Guided By: B. B.

Prajapati Department of IT

Prepared By: Gajera Jimesh G. (6020)

Shantilal Shah Engineering College, Bhavnagar.

This is to certify that Roll no. of th B.E Semester 8 I.T Class, has satisfactorily completed his Term work of the subject during the academic year 2010 and submitted on ________ Staff In Charge Head of Department

Certified that this term work is accepted and assessed on _________




The Simputer is a low cost portable alternative to PCs, by which the benefits of information technologies can possibly reach across the digital divide. It has a special role in developing economies because it offers the possibility that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer. One key to bridging the digital divide is to have shared devices that permit truly simple and natural user interfaces based on sight, touch and audio. The Simputer prototypes were launched on April 25th, 2001 and the complete design details of the Simputer have been made available on the web site ( An innovative licensing mechanism has evolved through intense discussion within the Simputer Trust. We acknowledge the influence of the Free Software movement in this regard. However, the Simputer General Public Licence (SGPL) is more complex in many ways, partly due to the nature of hardware and partly to ensure that there are sufficient incentives for continuous innovation on top of the Simputer platform. Having put this foundation for innovation in place, the trustees decided that the vision of the Simputer Trust, to bridge the digital divide and reach the unreached, would be best realized by 1 commercial, sustainable and scalable approach. This “doing well by doing good” approach is currently being tested by the two licensees PicoPeta Simputers Private Limited and Encore Software. We will end the article with a brief update on the progress made on the commercial front.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Chapter Introduction Just what is a SIMPUTER? History SIMPUTER Licensing SIMPUTER Specification Interfaces Bundled Software Application of Simputer Features OF SIMPUTER Deployment Success Inhibitors Some Questions related to Simputer Some working area of Simputer Conclusion Bibliography Page No.INDEX No. 5 9 16 18 20 23 24 25 45 48 51 55 57 59 63 4 .

Ltd unveils Amida Simputer for the retail market. Here was a computer that was rewriting every rule associated with computers. and get information. open hardware handheld computer. INTRODUCTION The Simputer is a self-contained. At about Rs. The software developed by the Simputer Trust will be under GNU GPL and the hardware developed will be under Simputer General Public License (SGPL). PicoPeta Simputers Pvt. 5 . helps you check e-mail. it's portable.000 per piece. designed for use in environments where computing devices such as personal computers are deemed inappropriate. keep accounts.1. it instantly captured the imagination of the world. 1 Simputers It's simple. It is compatible with your everyday PC. 9. it's highly affordable. The goal of the Simputer project is to harness the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the benefit of the weakest sections of society. Fig. When the invention of the Simputer (Simple Computer) was announced in 2001. The venerable New York Times called it the most important invention of 2001 ahead of Apples G4 and Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system. browse the Net.

The key to bridging the digital divide is to have shared devices that permit truly simple and natural user interfaces based on sight. or any group of people willing to share it. but enabled with its unique features. Users would also be enabled to use online communications through the devices for a variety of daily tasks that could be made easier using technology. possibly purchased communally. in which the endusers of the Simputer were to be traveling data gathering professionals. The simplicity aspect was to be addressed through a very friendly interface with intuitive panels and graphics. Individual users were expected to own smart cards that enabled them to store their information offline. Various usage models were considered. it offered a potentially easier learning curve for rural grassroots workers who may or may not be literate enough to use a standard PDA. An alternate usage model was mediator-oriented. The Simputer meets these demands through a browser for the Information Markup Language (IML). A potential owner for a Simputer would thus be a village council. and features like speech synthesis that made it work for very low-attainment users. IML has been created to provide a uniform experience to users and to allow rapid development of solutions on any platform. but the key to the ‘Inexpensive’ aspect was the shared model. The definition of the Simputer as a Simple Inexpensive Multilingual Computer is important in surveying its projected uses. In this case. the Simputer would work much like a PDA. It has a special role in the third world because it ensures that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer. Speech-enabled devices in homes were expected to play an inclusive role in the more remote regions of India. The device was to enable large groups of users to share one device.The Simputer is a low cost portable alternative to PCs. Public funds could potentially be applied towards such purchases. 6 . The Simputer was originally planned to be a stand-alone computing device with a simple user interface. where literacy can be low. The shared usage model also relied on the Multilingual feature. touch and audio. or a cooperative. by which the benefits of IT can reach the common man. often working in remote parts of India.

The cost saving of the Simputer would have to be seen in its comparison to personal computers – rather than other PDAs.Hardware Design decisions took into account the infrastructural shortcomings of India. 7 . The device itself was originally meant to be priced low by virtue of addressing an entire community’s needs. pocket-sized computing device designed for use by rural populations in India has been hailed as a breakthrough in bringing the world of computing to the poor”. “The Simputer a cheap. yet. the device could perform its goals best given some minimum electricity availability and wireless connectivity. thus having a lower per-capita cost than an immobile personal computer.

It is much more powerful than a Palm. The Wintel (Windows + Intel) architecture of the de facto standard PC is quite unsuitable for deployment on the low cost mass market. While the Wintel PC provides a de facto level f standardization. it is not an open architecture. The Simputer mean while is centered around Linux which is freely available. The entry barrier due to software licensing is just too high. It could however be a pocket computer. with screen size 320 x 240 and memory capability (32MB RAM). open and modular. 8 .What Makes Simputer Different From Regular PCs? Simputer is not a personal computer.

IML is a new XML application being designed specifically for handheld devices like the Simputer. It can also use rechargeable batteries. To the rural Indian poor. 2. Thus. and even to most city dwellers. Its primary input will be a touch-sensitive overlay on the LCD display panel. The use of XML-based language is in line with the philosophy of utilizing global Internet standards. in terms of screen size (320x240). It runs on an Intel strong-arm chip.2. It is a simplified device more like a pocket computer. it also has an Information Markup Language that is. the Simputer is basically a low-cost computer with multiple connectivity options. 9 . smart card aware. The chip is known for its low power consumption. JUST WHAT IS A SIMPUTER? What exactly is the Simputer? Put quite simply. a computer is probably as remote an option as a trip to the moon. The Simputer runs on three AAA batteries or off the mains. It will be modular and based entirely on free software from the Open Source Initiative. it is more complex and powerful than a palm top. This device. amongst other thing. will be launched formally on April 25 in Bangalore. It will also have the use of extensive audio in the form of text-to-speech and audio snippets. Besides. For example. This gadget is not a PC. memory capabilities (32MB RAM) and the OS (GNU/Linux). But things are about to change.1 The Brains Behind The Concept A small group of scientists of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and some engineering professionals from the firm Encore Software have designed this simple device. and set up a trust to take it to the world. but the charger is not built in. What distinguishes it from other hand-held devices is its smart card reader. The primary application interface would be a browser that can render the Information Markup Language. called a Simputer.

