And Finally

Can China find its Steve Jobs?

Step forward Wei Xinlong, a student who built a DIY iPad-like device

Maybe it should be called the iBling

Apple’s first 50 computers were built in Steve Jobs’s garage by a workforce that included a few of his pals and even his pregnant sister. It really was a homegrown effort: his father’s television was employed to test that the machines worked, and occasionally production had to be halted as the TV was reclaimed by dad to watch football games.

That is one of the many anecdotes in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple’s co-founder, which we reviewed in WiC128.

WiC noted that the book was stirring particular interest in China, where many were questioning whether the country could produce innovative leaders like Jobs himself.

We suspected we’d have to wait months or perhaps years to answer that question. But to our surprise a candidate emerged within a week.

Step forward, Wei Xinlong, a university student who the Shanghai Morning Post is crediting with the creation of a “home-made iPad”.

Wei and his machine have become something of an internet sensation over the past week, after his girlfriend posted photos of the production process online.

Many then began trying to emulate Wei’s success in building a tablet that he says cost him less than Rmb800 ($126).

With considerable chutzpah, Wei built his tablet in 10 days. It features built-in speakers and a camera, as well as an Apple logo.

In a move that might offend the sensibilities of Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive, the device is also studded with shiny stones – making it more iBling than iPad.

Then again, it’s not going to have Apple engineers too worried on the specification front – the battery life is just two hours, for instance.

Still, given that Wei’s electronic engineering skills are entirely self-taught, it is a fairly impressive accomplishment. He sourced his main components from laptops and the second hand market. And when he couldn’t find the right equipment he had to improvise, even relying on drinks cans and chopsticks for part of the production process.

Wei is the first to admit that he has not created an iPad.

“To be honest, it is far from being a real tablet; it’s just a notebook computer with a touch screen.”

But why did he do it? Wei is a student majoring in environmental art and design at Northeast Normal University. But he is about to move to Shenzhen to begin work, while his girlfriend will attend graduate school elsewhere.

Wei says he assembled the tablet as a way of demonstrating his devotion to her.

Steve Jobs may have loved making computers, but not even he could say he built a machine for the sake of love.


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