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Clockwork computer's finest hour

A clockwork laptop computer, demonstrated for the first time to Commonwealth ministers this week, could bring information technology to the remotest and poorest of homes and schools.

Trevor Baylis, inventor of the clockwork radio, showed how an Apple laptop could function without batteries. Using his radio as a generator, he was able to supply 16 minutes of power on the low-voltage Apple E-mate and the two companies are now working together to develop a clockwork computer.

He said: "We can now put a computer in every mud hut."

Edmund Marsden, of the British Council, described the experiment as exciting: "Once refined this technology could bring the benefits of computer technology to thousands in rural communities. It could have great implications for education."

The demonstration took place during the 13th Commonwealth education ministers' meeting in Botswana. The theme was the effect of new technologies on education.

The presence there of Baroness Blackstone, education minister in the Lords, signalled an improvement in relations with the Commonwealth which had becomestrained under Margaret Thatcher The minister announced a contribution of Pounds 350,000 for the Commonwealth's distance-learning project.

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