But even this is beyond the means of most citizens. The impact of this feature coupled with the rich connectivity of the Simputer can be dramatic. Once inserted into the smart card the village school. The Simputer.2 Affordable Computing The projected cost of the Simputer is about Rs 9000 at large volumes. a village postman. A local community such as the village panchayat. the Simputer will read the profile from the smart card and also update changes if any. 2. conducted during Bangalore IT. A user's individual profile can be stored on a smart card. 10 . large data collection. in October 1998. during the current transaction cycle. through its Smart Card feature allows for personal information management at the individual level for an unlimited number of users. including services such as home banking through personal ATMs and home shopping. The smart card is emerging as a credible delivery vehicle for financial transactions on the Internet and has become an important tool for electronic commerce. which he can carry around with him. or even a shopkeeper should be able to loan the device to individuals for some length of time and then pass it on to others in the community. The incorporation of a smart card reader/writer in the Simputer will. agricultural information and as a school laboratory is now made possible at an affordable price. a kiosk.An important feature of the Simputer is the SmartCard Reader/Writer. The Smart Card feature that the Simputer provides enables the Simputer to be shared by a community. Applications in diverse sectors such as micro banking. 2. Karnataka's annual IT trade show. therefore.3 An idea germinates The Simputer project was conceived during the organisation of an international seminar on information technology for developing countries. increase the functionality of the mobile device for deployment of a richer set of value-added services.

For the purpose of establishing originality.A discussion paper highlights the need for a low-cost mass access device that will bring local-language IT to the masses. a more complex expansion was also coined. And finally in order to appeal to computer geeks. The initial discussions introduced the term Simputer as an obvious twist on the word computer. multi-lingual computer. a slightly more complex acronym was invented to fit the name Simputer: simple. inexpensive. namely simple. 11 . inexpensive multi-lingual people's computer.

It is designed to be modular and extensible.4 has been ported to the Simputer. The StrongARM has a high level of integration and performance at a relatively low level of power consumption. The Simputer is not a Personal Computer in the conventional "PC" sense. The Linux Kernel version 2. Its primary input is a touch-sensitive overlay on the LCD display panel. Electronic commerce. or even a shopkeeper should be able to give this device out to individuals for a specific period of time and then pass it on to others in the community. etc. The entry barrier due to software licensing of proprietary. The initial version of the Simputer is based on Intel's StrongARM CPU. is based on GNU/Linux software technology that is open and modular. home shopping. While the Wintel PC provides a de facto level of standardisation. on-line banking and multipurpose citizen-cards will all require SmartCards in the near future. on the other hand.The Simputer is a low-cost Personal Computer with multiple connectivity options. An important feature of the Simputer is the SmartCard Reader/Writer. though de facto standard. including services such as home and micro-banking through personal ATMs. The "Win-tel" architecture of the de facto standard PC is quite unsuitable for deployment in the low-cost mass market in any developing country. The incorporation of a SmartCard Reader/Writer in the Simputer increases the functionality of the mobile device for deployment of a richer set of value-added services. 12 . software is just too high. and based entirely on free software from the Open Source Initiative. which is a Reduced Instruction-set (RISC) microprocessor designed for embedded applications. it is clearly not an open architecture. the basic development platform uses GTK. The Simputer. To enable rapid development and deployment of application software. A local community such as the village panchayat or the village school. The Simputer is targeted as a shared computing device for a local community of users. or a kiosk. The SmartCard is emerging as a credible delivery vehicle for financial transactions on the Internet and has become an important tool for electronic commerce. A Java Virtual Machine can also be provided for those application developers that want to benefit from platform independence for their applications. The SmartCard Interface enables a diverse range of applications that require security.

can be used to develop several other products such as Thin Clients. The Simputer offers a wide range of connectivity options because of its primary focus as an access device. The Simputer platform technology. There is also an IrDA interface for interworking with PCs and IrDA-compatible peripherals such as printers. The Simputer is a mobile computer platform and will be applicable in several applications of mobile computing. Cost-effective Point-of-Sale terminal and in embedded systems. Once inserted into the SmartCard Interface. being a cost-effective platform. 13 . there is a built-in USB Host port that can be used for extension and peripherals that cannot be integrated within the device.This requires the device to be personalized for individual use on a changing basis. The SmartCard is again the basic method by which this device can be personalized. during the current transaction cycle.90 Modem. User profiles can be stored in Flash memory as accessible files or also in the SmartCard. The Simputer operating system. Kiosk Computer. the Simputer will read the profile from the SmartCard and also update changes if any.34/V. tools and the main application resides in Flash ROM so that the system can quickly start operation when powered up. Finally. which he can carry around with him. The primary connectivity option is a V. A user's individual profile can be stored on a SmartCard.

pen-based input (called tap-a-tap). Simputer has an edge over any palmtop. and micro-credit applications. It's not only that it costs less than $200 (Rs. open hardware licensing. They just carry the Simputer with all the information already fed into that. Put together by several academics and engineers -. among others. and still have a more elitist user community. they don't have to carry all these huge books that they used to carry. The business applications of Simputer in Micro-banking or sales force automation is useful. agricultural information and as a school laboratory is now made possible at an affordable price. Insurance companies in India are looking at using this for each of their insurance agents who go around. with details of all the policies. The intended use of these features (and hence the Simputer) is for rural areas. portable palmtopsized footprint. Now. The text-to-speech features. Palmtops can’t compute in Indian languages and don’t have text-to-speech interfaces for Indian languages. Some of the applications that have been suggested are micro-banking applications.this Internet device will have the potential to help even nonliterate users to surf the Net and e-mail. They are also not aimed for the mass market that the Simputer is targeting.306) but also what the Simputer will be able to do. The impact of this feature coupled with the rich connectivity of the Simputer can be dramatic. large data collection. Linux-powered. portable size and low power requirements are meant to be of immense use to people in these areas. 9. and the smart-card interface. 14 .What makes the Simputer special? One needs to understand the Simputer’s main features text-to-speech synthesis in Indian languages. rural their spare time -. Applications in diverse sectors such as micro banking.

Bangalore and technologists of a software company with a broad imperative to harness its potential for the benefit of all sections of society. including some of the developed countries. it will also be applicable in the rest of the third world. The Simputer Trust is created basically to develop technology that will help take information technology to rural areas. but also by communities through kiosks. A smart-card interface is being worked on to facilitate micro banking. And if it is applicable in India. a group of academics and technologists from India’s computing industry. The Simputer is the result of coming together of scientists form the Indian Institute of Science. Their vision is to create not only a computer. Even the developed countries are interested in seeing how they could use it. the urban affluent. as well as by illiterate people. but also an "evolving platform for social change" throughout the world by bridging the digital divide. is creating the multi-purpose device. but also applications for the urban elite. They wanted a device that could be used by literate people in Third World nations who lack computer skills. 15 . The Simputer is not a projection of an end product but of an evolving platform for social change.its designs will be freely released to companies for reproduction -.the Simputer can not only be used as a device for individuals to access the Net. The non-profit Simputer Trust. The Simputer had a tremendous response from all over the world from South America to Australia and every other country in between. Its initial target is India. not just for applications for the poor.Once commercialized and put out in the market -.

ridiculously complex recursive acronym was also coined: Simputer: SIMPLE COMPUTER. Inexpensive. And finally in order to appeal to computer geeks. When the invention of the Simputer (Simple Computer) was announced in 2001. that the venerable New York Times called it the most important invention of 2001 ahead of Apples G4 and Microsofts Windows XP operating system. However. In-expensive Multi-lingual PeopLE's compUTER. HISTORY The Simputer project was conceived during the organization of the Global Village. a slightly more complex acronym was invented to fit the name Simputer: Simple. conducted during Bangalore IT. The writing of the Bangalore Declaration on Information technology for developing countries clarified and fortified the concept of the Simputer and its role in the larger picture. The initial concept paper (PDF version) expanding on the initial discussions introduced the term Simputer as an obvious twist on the word Computer. Fig 2. Simputer Layout A discussion paper highlights the need for a low-cost mass access device that will bring local-language IT to the masses. For the purpose of establishing event in October 1998. specifically highlight the role for a Simputer-like device. this paper is quite dated. Multi-lingual computer. Not only was the vision behind the Simputer stunningly ambitious (to bring computing to the gigabyte-less masses. and useful only as a historic reference.3. The goal of the Simputer project is to harness the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the benefit of the weakest sections of society. 16 . but here was a computer that was rewriting every rule associated with computers. So much so. which expands to Simple. The concept paper outlines the technical requirements of the Simputer as well as the applications. it instantly captured the imagination of the world. A few items in the Declaration. an International Seminar on Information Technology for Developing Countries. as the London Guardian put it).

