Laos’ Jhai Computer

Lee Thorn of San Francisco and Lee Felsenstein are the architects of the Jhai computer in Laos, which is powered by bicycle pedals and used WiFi and antennas nailed to trees to connect to the Internet. More in this story from SF Gate:

The bike-pedaled generator will power a battery that in turn runs the computer, which sits in an 8-by-10-inch box and has the power of a pre-Pentium, 486-type computer. Felsenstein designed it to run on only 12 watts — compared to a typical computer’s 90 watts — so the bike power would be up to the task.

“It has no moving parts, the lid seals up tight, and you can dunk it in water and it will still run,” Felsenstein said. “The idea is to be rugged, last at least 10 years and run in both the monsoon season and the dry season.”

The computer will hook up with a wireless card — an 802.11b, the current industry standard — to an antenna bolted on the roof of a bamboo house, and the signal will be beamed from there to an antenna nailed to a tree on top of a mountain. There the signal will be bounced to Phon Hong, which sits 25 miles from Phon Kham and is the nearest big village with phone lines. The phone lines then hook to an Internet service provider.

Felsenstein crafted the Jhai to run on Linux software, a system which, unlike some other software, will not be obsolete in 18 months.

Through the Internet connection, the Jhai Computer will be able to not only do e-mail, but also run a two-way telephone system VoIP.

I’ll be writing this week in my Tech Talk on the ecosystem which low-cost computers can proliferate.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.