Introduction: Versatile Computer

Picture of Versatile Computer

Following a post of Philippe Torrone on MAKE: blog,about his Apple mate-based hacked-up version of the MIT $100 laptop (for developing countries) (,I just twinkered with an enough-versatile-to-accept-any-parts conceptual computer,thus keeping the budget as low as possible,by recycling whatever functional old-PC part one can find/get/have (motherboard,cpu,memory,hd,cd,lcd,batteries,keyboard,mouse,touchpad,...).

Below,the very skeleton of the VC (only LCD is represented;lacks motherboard,keyboard,batteries,and all the stuff inside the central bloc (see step 3).

Step 1: General Concept and Ideas (e.g.:warning,drafts!!)

Picture of General Concept and Ideas (e.g.:warning,drafts!!)

Thwinkering with various and even exotic platforms can be a nice hack/hobby,but it seems hardly a real-world solution:all the old-and-almost-forgotten computing platforms will never fulfill the needs of developing countries.But it's true that there are plenties of hardware (mainly PCs,but "exotic" platforms as well,like the Apple emate,PDA,and so on) which would be ok for the job (remember what you did with your "old" Pentium 100 Mhz,32 meg,1 gig hd ? ;).Moreover,those old PCs are usually wasted in our nonsense and consumerist countries ... so why not trying to make a general framework to integrate the discarded pieces (motherboard,cpu,ram,lcd screen,...)?

This would be the chassis of our VC (Versatile Computer ;) :a general framework to have a common ground,and even with any piece available,the only cleverness needed would be to know enough the framework and the computer in general to make fixing (screwing) and wiring. :)

The total costs would be:
-the material and manufacturing of the framework (plastic or steel or ...?)
-the lcd screen (=>reversing of the connection probably not easy;depends of:standard or mostly proprietary?)
-the electronic interface,the (cheap!) heart of the framework,which glues all the rest together:
-made-up keyboard/mouse<->PS/2 (or COM) motherboard port
-USB key or memory card <-> IDE port
-VGA <-> LCD and perhaps TV (LCD can remain an option:think CHEAP! (and adapted) ;)
-power interface: AT connection <-> (batteries) <-> hand crank charger,solar/water/wind electricity,(place local method of electricity production here)
-optional components:mass storage (USB key,...),batteries,touchpad,(whatever peripheral)...


-The power interface should be VERY robust:if the electricity is locally produced,I doubt there will be a local engineer too to verify the voltage is always at the same (good) level...The first sign will be the components burning. :/

-The framework should integrate the space for future or probable devices: 3 1/2 and 2/13 hard drives,usb key, cd reader/burner,...
-As I think of:PCI adapters to have one (or two) PCI cards horizontally (the more I think,the more I fear it's going to end with a mammothian Altair-like laptop!)

-The LCD should be formated in a plank shape,which would be inserted in the guides of the framework (forming a closing lid).

-The electronic interface,the LCD and the memory storage (HD,CD,usb/flash) (and the hand crank charger?) should form a moving bloc;in fact,the framework is an open box,with the motherboard on its ground;the moving bloc should move along rails,digged into the walls of the box.Having the things that way will allow to adapt to the position of the cpu and its fan ;) on the motherboard;next,we only have to place/inlay/crush the keyboard (and batteries?And hand crank charger?).

-The conditions of work of the hardware won't be what it was conceived for:heat,high hygrometry,and dust.Therefore,the final product will have to be isolated (filtered windows) and well ventilated.

Below is a general scheme of all the parts and their connections.

Step 2: Main Body

Picture of Main Body

Description of the main body of the VC,aka "the case".

Step 3: Central Bloc

Picture of Central Bloc

Description of the central bloc,the heart of the VC.


mycroftxxx (author)2006-01-07
a tiny(!) power supply to ride on the tiny motherboard.

Great find.

_soapy_ (author)mycroftxxx2006-05-21

Very small. However, it's only 12V output (where most older gear uses a 5V feed as well) and only 120W which simply isn't going to be enough for a load of old hardware. Of course, 2 of them dioded onto a bus-bar, and a secondary step-down to 5V would be a good solution.

balisticjoe (author)2008-07-27

I am a tad confused. This is a small computer that could be made very cheaply? Could you explain differently? I would like to try and have a simple computer thats only purpose really is internet with wifi.

Eirinn (author)balisticjoe2009-01-22

There's a bunch of new ultra mini computers out there now..the eee's and the acers. I know this comment is about a year olld but i thought i'd comment anyway. I'm writing this on an eee1000 btw :)

balisticjoe (author)Eirinn2009-01-22

That problem question no longer applies to anything i need. Even now I'm on my new laptop. The Toshiba satellite.

dude300 (author)2008-04-29

could you adapt something like this

AndriusKulikauskas (author)2007-08-29

Hi, I am thinking on some similar lines. My lab Minciu Sodas organizes independent thinkers, including many in Africa. They can get USG flash drives, keyboards and the thought is to connect this with a display so the would have a flash drive editor, see: if you would like to join us we are at Andrius Kulikauskas,

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Bio: Think tanker,trying to switch to DO tanker! ;)
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