The software developed by the Simputer Trust will be under GNU GPL and the hardware developed will be under Simputer General Public License (SGPL). 17 . This mailing list will hopefully be a platform for a wide range of discussions relating to the Simputer and also bring together diverse people interested in the common goal.

The Simputer General Public License The hardware specifications of the Simputer can be downloaded only under SGPL. but applicable to hardware. a functional description of the Simputer to be specified by the Simputer Trust and which evolves with the development of the Simputer. The Simputer manufacturing License refers to a Core Simputer Specification. one of two possible licenses needs to be obtained from the Simputer Trust. SIMPUTER LICENSING The system software of the Simputer. after considerable discussions. The first version of the Core Simputer Specification will be posted here soon. These are • The Simputer Device Manufacturing License.4. We now have the first draft of the Simputer General Public License (SGPL) that we believe to be a practicable license which at the same time facilitates the rapid spread of Simputers. 18 . that hardware has a significant difference that precludes the possibility of using a simple extension of the software GPL. We have been working on a license similar to the GPL. However. We realized. The SGPL has been reviewed further and the new version is now ready. once a product is ready for commercialization. since it is Linux based is under GPL. The SGPL permits anyone to build devices out of the downloaded specification.

19 .

5. SIMPUTER SPECIFICATION HARDWARE CPU Intel StrongArm SA-1110 CPU Memory 16–64 MB of SDRAM 08-32 MB Flash for non-volatile storage Display Options 240x320 LCD Colour or Monochrome Display Panel with backlight Input Device Touch-panel Overlay on LCD Display with a plastic stylus (Pen) Direction and Selection Keys Audio Interface Audio Codec Support for external head-set SmartCard Interface SmartCard Reader/Writer USB Interface USB Port Connectivity Data Modem IrDA Interface Connectors in Basic Unit SmartCard Connector IrDA Transceiver RJ-11 Telephone Jack USB Type-A Connector AC Adapter Input Power Supply 20 .

4. File-Transfer Music MP3 Player / MPEG4 Player PIM Applications Notepad. HTTP etc. glibc APPLICATION SOFTWARE Internet Access Browser. PPP. USB Slave and Serial Port SYSTEM SOFTWARE Operating System Linux Kernel 2. Address Book. FTP. Calculator 21 . Telnet. Email.18 Network Protocols TCP/IP. Application Libraries GTK+.2xAA-sized Ni-MH batteries Internal charge management Operates with external AC Adapter ACCESSORIES Expansion Docking Cradle Compact Flash [CF-II] Slot.

has a color display.The new Simputer range from Encore thus attempts to meet the requirements of various market segments. 32MB of flash memory and 64MB of DRAM. In addition to the cradle which ships with the high-end model. 16MB of DRAM and 8MB of flash memory. priced at about $480. and support for GSM and 802. a real-time clock. The entry-level Simputer will. 22 . keyboard. The company is opening up to designers the interface between the Simputer and the cradle to encourage others to design their own specialty cradles. and a pocketsized cradle with a CompactFlash expansion slot for memory cards and wireless connectivity. but no modem. Encore is also designing specialized cradles with built-in functions such as a micro printer. and has a monochrome LCD.11 wireless connectivity. and support for J2ME. a built-in modem. be priced at about $210. Some of the enhancements include a built-in battery charger. at production volumes. The top-end Simputer. IrDA and USB interfaces and audio connectors.

USB connector (to function as host or device) Serial port Infrared Data Association (IrDA) port Grayscale /Super-twisted nematic display (STN)/Thin-film transistor (TFT) (depends on model and manufacturer). • Multi-I/O connector (in Encore's Simputer) giving additional (slave) USB.6. INTERFACES • • • • • • • Touch panel overlay on liquid-crystal display. Speaker and microphone jacks Smart-card connector. and optional modem/VGA interfaces 23 .

an e-Library (Amida Simputer only) Games (in the Amida Simputer).7. 24 . Software packages included provide: • • • Scheduling (Amida Simputer only) Calendar (Amida Simputer only) Voice Recording and Playback (High quality compression on Amida Simputer only) Khatha (A simple spreadsheet) (Amida Simputer only) Internet and network connectivity Web browsing and email.18 Kernel as of July 2005). Alchemy user interface used by the Amida Simputer has been released under the GPL with the name "Open Alchemy". BUNDLED SOFTWARE The Simputer uses the Linux kernel (2. Java ME and Dot GNU (a free software implementation of .4. Breakout and Golgoli (a game that makes use of the accelerometer in the Amida Simputer). including Chess. and the Alchemy Window Manager (only the Amida Simputer). traffic police. medical applications. both licensees developed custom vertical applications for micro banking.NET) are also available Encore also has a FLASH player available • • • • • • • In addition. etc.

A case study of one of the projects on the Simputer undertaken by Analytica is outlined here: The World Health Organization (WHO) Data Collection System This project involved the design. The system was aimed at providing a handheld PDA-based tool for better supervision and data collection. Data Collection Projects. Analytica develops custom applications for various domains like Sales and Retail. for the Senior Treatment Supervisor (STS) and Senior Tuberculosis Laboratory Supervisor (STLS) under the RNTCP program. Transportation and Fleet Management. E-Eductation. a low cost linux based handheld indigenously developed in India. development and implementation of a handheld-based mobile application as part of the HIN Mobile Data Management System for World Health Organization. 25 . The Simputer is the first handheld Internet appliance to have been designed entirely in India from the electronics to the software to the industrial engineering for the housing of the device.8. APPLICATION OF SIMPUTER Analytica is one of the few developers of custom applications on the Simputer.

The Simputer short for simple. for advanced statistical processing. is a low cost portable alternative to PCs. On the back-end. SmartCard reader/writer.Audio codec & pre-amplifier for built-in headphones/microphone. This system also provided a customized front end for the Simputer. making it one of the few handhelds not to use Palm's software or a version of Microsoft Corp's Windows. and progress tracking. and storing it in a central repository. multilingual computer. this system had facilities and support for checking and validating the data transmitted to it from the various handheld units in the system. inexpensive. 26 . lab procedure data supervision & quality control. It has a special role in the third world because it ensures that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer. 320x240 monochrome LCD display panel.from sub-district levels to district level and beyond. The eventual objective of this interconnected information network was to make all the information automatically available to the central statistical analysis station at the Central Administration Authority. Plastic stylus on a touch-panel overlay as input devices. touch and audio. report generation. by which the benefits of IT can reach the common man.  The Simputer runs on the free-to-use Linux operating system software. The infrastructure was aimed at facilitating the capture of patient data. Features :  It runs on a 32-bit 200MHz Strong Arm SA-1100 RISC Processor with 32Mb DRAM of RAM. The key to bridging the digital divide is to have shared device that permits truly simple and natural user interfaces based on sight.Permanent Storage of 16MB Flash RAM. Report generation facility was an inherent part of the system that allowed the data to be printed using report templates pre-defined for the RNTCP program.This project also covered the information infrastructure for connecting the various components at different levels of this HIN system . complete with data synchronization functions with the desktop computers located at base stations. control of inventory data and its analysis for enhancing decision making at all levels.

allowing local governments and voluntary agencies to receive and transmit data such as farm prices. It can connect to the Internet through fixed-line or wireless networks. making computer use possible for more than one third of Indians who are illiterate.  It also has a speech synthesiser that can read English and Indian texts. 27 .

