Thursday, July 29, 2010

Going for Cheap: India’s $35 Computer - Digits - WSJ
I know I'm not the brightest guy in the world. But thank God I'm not a journalism graduate.

So, variants of the above article have been running all over the Internet, newsrooms, and blogoshpere this week. India has a $35 computer. Great!

Except that they don't, probably won't anytime soon, and likely shouldn't anyway. Shouldn't? Yep, they shouldn't. Yet don't expect any of our journalism corps to ask where, when, how, or why.

Here's my questions, the one our journalist friends won't ask:

Does a $35 computer leaves anything for the family of the person producing said computer? Should it? Consider: a $35 coffee maker is complicated enough to make. It has a case, a coil, and one electronic chip–the clock.

A computer, though, must have dozens of chips. Those chips are in turn constructed from gallium-arsenide and silicon and copper and gold and all sorts of minerals which must be pulled from the ground by men who put their lives at risk. Men who have families to feed, house, and educate.

Those minerals must be refined and shipped by smelters and truckers and longshoremen with families. The minerals must be grown into wafers, the other material deposited on them, then etched away in various long, complex processes. The chips themselves must be packaged; motherboards must be built to host the system; the lot all packaged.

Each of these processes requires intensely complicated machines; machines again designed, built, and operated by people with families to feed, house and educate. Likewise the display units have their own unique chain of families to support.

Add in all the supporting cast–the shippers who deliver the computer first to India itself, then to the remote areas of that vast nation, the accountants who make sure the miners and technicians and shippers are paid, the support staff who deal with firmware revisions, … that’s a long way to drag out $35!!!

What about these families; the children of all these workers?

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