The original idea behind the One Used Mac Per Child was to take classic Macintoshes and give them to underpriveleged kids who could use a computer.
Recently, though, I’ve learned the idea can apply to anyone who needs a capable computer to get things done: word processing, e-mail, basic Internet surfing.
I was finally able to put my idea into practice with Mirza, my new Pakistani neighbor. Mirza moved to Michigan from Karachi, Pakistan to pursue a career in physical therapy. He earned a work visa with our local hospital and is spending two years in America learning the trade.
Mirza left a wife and three kids back in Pakistan. He tries to talk to them every day, but the phone bill is getting expensive. E-mail is much cheaper. But first, he needs a computer and an Internet connection.
He asked me to go “laktop” shopping with him. He balked when I told him the price of a decent laptop, so I remembered that I have a very useful PowerMac G4 sitting around my apartment looking for something to do.
Finding a modest high-speed connection in our area is easy. Connecting the Mac to the Internet will be simple. But now I’ve learned that Mirza has virtually no experience with computers. He doesn’t know how to type, or how to navigate the Web, and doesn’t even have an e-mail address.
At least now he has a used Mac to get him by. For his simple needs, the PowerMac – running OS X 10.3 with a bit of TextEdit and Firefox – will suit him just fine. A combination printer/scanner, to scan family photos and print driving directions (once he gets his driver’s license), is all that’s missing.
For everything else, the PowerMac is perfect. Sure, it’s an older Mac lacking the latest and greatest web browser and software package. It’s not the quietest machine anymore. And the giant CRT Apple Studio Display cramps his small apartment. But since he won’t be doing any video transcoding any time soon, the 400 MHz, 768 MB RAM machine will carry his workload with nary a sputter. After he buys an DSL connection, he’ll be up and running in no time.
In fact, he won’t know any different, and I saved him from being soured on computers with some cheap Windows Vista laptop.
I was just glad to have an extra, useable Mac hanging around for Mirza to use. In the end, I saved him several hundred dollars (at minimum) and handed him the best operating system of its time. If he wants an different computer, then I’ll take him “laktop” shopping.
Teaching Mirza to type? That’s another project entirely.