The reader is expected to have some experience programming on Linux. USB master as well as slave ports.if following my instructions leads to your handheld going up in smoke .there are lots of them in the market). 3. Standard serial port. Power can be provided either by rechargeable batteries or external AC mains. The flash memory size is either 32Mb or 16Mb and RAM is 64Mb or 32Mb. Smart card reader Some of these features are enabled by using a `docking cradle' provided with the base unit. Originally developed by professors at the Indian Institute of Science.Another Application of Simputer Fun with Simputer and Embedded Linux The Simputer is a StrongArm CPU based handheld device running Linux. 2.I should not be held responsible! Hardware/Software The device is powered by an Intel StrongArm (SA-1110) CPU. Disclaimer: I try to describe things which I had done on my Simputer without any problem . The unit comes bundled with binaries for the X-Window system and a few simple utility programs. Bangalore.4. 28 .18 (with a few patches) works fine. The peripheral features include: 1. Infra Red communication port. the device has a social objective of bringing computing and connectivity within the reach of rural communities. 4. Simputer is powered by GNU/Linux .kernel version 2. This articles provides a tutorial introduction to programming the Simputer (and similar ARM based handheld devices .

you will have X up and running . 29 . Now fire up a communication program (I use `minicom') . /dev/ttyS1). Doing this with minicom is very simple invoke it as: minicom -m -s Once configuration is over . You will see a small tux picture coming up and within a few seconds. called ttySA0) . `ps' etc . Waiting for bash GUI's are for kids. Well. you establish a connection with that program. you may be wondering what really happened. If you want to have keyboard input. If you are not familiar with running communication programs on Linux. other than pressing the `power button'.it's standard Unix magic. You should be able to type in a user name/password and log on. Nothing much . this need not be the same) and 8N1 format.Powering up There is nothing much to it. A program sits on the Simputer watching the serial port (the Simputer serial port. be prepared for some agonizing manipulations using the stylus and a `soft keyboard' which is nothing but a GUI program from which you can select single alphabets and other symbols. The LCD screen is touch sensitive and you can use a small `stylus' (geeks use finger nails!) to select applications and move through the graphical have to first configure the program so that it uses /dev/ttyS1 with communication speed set to 115200 (that's what the Simputer manual says .if you are using a similar handheld. which sends you a login prompt over the line.when you run minicom on the Linux PC. You are not satisfied till you see the trusted old bash prompt.just type: minicom -m and be ready for the surprise. you don't have to try a lot. You should be able to run simple commands like `ls'.the other end goes to a free port on your host Linux PC (in my may even be able to use `vi' . hardware and software flow controls disabled. You will immediately see a login prompt. The Simputer has a serial port attach the provided serial cable to it .

the program does not care whether the data comes from minicom itself or a script. assigned device number 3 30 . Make sure you have a recent Linux distribution . You are exploiting the idea that the program running on the Simputer is watching for data over the serial line . 5.Red Hat 7. 4. Verify that the module has been loaded by running `lsmod'. you can `script' your interactions with the Simputer. 3.c: registered new driver usbnet hub.reads in your response. On my Linux PC.3 is good enough. 3. 2. Open two consoles (on the Linux PC) Run minicom on one console. Run the command `insmod usbnet' to load a kernel module which enables USB networking on the Linux PC. You can establish a TCP/IP link between your Linux PC and the Simputer via this USB interface. Here are the steps you should take: 1. I get the following kernel messages (which can be seen by running the command `dmesg'): usb. Plug one end of the USB cable onto the USB slave slot in the Simputer.c: USB new device connect on bus1/ will see that the command `ls' has executed on the Simputer. Now plug the other end of the USB cable onto a free USB slot of the Linux PC. then boot the Simputer. authenticates you and spawns a shell with which you can interact over the line. type `echo ls > /dev/ttyS1' Come to the first console . 4. 2. Setting up USB Networking The Simputer comes with a USB slave port. Log in as root on the PC. log on to the simputer On the other console. You can try out the following experiment: 1. Boot your Linux PC. Once minicom initializes the serial port on the PC end. The USB subsystem in the Linux kernel should be able to register a device attach. DO NOT connect the other end of the USB cable to your PC now. immediately after plugging in the USB cable.

congrats. Try `ping 192. ftp it onto the Simputer and execute it (it would be good to have one console on your Linux PC running ftp and another one running telnet .2) together with `binutils'.usb. log on to the Simputer as root. Your C compiler (gcc) normally generates `native' code. If you wish your program to run on the Simputer (which is based on the StrongArm microprocessor). the machine code generated by gcc should be understandable to the StrongArm CPU . iface 0.out' on the Simputer).2' on the Linux PC. you can upload it and run it from the telnet console . Then run the command `ifconfig usbf 192.9.this will assign an IP address to the USB interface on the Linux PC. Using `minicom' and the supplied serial cable.c: ignoring set_interface for dev is recommended that you use it (but if you are seriously into embedded development.200. This might be a bit tricky if you are doing it for the first time . say.your handheld vendor should supply you with a CD which contains the required tools in a precompiled form . You have successfully set up a TCP/IP link! You can now telnet/ftp to the Simputer through this TCP/IP link. ie.200.most often. you should be able to configure and compile it in such a way that you get a cross compiler (which could be invoked like. an Intel (or clone) CPU. armlinux-gcc).9. compile it into an `a. code which runs on the microprocessor on which gcc itself runs .as soon as you compile the code. Hello. Simputer' program. you can write a simple `Hello.95.2' on the Simputer. If you see ping packets running to and fro.your `gcc' should be a cross compiler. Run `ifconfig usb0 192.out'. you should try downloading the tools and building them yourselves). Simputer It's now time to start real work.9. 2. 31 . Linux Device After you have reached this far. you have to run a few more commands: 1. alt 0 usb0: register usbnet 001/003.200. 3. Assuming that you have arm-linux-gcc up and running.1' . If you download the gcc source code (preferably 2.note that you may have to give execute permission to the ftp'd code by doing `chmod u+x a.

Lart. There are minor differences in the architecture of these machines which makes it necessary to perform `machine specific tweaks' to get the kernel working on each one of them. say. The Linux ARM port was initiated by Russell King.and the patches required for making the ARM kernel run on these modified configurations is not yet integrated into the main kernel tree.but the vendors who are actually manufacturing and marketing the device seem to be building according to a modified specification . because your vendor will supply you with the patches . But to make things a bit confusing with the Simputer. But that is not really a problem. /usr/src/linux).all machine dependencies are isolated in directories under the `arch' subdirectory (which is directly under the root of the kernel source tree. Assabet. 32 . Shannon etc all of which use the StrongArm CPU (there also seem to be other kinds of ARM CPU's now that makes up a really heady mix). It is this directory which contains ARM CPU specific code for the Linux kernel. and you only have to choose the actual machine type during the kernel configuration phase to get everything in order. You will find a directory called `arm' under `arch'.and they might soon get into the official kernel.A note on the Arm Linux kernel The Linux kernel is highly portable . The ARM architecture is very popular in the embedded world and there are a LOT of different machines with fantastic names like Itsy. it seems that the tweaks for the initial Simputer specification have got into the ARM kernel code . The tweaks for most machines are available in the standard kernel itself.

