Innovation takes many forms. Take for instance cheap car
insurance site www.prudentplus.com!
Online car insurance price comparison sites are only part of progress
though. At the beginning of the 21st Century much of western China
was still extremely poor. The Yellow Sheep River Area was typical of this;
as a rural area with little or no industry, its people were poor and ill
educated. The Yellow Sheep River Project was originally set up in order to
bring modernisation to the area, which meant teaching the population,
particularly the children, in the use of computers. This was initially
funded by a charitable institution, purpose of which was to attempt to
bridge the gap between the wealthier eastern part of China, and the poorer
western one. A project known as the Time and Talent Project was set up,
providing training in Internet technology for both teachers and students in
more than 150 schools.
The problem was cost; two major costs being the cost of processors and
operating systems. Both of these were supplied by American concerns; it was
realised that, in order for China to be able to fully assessed the poorer
members of society, it would be necessary for the country to develop it's
own hardware and software. The Godson family of chips was regarded as an
answer to the first problem, and the Thinix operating system the answer to
the second one.
The project, which was backed by massive investment, was not designed to
produce goods for export. The aim was to be able to provide affordable
computer systems for the Chinese people.
The operating system was based on LINUX. Since this system is open source
(i.e. freely available for anyone to use) it was capable of modification to
suit the Chinese hardware. The OS was designed to be as simple as possible,
so as to be easy for people with little formal education to understand. The
interface was designed to be as user friendly as possible, and usable via
either keyboard or mouse, as with the Microsoft systems.
Designing an operating system is ,however, one thing. Providing other
software which will work with it is a different matter altogether and this
was where the designers initially struggled. The problem was that software
designers have a ready-made market for their skills designing programs for
the Microsoft operating system; a new Chinese system using not only a
different architecture but also a completely different language created a
fresh set of challenges. The hope is that, eventually, sufficient
collaborators can be persuaded to work with the developers of the OS in
order to create a system which may be saleable throughout the rest of the
world, but at a much lower price point than the existing ones.
Since these early days the pace of development in China as accelerated
rapidly, and many of the dreams of these early pioneers of computerisation
are becoming reality.