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Hardware lust (was Re: The $100 laptop closer to reality)

Brendan <mailinglist at> wrote:
> Great post. I couldn't have said it any more succinctly (obviously).

Thanks... I wanted to amplify one of my earlier points--

  "in my opinion, the money would have been better spent on professors'
  salaries instead of soon-to-be-obsolete computers."

Just to give a more specific idea, my college was spending about $10-12
million (in 1970s dollars, figure closer to $40 million in today's devalued
currency) per year on computer facilities.  One year, in fact, I was asked (as
a Work-Study part-timer) to come up with some input on a $2 million section of
the budget on short notice:  we had a day or two to come up with specific
proposals for software purchases.  I don't recall the amounts or other
specifics of my own suggestions, but I do remember the shock which came a few
weeks later:  our ill-conceived budget had been *approved* and now we had to
figure out what we *really* wanted to buy with it.

I look back at my alma mater years later and wonder what its reputation would
be if it had spent, say, a mere $2 million a year attracting the 10 to 15 best
& brightest scholars into its then-emerging computer science department?  It
did in fact author a handful of the standards which define today's Internet
RFC's.  But it could have done *so* much more if it had acted in those early
pre-Microsoft days on a vision of academic excellence rather than a mere lust
for hardware.


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