4. Assume that all these files are copied to the /usr/local/src ie. So you have to equate CROSS_COMPILE with the string arm-linux-. First.18-rmk4-vendorstring'./patch-2. 3.18.linux. untar the main kernel distribution by running `tar xvfz kernel2. arm-linux-ld. Before that. During normal compilation. You observe that the Makefile defines: AS = ($CROSS_COMPILE)as LD = ($CROSS_COMPILE)ld CC = ($CROSS_COMPILE)gcc You note that the symbol CROSS_COMPILE is equated with the empty string. CC getting defined to `gcc' and so on which is what we want.18rmk4-vendorstring'. in the Makefile. arm-linux-as etc.tar. we use arm-linux-gcc. But when we are cross compiling. Change over to that directory and run `patch -p1 < . Run `patch -p1 < . Now. your kernel is ready to be configured and built.4. say.4. you have to examine the top level Makefile (under /usr/local/src/linux) and make two changes there will be a line of the form: ARCH := <lots-of-stuff> near the top.18-rmk4' (which can be obtained from the ARM Linux FTP site ftp..18 kernel source from the nearest Linux kernel ftp mirror.gz' 2.4. `patch-2.18-rmk4'. you have to enter: CROSS_COMPILE = arm-linux33 . You might also need a vendor supplied patch.4. You will need the file `patch-2..4. Now apply the vendor supplied You will get a directory called `linux'.arm.Getting and building the kernel source You can download the 2. 1. Change it to ARCH := arm You need to make one more change. this will result in AS getting defined to `as'.

this bootloader is called `blob' (which I assume is the boot loader developed for the Linux Advanced Radio Terminal Project. `Lart'). the default kernel command string is set to `root=/dev/mtdblock2 quite'. you can run make zImage and in a few minutes.If you start minicom on your Linux PC. It may take a bit of tweaking here and there before you can actually build the kernel without error. VGA Text console is disabled. you should get a file called `zImage' under arch/arm/boot. Under Character devices->Serial drivers. console on serial port support and set the default baud rate to 115200 (you may need to set differently for your machine). SA1100 real time clock and Simputer real time clock are enabled. Once the configuration process is over. 3. You have to set the system type to SA1100 based ARM system and then choose the SA11x0 implementation to be `Simputer(Clr)' (or something else. This is your new kernel. instead of continuing with booting the kernel stored in the device's flash memory. keep the `enter' key pressed and then power on the device. depending on your machine). the handheld too will be having a bootloader stored in its non volatile memory. As soon as you power on the machine. you can start configuring the kernel by running `make menuconfig' (note that it is possible to do without modifying the Makefile. You run `make menuconfig ARCH=arm'). the bootloader. 2. I enabled SA1100 serial port support. In the case of the Simputer.Once these changes are incorporated into the Makefile. 5. SA11x0 USB net link support and SA11x0 USB char device emulation. You will not need to modify most things . Under General Setup. This may be different for your machine. the boot loader starts running . 1. 4. will start interacting with you through a prompt which looks like this: 34 .the defaults should be acceptable. Under Character devices. Running the new kernel I describe the easiest way to get the new kernel up and running. I had also enabled SA1100 USB function support. Just like you have LILO or Grub acting as the boot loader for your Linux PC. Under Console drivers.

} void 35 . Now. you should run the command: uuencode zImage /dev/stdout > /dev/ttyS1 This will send out a uuencoded kernel image through the COM port . you get back the boot loader prompt. A bit of kernel hacking What good is a cool new device if you can't do a bit of kernel hacking? My next step after compiling and running a new kernel was to check out how to compile and run kernel modules.. Here is a simple program called `a.h> #include <linux/init.\n"). You just have to type: blob> boot and the boot loader will run the kernel which you have right now compiled and downloaded.blob> At the bootloader prompt.. Once this process is over.which will be read and stored by the bootloader in the device's RAM. you can type: blob> download kernel which results in blob waiting for you to send a uuencoded kernel image through the serial port.c': #include <linux/module.h> /* Just a simple module */ int init_module(void) { printk("loading module. on the Linux PC. return 0.

Writing a kernel module which responds when these keys are pressed is a very simple thing .o' onto the Simputer and load it into the kernel by running: insmod .you press the button corresponding to the right arrow key .an interrupt gets generated which results in the handler getting executed.cleanup_module(void) { printk("cleaning up . we must make sure that the kernel running on the device does not incorporate the default button driver code checking /proc/interrupts would be sufficient.\n").and I found it in the hard key driver. } You have to compile it using the command line: arm-linux-gcc -c -O -DMODULE -D__KERNEL__ a.4. Our handler simply prints a message and does nothing else. 36 .18/include You can ftp the resulting `a.c -I/usr/local/src/linux2. I started scanning the kernel source to identify the simplest code segment which would demonstrate some kind of physical hardware access . Before inserting the is a small program which is just a modified and trimmed down version of the hardkey driver .. The Simputer has small buttons which when pressed act as the arrow keys .these buttons seem to be wired onto the general purpose I/O pins of the ARM CPU (which can also be configured to act as interrupt sources .if my memory of reading the StrongArm manual is correct)..o You can remove the module by running: rmmod a Handling Interrupts After running the above program./a.

printk("Hai. #include <linux/module. Key getting ready\n"). "Right Arrow Key". NULL).h> #include <linux/sched. return res. if(res) { printk("Could Not Register irq %d\n". } 37 . void *dev_id. irq). res = request_irq(IRQ_GPIO12. } static void cleanup_module(void) { printk("cleanup called\n"). check /proc/interrupts to verify that the interrupt line has been acquired. } static int init_module(void) { unsigned int res = 0. Pressing the button should result in the handler getting called . struct pt_regs *regs) { printk("IRQ %d called\n".the interrupt count displayed in /proc/interrupts should also change.h> #include <linux/ioport. SA_INTERRUPT.Compile the program shown below into an object file (just as we did in the previous program).h> #include <asm-arm/irq. load it using `insmod'.h> #include <asm/io. IRQ_GPIO12). NULL). GPIO_FALLING_EDGE). } return res . set_GPIO_IRQ_edge(GPIO_GPIO12.h> static void key_handler(int irq. free_irq(IRQ_GPIO12. key_handler.

the visionary and bold attitude of the Board of Encore Software Ltd. We estimate that at these very low volumes. simply because there hasn't been any funding agency.HOW SIMPUTER CAN HELP There are several ways by which individuals and organizations can help the Simputer project. 38 . • Financial: The Simputer has been unique in that it has been unfettered by any commitments given to any funding agency. 2001) the Simputer Trust does not have a bank account! (we are in the process of creating one). The flexibility and academic freedom offered by the Indian Institute of Science. the cost per Simputer -.. Obviously. the Trust needs to build about 100 Simputers and make them available for field trials in areas where the Simputer can have an impact. this state of affairs cannot continue for too long. The entire IPR of the Simputer project has been vested with the Simputer Trust by the two institutions concerned: Encore Software and Indian Institute of Science. We are now looking towards individuals such as yourself to contribute to the proliferation of Simputers.including application development be about US $500. the time of the seven trustees and creative use of available resources are all factors in bringing the Simputer project to this stage. donations. The Trust plans to raise resources to further the Simputer project by the following means: o o license fees for Simputerised and Simputer manufacturing licenses Grants. and gifts from diverse organizations and individuals Immediate requirements for funding: To take the Simputer to the next step. It will certainly be a surprise for most to learn that as of today (May 7th.

