Sunday, July 16, 2006

The $100 WikiPDA?

A few years ago the idea of a pocket encyclopaeadia, the size of Britannica, in your pocket for $100 would have sounded hardly believable or at least cost a fortune. However, there are several ingredients that make this almost a reality now.

  • Several generations of PDAs mean that you can buy a second hand device in very good condition that's only 2-3 yeards old, with fast processors, and capable operating system.
  • Flash memory continues to plummet in price
  • We have in Wikipedia a huge free encyclopaedia with open content that can be converted to other formats
  • The Tomeraider e-book reader software has a very efficient indexing system and supports highly compressed files
  • Erik Zachte has done a wonderful job of developing script to convert from Wikipedia to Tomeraider

I've been totting up costs of a system oriented around using Wikipedia offline and based on prices in the UK:

  1. HP Jornada 565, Pocket PC2002, ex demo stock, several sold recently on £33 +P&P.
  2. 1GB Compact Flash Card (ORA, £18 +P&P
  3. Wikipedia: free
  4. Tomeraider 3 license (Pocket PC): $30 (£18 approx)
  5. Tomeraider conversion scripts: free

Total £80 approx inc.

Assuming a conversion rate of UK£1 = US$1.8, that means under $150. PDAs will get cheaper and so will the memory, so expect $100 within a year!

Why not give one to every child...?


Blogger Tom said...

Offline referencing via ebooks will be a thing of the past as we move further into the 21st century. I used to do the Tombraider thing, but recently got an affordable data plan with unlimited 3G, so now I just hop over to to get all my, well, answers :D. aggregates content from various sources, including Wikipedia.

16 October 2007 at 16:49  
Blogger Paul Trafford said...

If current trends continue, yes it looks likely, and I expect a lot more aggregation (Yahoo! Go's oneSearch uses this to pull in personalised content alongside various other info.) In the UK, T-Mobile has very good 3G coverage for its Web-n-Walk, with HSDPA increasing fast :-)

Even so Wikipedia through Tomeraider is perhaps faster because of its specialised indexing and access system and it may take more than 1 century to overcome the human hoarding tendency ;-)

For online referencing to work as effectively requires:

* optimised user interface
* constant availability
* consistently good bandwidth
* low latency

But if the last 3 conditions are met the question arises: thick or thin [client]...?

17 October 2007 at 13:21  

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