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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Consoles to plug digital divides?

Consoles to plug digital divides?

"We need more computers for the developing world - so what about old games consoles, wonders technology analyst Bill Thompson

My son Max will be 13 in December and he wants an Xbox 360.

I know that other games consoles are available, and I am pretty agnostic about such things since I am not at all a serious games player.

But the Xbox has been his platform of choice for the last three years and he is desperate to upgrade.

Having agreed that it can be a combined birthday and Christmas present, the struggle is now on to find a shop that has any pre-order stock available, but I am willing to be persistent.

It also helps that he is happy to pay for games out of his savings.

Passing it on

I do not see anything wrong in wanting a new and improved games platform. I have been known to buy myself the occasional new computer from time to time.

But it is clear that once a shiny new system is in place below the TV the old one is unlikely to be used again, and this bothers me.

First it will go into the office, then it will be lost under a pile of paper or boxes. Eventually it might get handed down to a cousin or other relative, but they will not play it very much.

Max will not be alone in dumping his old console. I would imagine that most sales of the new system are going to be upgrades, so there will be millions of unwanted Xboxes around the world by the end of the year.

Bill Thompson
I would like to think that Max's old Xbox was helping someone else's child get online and change their life
And when Sony release the PlayStation 3 next year the same thing is going to happen with PlayStation 2.

There is a real danger that millions of them will end up either unused or, worse, being dumped. We are increasingly being prompted to pass our unwanted PCs but as far as I can see there are not any console recycling schemes.

Yet both the Xbox and the PlayStation 2 are just computers, and although they are shipped as dedicated games systems they can do other things.

Sony provides an official Linux for the PlayStation 2, based on the Red Hat kernel, and it comes with a collection of libraries to let games developers use the specialised graphics hardware that makes it such a good gaming platform.

You get a hard drive to fit into the console, a network card, keyboard and mouse and of course the software, on DVD.

There are Linuxes for the Xbox too, but they are unofficial and using them will void your warranty and means you cannot use Xbox Live.

You can plug both systems into a real computer monitor rather than a TV, as long as you use a "sync on green" monitor, so you do not have to put up with poor resolution, fuzzy fonts and irritating flicker.

It seems obvious that the best thing to do with all the unwanted consoles is turn them into real computers and send them to countries that need them." [more]

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