39 .• Development: There has been a huge number of mails expressing interest in contributing to the growing Simputer effort. We have setup a mailing list for Simputer Development related efforts.

The products are being manufactured by Bangalore contract manufacturer Peninsula Electronics. and try it out in a limited way in their organizations before placing large orders." Deshpande says. though Encore is close to signing up a contract manufacturer in Singapore and another in India. utilities." Besides getting the devices to customers. "We were naive to expect orders just on the description of the device." says Deshpande. "We still see bridging the digital divide as an opportunity for us. and the manufacturing sector. Why simputer? Why not? 40 . financial services. "We realize now that customers both in India and abroad want to get their hands on the product. Encore will also take them to about 400 ISVs who have downloaded the software development kit from Encore's web site. but have not had an opportunity yet to test their software on the hardware. Encore is shipping 200 Simputers this month. Some of these shipments are against trial orders.NEW USES:Encore is now targeting new markets such as electronic government. banking. It has tied up with about 10 independent software vendors who have developed applications around the Simputer for these market segments. education. with another 1000 units scheduled for next month. in order to handle large orders. health care. but we are also looking at new market opportunities where the sales cycles are typically shorter.

Non-literate users can browse the Web using pictures and its text-to-speech capability allows the Web content to be delivered in local languages. there are possible applications such as computer access for the homeless and distance literacy programmes. to get local market and fertiliser news. Farmers in Karnataka are using it to learn about the going crop rates. which are applying it in micro banking. In Chhattishgarh. Nor is the Simputer the only solution to the digital divide. when the news about the Simputer first broke a couple of years ago.The global launch of the Simputer is marked more by scepticism than hope and hype. Even in developed nations. Pilot projects in Indian states of Karnataka and Chhattishgarh. Local government agencies can use it to extend their services to the rural communities. Doctors in rural areas want to develop a portable ultrasound monitor that can be plugged into the Simputer. Recently even its utility for the poor and non-literate people has been questioned and debated. manufacturers. schools. kiosks. • Vast potential But what the Simputer can potentially do is of tremendous value. the Indian government and venture capitalists. Ironically. But its failure to retain the interest of designers. it was heralded with much excitement. The media hype raised hopes of development organisations that have been working to bring the benefits of ICTs to disadvantaged communities. cutting delays and loss in transit. Local communities. Let’s be clear about one point: the Simputer is not an answer to poverty. No technological invention can claim to be able to do that. On its own. and to send and receive email and voice mail. Some even 41 . it cannot feed the poor. diseases or illiteracy. has given rise to scepticism about its marketability and sustainability. Post offices can use it to service money orders electronically. it cannot eradicate diseases and it cannot teach the non-literate. are showing promising results. distance education and rural information access. coupled with repeated delays in its launch. rural schools are using Simputers to receive information via the WorldSpace radio and to learn from consultants across the world. postmen or neighbourhood shops can loan the device to individual users for different uses. such as village councils.

a fishing community is currently testing the Village PDA. In Laos. is demand-driven. based on the expressed needs of the communities which they are meant for. The good news is. There have been reports about a PDA similar to the Simputer being developed in Sri Lanka that will cost about $50. • Community building tool Most important. an African counterpart of the Simputer. Because the digital divide is not so much about the gap in access to technologies as the social divide between haves and have-nots. a team is designing Jhai PC. however. Sharing a community resource like the Simputer can multiply the effect of traditional openair theatres or festivities in countries like India. This can get a further boost when its users also become part of the online communities that can be created. proprietary and expensive technologies. In Kenya. pedalpowered computing system for village telephony and Internet access. a rugged. Indeed. the Simputer gives freedom of choice to its users as well as to the civil society organisations and software and hardware developers. As a user you are free to adapt it any way you 42 . more to do with its philosophy than its features. language capacities and potential interface preferences of lowliterate rural villagers. the Simputer’s applications are limited only by lack of imagination. the Simputer can help in community building and bridging the social gap. other developing countries are also now designing similar low-cost solutions. if it is used in information gathering and delivery of services to war victims and child soldiers. The significance of the Simputer is. Its designers have proved that developing nations can build their own solutions to their problems and need not accept generously doled out pre-fabricated. Unlike proprietary software and hardware. The fact that designers have taken into consideration the actual information needs. seems to be a step in the right direction. • Design for the community The design of the Simputer. which foster a sense of community among the rural people. as much as in the case of other alternative devices.see its potential in peace initiatives.

the Simputer’s unique sharabiltiy and portability have been criticised on the basis of fears that this will make it a focal point for theft in the poor communities. yet the programme remains successful. But such fears are not only baseless. Is it the reason why even the academics of the developed country are sceptical of the Simputer’s potential? Obviously. The mobile phones are just as portable and also valuable.want for your needs. which goes against their perception of market ownership and leadership. as conceptualised in the Simputer. Low-cost devices such as the Simputer. • Unjustified fears In fact. so the dissemination of the Simputers ideally should be in conjunction with well-planned programmes to get them in the hands of people who need them and will take a community leadership role in possessing them. For obvious reasons. is a completely foreign concept to the Western culture. it is a threat to the monopolistic manufacturers who loathe that they cannot control or own the profits earned from the technology and fear that its sharability will cut into their market. People will protect items they value and make sure they are used responsibly. which thrives on consumerism that promotes individual ownership of resources. they’re an insult to the poor as they imply that the villagers cannot be trusted with the Simputers. but its development could well be a watershed in the underdeveloped countries’ efforts to overcome the digital divide. Designers are free to further develop its hardware and software. Another reason manufacturers haven’t shown enthusiasm for the Simputer could be that they are expected to turn in their extensions to the Simputer design back to the community of developers and designers. it is too early to measure the impact of the Simputer. Jhai PC and 43 . Community sharing. the Grameen Bank has increased economic opportunities for many poor villagers by distributing mobile phones to women who rent them out to fellow villagers. There have been no reports of theft occurring in similar projects elsewhere in developing countries. It is this desire of the Simputer people to encourage the creation of intellectual property in IT among the Southern people and organisations that seems to have upset the multinational IT giants and western academics. And NGOs working among communities can adapt it to their communities’ needs. In Bangladesh.

9. But what is crucial at this point is their sustainability and it is their useful applications rather than cost alone that will drive their demand and determine their success.the Village PDA have a special role in speeding up development in the Third World. FEATURES OF SIMPUTER 44 .

