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Personal computers finally available in Cuba

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For the first time ever, Cuban citizens can purchase personal computers. There’s only one model available and it’s priced too high for most Cubans (and it’d seem like a downright rip-off to most Americans), but this is a good start nonetheless.

The computer is a QTECH PC and costs just under $800. It’s got a Celeron processor, 80GB hard drive, 512MB of RAM, Windows XP, CRT monitor, and a DVD drive. By comparison, according to the Associated Press, “For about $80 less, buyers in the U.S. can get a desktop with more than twice the memory, an 80GB SATA hard drive and 22-inch LCD flat screen monitor.

The Cuban PCs will be sold in government-run electronic stores and will primarily be used for limited gaming and things like word processing and schoolwork. Internet access is still a big no-no in Cuba, though. According to the AP

Except for some trusted officials and state journalists, most Cubans are banned from accessing the Internet at home. So many of these new computers may never be connected to the Web.

Some people buy limited e-mail access on the black market, usually sharing an account with the authorized holder, who usually works for the state. Even if they could access the Web, Cubans can’t shop on line because they don’t have credit cards.

Computers have apparently been available on the black market for a while in Cuba for roughly the same price, but those prices may fall now that buying computers is legal. The bigger issue is the price of the machines.

The average state salary in Cuba is less than $20 per month, although “most Cubans have access to extra income through jobs with foreign firms, tips from working in tourism or money sent by relatives living abroad.”

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