. Trying to read a lengthy document like that proves VERY cumbersome. Non-stop scrolling to the next few lines, and an exhausting experience as your eyes have to travel vastly further than they should, or would on a decent monitor, or book page.

        Yeah, text as 24x80 is readable, but even them, you don't want to be subjected to it, if you have a choice.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Teletext usually gave about 500 characters/page plus some graphics. Given its popularity for things like news and sports, i.e. moderately-long articles, in the countries in which it is available, clearly it worked "well enough". As for "have a choice", it goes without saying that a product like this is not aimed at people who have the option of reading Wikipedia on a computer.

    • Re:Blurry text (Score:5, Informative)

      by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:25PM (#33074338)

      so presumably they'll be trying to read masses of blurry text on an older SDTV.

      Until the "IBM PC" came along, most of us hooked our home computers to our televisions:

      http://www.vintagecomputer.net/apple/appleII/appleII_display_graph.jpg [vintagecomputer.net]

      We wrote BASIC programs, played ZORK, and labouriously keyed in source code printed in the likes of "Creative Computing." Today, none of us are blind. Well, some of us are. But likely for other reasons than reading text on an SDTV.

      Now get off my lawn.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blincoln (592401)

        We wrote BASIC programs, played ZORK, and labouriously keyed in source code printed in the likes of "Creative Computing." Today, none of us are blind.

        While this is true, the text back in those days was pretty barebones. I couldn't find a screenshot of what the TV output looks like from this device. Is it that same sort of old-school no-frills monospaced font with 40 (or 80 at most) characters per line? Or is it an attempt to shoehorn something with more modern formatting onto a TV via composite signal? I se

        • by Nimey (114278)

          The Apple ][ series supported TVs at 40 columns. You had to buy an RGB monitor to get 80 columns.

          Don't remember if my //c booted up in 80-column mode by default, or if you had to toggle the button at the keyboard's top-left.

        • While this is true, the text back in those days was pretty barebones. I couldn't find a screenshot of what the TV output looks like from this device.
          Well they say they took the firmware for the microcontroller that does the display from the tellymate project ( http://www.batsocks.co.uk/products/Other/TellyMate.htm [batsocks.co.uk] ) and that project has screenshots (which look pretty barebones) and figures (38x25 which is fairly similar to teletext's 40x24).

      • by GWBasic (900357)

        Until the "IBM PC" came along, most of us hooked our home computers to our televisions:

        The early IBM PCs also could be hooked to TVs. For games, this was preferable because a lot of games exploited "bugs" in the NTSC encoding chip, thus allowing them to render more then 4 colors.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Until the "IBM PC" came along, most of us hooked our home computers to our televisions:

        And it was horrible. We only did it because it was the only option available to us.

    • I've used my Nintendo Wii on my SD TV to browse websites and the text isn't blurry. They should be able to pull off clear text even if the TV isn't high-definition.

    • I remember the first time I dared hook it up to the VCR input
      (5 siblings, one televison, and i was going to do something that made it single use person only)
      and DAMN it looked good in color on the TV...

    • It's been overloaded for hours and there's no real details on the linked page.

  • Cool, but (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:06PM (#33074018)
    Cool, but places where people have televisions also have public libraries. It's not like they can't find knowledge if they want to.
    • Re:Cool, but (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dave562 (969951) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:21PM (#33074264) Journal

      On the other hand, a public library might not be updated as regularly as Wikipedia. Or if your library is like the ones in my neighborhood, the computers often have a wait time. This is something I think would be a great tool to be used in conjunction with a public library. At the start of every semester or school year, some kid's parent could go to the library and download the latest version of Wikipedia. Then the kid can access information at home. I know it's hard to believe, but not every home in America can afford a computer and a $30 a month DSL bill.

      • I'd say pay for the 802.11 chipset and allow the device to update wirelessly. I've found it much easier to find WiFi than an ethernet plug almost anywhere in the world except Japan (WTF Japan?)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      A public library is where devices like this really belong.