9. Doodle or take down a diagram during a meeting. This has two USB slots and opens the door to a wide variety of USB. Our Amida Simputer can be connected to a CDMA mobile phone and is used to browse the internet.1 Text-to-Speech. have you ever found such a great device? 45 .3 Hand writing. This is the world’s first instance of any computer permitting annotation and e-mailing. It includes Text-to-Speech software. With your own hand. Twin USB ports allow Amida to be connected to a range of HP and Epson printers as well as allow small portable battery operated printers to be connected for bill printing purposes.6 Scribble Pad. 9. Smart card reader/writer. 9. Scribble pad.5 Smart Cars reader/writer. so far the first time the knowledge of english is not pre-requisite to use hand held computers. It runs GNU/Linux Operating System.while moving.compatible devices. 9. It is a kind of speech recognition. 9. text to speech built-in. draw diagram and save it in your Amida. “Is your iPhone has all such features?” Hand writing and e-mailing. 9. One can write in any language. Amida also connects to GSM and GPRS enabled phones for network connectivity. being enabled to connect to WiFi. World’s first hand held computer that has built-in integrated Smart Card reader/writer. Microsoft is still struggling to give accuracy in this technology.2 Linux OS.4 Interfacing. and you all know about this. Amida allows you to write on every screen using stylus and send such writings by mail.

then why it is not popular? Infact most of the people are not even know about this. I am still in search of answer…. Ease of use Ease of use has to be an important guiding principle if this device is to gain a substantial measure of popularity. I just compared the features that are there in Amida but not there in any other device in this world.Yes this is all about our Amida designed and developed by our scientists. A low-cost version of this device may be 46 . Only Amida simputer has all. “Why iPhone is so popular? Why not simputer?” as you know there are so many advanced features hidden in Amida. You might observed that i compared this with iPhone and you might feel that I am wrong because iPhone is a mobile phone and Amida simputer is a hand held computer. so I should not compare the both.

although it is certainly new and special to India. This could be in areas as diverse as Web-enabled email access. The Simputer can also be used in schools to allow them to offer Web access to students at relatively low-cost. rural farmer 10. told rediff. whereas a slightly higher functionality version can be designed for use in cyber kiosks where people can come in and surf at their convenience. It can also leverage the pervasiveness of telephone lines and enable users to enjoy a new level of services from their net service providers. So the Simputer is certainly not a unique project globally. home banking.targeted to the home user. Best felt that even that was too high a cost for the target user of such a device. home shopping. educational services and new forms of entertainment. research scientists at MIT's famous Media some time ago that his centre was working on developing a similar device which should cost $50 apiece. which is basically a poor. DEPLOYMENT 47 . Micheal L Best.

1. Simputers were extensively used by the Government of Karnataka to automate the process of land records procurement. 2. In 2005 they were used in a variety of innovative and interesting applications, such as automobile engine diagnostics (Mahindra and Mahindra in Mumbai). 3. Used for Electronic Money transfer between UK, Ghana and others. 4. Recently simputers are deployed by police force to track traffic offenders and issue traffic tickets. 5. Used by Indian Military.

Multiple benefits


"This provides us several benefits. We benefit from the experience of the vast global pool of experts working on software problems. We also have access to the entire source code, which enables us to deploy the software on any hardware platform that might be cost-effective for us at a certain point in time. It will also have the benefit of peer review processes that ensure a relatively robust and stable end product," says Swami Manohar, an associate professor in the department of computer science and automation of IISc, and one of the seven trustees. The initial version of the Simputer is based on a StrongARM CPU. The StrongARM is a Reduced Instruction-set microprocessor, which is designed for embedded applications. Several vendors provide ARM based chips with a high level of integration and high performance at a relatively low level of power consumption. "Our aim is to make Simputer a low cost alternative device to PCs, by which IT can reach the common man," said Manohar. "That's why it features touch screen and local language software interface." Four trustees are from IISc and the remaining three from Encore. Vinay Deshpande, the founder CEO and MD of Encore, is the managing trustee of the Simputer Trust. All that the trust is going to do on April 25 is to display about 10 Simputers and hold several demonstrations of them, at the JRD Tata Auditorium, National Institute for Advanced Studies, IISc, Bangalore. This is to indicate that the Simputer platform is ready for the next stage, namely, commercial manufacture and deployment. In other words, Simputers will not be available in your neigbourhood computer store on April 26. Private companies will have to come forward to take the licenses for manufacturing Simputers. The trust has liberally borrowed its philosophy from the concept of "free software" propounded by a worldwide group of software developers who have created a new paradigm for the development and deployment of such popular

software as Linux and also benefited from pioneering work done by the Free Software Foundation. The trust will still retain ownership over the basic platform so that it can continue to guide its development based on the philosophy of the Trust. "The system software of the Simputer, since it is Linux based is under GPL," say the trustees. "We have been working on a license similar to the GPL, but applicable to hardware. We realised, after considerable discussions, that hardware has significant differences that precludes the possibility of using a simple extension of the software GPL." "We now have the first draft of the Simputer General Public License that we believe to be a practicable license which at the same time facilitates the rapid spread of Simputers." "We invite comments from interested manufacturers and others on the SGP, which was drafted by Rahul Matthan, the legal counsel of the Simputer Trust." The trust estimates that it will then take a company at least three months to start manufacturing these devices for general use.



but the cost of the Smart card used to store the user's data. sales of Simputers failed to live up to the ambitious goal of selling 50. the Simputer was never designed to be a "poor man's computer" (a position often used by the media). the license under which simputer is marketed. While most people tended to look at the cost of the Simputer as a factor. 11. 11. they ignored the fact that the "cost of ownership" for the end-user of the device in villages was not the cost of the device.000 units: only 4000 Simputers were sold . The device itself should be considered shared infrastructure for the village.4 Comparisons with PDAs 51 . asks for a license fee of 1 Million Indian Rupee to commercially exploit the Simputer design.3 License Cost The SGPL. This was perceived to be a high entry point for small scale organizations wishing to license the Simputer design. was a device designed to help bridge the digital divide.2 Lack of support from Government and NGO’s Another reason may be that lack of purchasing by the Indian government and NGOs (as earlier committed) led to lack of adoption in the field. However. 11.By 2005.1 Poor’s man computer A reason often stated is that the poor have no need of computers before their basic needs (such as electricity) are met.

to some degree. Is India’s Simputer bad for industry? 52 . The comparison with PDAs was a natural outcome because of the form-factor (and.5 Cost of Laptops The decrease of prices of laptop computers may have reduced the Simputer's price competitiveness. this point is largely irrelevant. 11. reports by the media). as it was not designed to be a PDA (which are used as PC companions) but as a standalone computer.While the Simputer is not cheap when compared to PDAs available in the market at the time.

Yes. 53 . these four Indians are pointing to an enticing road ahead. ergonomics and value perception. With its pair of USB ports. It has a sound recorder/player. Ahmad Fatehally and Vijay Chandru-. You can scribble everywhere on apps with a stylus. the slick new Simputer bristles with so many innovations and opportunities that it could halt all development in the Personal Digital Assistant [PDA] industry and decimate competitors. Call it a killer-app. appear to have spent the hard years learning much about product positioning. There is already an application development suite for creating new software. It can read a SmartCard. The operating system is Linux. Its built-in applications are meant for people with little or no education. A gadget freak will fairly itch to get his hands on one. The four scientists from the Indian Institute of Science. It can be connected wirelessly to the Internet. It has rechargeable batteries. it was a bold dream realised in a somewhat clunky box. It has an accelerometer that makes it respond to user motion. Launched quietly after a delay of two years. They can send voice or drawn emails. When it hits the Indian market it is likely to fly off the shelves. it can ‘talk’ or ‘listen’ to hundreds of devices. They can handwrite or peck at key-boards in their native language. someone has thought of designing from the ground up.who have developed this product. In a world that has been drugged to believe that computing is not possible without Microsoft products. Swami Manohar. The technological vision however was always there. That’s the hardware part. When GoodNewsIndia reported on it in 2001. it could be. Bangalore—V Vinay. The fact that the project soon got mired in funding issues may have turned out to be good for it. It looks slim and slick. For the first time in the world. Its customised flash memory storage can hold limitless amount of data. The software innovations are truly indicative of the developers’ minds. app for appliance.

It is a wise move too.It is heartening that India has done that. How much more revolutionary can you get! 54 . C K Prahlad never tires of saying that the greatest consumers in the world are the poor and businessmen are foolish in creating products only for the rich. The developers have decided to ignore world markets and focus on India first.

The Simputer is *NOT* a personal computer. 2. But if you insist on entering tons of text using the Simputer. in terms of screen size (320x240). 3. but quite distinct (no patent infringement :-). you may be able to attach a USB keyboard. The second option is to use a novel character entry software called tap-a-tap which is similar in spirit to graffiti. For example. The use of extensive audio in the form of text-to-speech and audio snippets. The Information Markup Language (IML) that is (amongst other things) smart card aware. It could however be a pocket computer. Q: How do I enter text? Can I attach a keyboard? There are two options on the base simputer for entering text: A: one is a soft keyboard.12. memory capabilities (32MB RAM) and the OS (GNU/Linux). We don't recommend the Simputer as a mass data-entry device. 55 . Q: What features set the Simputer apart from other handhelds? A: The smart card reader in the Simputer. SOME QUESTIONS RELATED TO SIMPUTER 1. that can be brought up on the touch screen and you poke at it to enter one character at a time. 4. Q: Is the Simputer like a Palm? A: Again no! The Simputer is much more powerful than a Palm. Q: Is the Simputer like a PC? A: No.

56 . It can also use rechargeable batteries. Q: What processor does the Simputer run on? A: It runs on an Intel strong-arm chip.000 units. Q: What will the Simputer cost? A: We expect the Simputer to cost about Rs 9000 when the volumes are upwards 100. Q: What does the simputer run on? A: Three AAA batteries or off the mains.5. 6. 7. but the charger is not built in. The chip is known for its low power consumption.

regardless of location.13. • EDUCATION / LITERACY – Simputer’s high-resolution display facilitates images. • COMMUNICATION Can I meet the Tahsildar today? – Use your Simputer to check his availability. SOME WORKING AREA OF SIMPUTER • FORM-FILLING I want to reserve a train ticket to Mumbai. voice-mail to near & dear – Use the Simputer to send / receive • MONEY ORDER Dear Postman. You don’t have to trek ten km to find out. • RURAL HEALTH STATISTICS State Health Depatments can empower their health workers with Simputers for collection of health statistics in the villages. – Use the Simputer to submit a reservation form. Combined with audio files and text-to-speech in local languages. local-language text. On-the-spot receipts electronically generated. Let me credit your smart card first. can I withdraw Rs 100 from my account? – Your money order e-transaction has arrived on my Simputer. E-mail. not the other way around. this will facilitate literacy. 57 . self-learning • MICRO-BANKING Use the Simputer to take banking to the individual’s doorstep.

• HEALTH Portable Ultrasound Telemedicine • DRINKING WATER Simputer with appropriate sensor interfaces can facilitate quality checks • POLICE Information Retrieval FIRs Criminal records • COMMUNITY KIOSKS Public Services Land Records Utilities payments Information dissemination 58 .

The Computador Popular and the Simputer are pioneering projects that will be pilot case studies for subsequent work in the area. as research in this now nascent field moves towards a more structured and investigative methodology. In the next decades. They offer valuable lessons in the study of initiatives in technological equity. CONCLUSION Simputer is a low-cost multilingual. mass access handheld device that uses Indian language user interfaces to provide information technology based services to the multilingual population of India. 59 .14. new devices and technological solutions for the existing problems of underserved populations will continue to find their way to markets around the world.

Similarly. Technologies must address existing pains: It is important that advanced technology does not step in where it is not required.• Decisive role of needs assessment and usability testing: We find that in an era of great enthusiasm for technology as a solution. there is limited research into the market’s appreciations of these solutions. The economic characteristic of FOSS is a benefit. An inexpensive low-power basic device upgradeable with external attachments for specific populations could have driven down the cost. the creation of modular accessories could have enabled other products to gain from the same functionalities and facilitated greater market adoption. Greater focus on creating scalable general audience devices: The scale of the Simputer’s task may have been its greatest impairment – its aim to create a highly inclusive device by including audio capability drove up the cost to the point where it cannot compete effectively with other general audience devices in the market. The Simputer case shows urgent need for studying and codifying low-attainment users’ interactions with handheld screens. Since neither project was involved in fundamental scientific research. Government investment works better in infrastructure and scientific research: Both projects relied on the government to for underwriting or purchase of systems. but what is much more valuable is the application developer’s freedom from the motivations of proprietary software producers whose willingness to invest in facilitating the advancement of new applications is directly proportional to tangible benefits. The availability of computing devices to consumers in India or Brazil is not yet at the point where it can be considered essential infrastructure. Free and Open Source Software will play a decisive role in development projects: Underserved populations are dispersed and diverse. Both devices present 60 • • • • . Contextual study to examine how people currently do tasks that technology plans to replace is vital in understanding peoples’ relationships with the variables that new technology will affect. support from financial markets may have been more appropriate in ensuring that devices oriented to market needs were produced. having needs that require significant improvisation and customization.

61 . Technologies must be fun. most of the initiatives to create products for the underserved have come from academia or non-profits. Evidence has shown that people with low literacy skills master relatively simple user interfaces. and no fears of technology to overcome. School children have no proprietary software to unlearn. Given that current general purpose devices are too expensive for being directly used by the poorest (both devices we examined here failed to get the price below US$200 per unit). when they have a tangible context in which to use devices recurrently. there is still lack of faith in the commercial viability of technology for development. but this may not always be obvious to their intended audiences. But it is much easier to get people with no preconceptions about a technology to become its adopters. but all have inquisitive children. • Industry plays safe: Creators of new technologies have to take into account the variables that would need to fall in place for them to succeed. causing a “trickle-up” effect to their close relatives. • Any long-term change must be aimed at schools in developing regions. as well as into their homes. and as was seen in the case of the CP (and in the lukewarm VC response to Simputer). Many of these do not have basic infrastructure. task specific devices. research universities have as a very important role to fill this gap. Despite the promise of expanding markets to serve the economically marginalized. The cooperation of industry has been imperative. They are also more likely to find new devices fun to use and need not have a contextual practical benefit to become users of these devices. even the least literate people. The portentous conclusion here is that we may see succeeding generations of disempowerment until the underserved are naturally attractive to industry. Children can take their knowledge of these technologies into the future as users of advanced computing devices. it is theoretically possible to test new technologies on all. Mobile devices can be easily incorporated into curricula. and inexpensive. resulting in a lack of bottom-up demand.better ways of doing things. and that industry is risk averse to invest in the development of low cost. schools and young people are critical test-beds: As research into speech recognition breaks new ground.

Governments around the world are looking at policies such as India’s IT for All to build their manpower resources from the roots. can find their way into schools.low power versions of Simputers. basic handheld devices that circumvent power requirements present a viable solution for the future. BIBLIOGRAPHY 62 . for instance. 15.

63 .

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