    • by mangu (126918) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:38PM (#33075606)

      places where people have televisions also have public libraries

      I'm Brazilian and you wouldn't believe how few public libraries there are in Brazil. Even most public schools don't have libraries. But every family, even the poorest ones, have a TV.

    • by fyrewulff (702920)
      Having worked at a public library, people don't actually want to FUND the libraries. We had times where there were subjects you could not check books out on at my branch because we had none left and no money to replace them.
  • by Ossifer (703813) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:17PM (#33074184)

    That's $2.50 per bit!

    Outrageous!

  • it can hold the equivalent of 5,000 books

    ...if the books are 200 pages long each. Or it can hold 500 books if they are 2000 pages long each. In other words it either holds a dump truck full of books, or a Volkswagen full of books. Hope that makes it clear for the non-technical readers out there.
  • Just kinda underwhelming?

    Maybe I've become a relic, but I don't enjoy reading for long periods of time on a screen.
    If I do, I want a book, or at least, a printout.

    • That's why the majority of eReaders on the market use eInk as their primary display. It basically eliminates the problem of eyestrain from reading off a screen. The older ones don't have very high contrast though, which makes Amazon's recent announcement of 50% better contrast very intriguing to me.

    • That is where e-ink comes in. Seriously, the first time I tried a Kindle I thought there was a sticker on the screen, it looks that much like paper.

      Yes, trying to read it on your iPad, laptop, etc. is going to be underwhelming, but the Kindle/Nook e-readers with e-ink is very easy on the eyes and just as good as paper.
    • Just kinda underwhelming?

      Maybe I've become a relic, but I don't enjoy reading for long periods of time on a screen.
      If I do, I want a book, or at least, a printout.


      That's where the whole e-ink thing comes into play -- a screen that uses reflected (instead of emitted) light. As much of a cliché as it is, the screen really does disappear once you get into whatever you're reading.
  • by blair1q (305137)

    I wish I'd thought of that.

  • It doesn't say what the display is but it's probably going to be 40 column text. 80-column is possible but I remember 80 columns being almost unreadable in my home computer days (and it took 16k of RAM for a black/white 80-column screen).

    Will there be graphics....? Decoding JPEG images on an 8-bit chip will be painful. The device won't be able to hold all the bitmaps for a page in RAM so they'd have to be decoded on the fly as you scroll. Ick.

    Doing this in 8 bits is reducing it too far. A 16-bit chip wouldn

  • Two micro controllers sounds like at least one too many to me, and it looks like they're using reed switches instead of the much cheaper membrain type.

    Let's face it, $35 isn't cheap. $20 is a lot better (you're now in impulse purchase range) but it's still not cheap - there's a link to a $12 computer on the same page as the article.

    I like the idea, but if you're going to wish for 10,000 units, then you might as well wish for enough units to support full scale integration and put everything on a single chip

  • Lame design! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOSPAM.beau.org> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:54PM (#33077982)

    The design is truly lame. Yes bitbanging ntsc video out of an AVR is neat but if you are really trying to build a mass produced device this design is about as stupid as possible. Bitbang video and bitbang USB via yet another AVR with a third as the CPU? Oh. My. God.

    Use a single chip ARM or MIPS with a real framebuffer with video out and USB on chip. Can't cost more than the three AVRs in quantity and will do so much more.

    And another benefit is that they are also pitching it as a computer but it isn't. I love the AVR line as an embedded colution but the Harvard arch is a killer in that you can't run programs from RAM and the program flash is only good for 10K writes.

  • And I am very excited to see they want to use this for 'learning'. Great, 'learning' from an offline dump of Wikipedia. What's going to happen when hundreds of thousands of children in developing nations get a dump with some vandalism in it? Will they learn that George W. Bush is the spawn of some underworld creature, or Barack Obama is an Islamic terrorist born in Kenya? How will they respect the British elite military frogmen when they believe them to be half-men half-frog creatures that live in the sea?
  • With Kindles and Nooks headed below $100, probably by Christmas, this is not worth the eyestrain and massive headaches!

"I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS

Working...