The Dream of a Computer

Osmel Almaguer

Upscale technology is out of most people's range in Cuba. Photo: Caridad

When I heard the word “computer” for the first time, I was only six.  Of course I didn’t know what it meant so I asked my mother, who told me that she wasn’t really sure either.  However, she had heard that it was a device that “answers anything that someone asks it.”

Later on there were some cartoons on TV in which a frog operated a huge computer by its voice.  That was in the 1980s, and the world was yet to know of the digital revolution that would occur a decade later.

In any case, I grew up and went on to high school.  This was when I saw a micro-computer for the very first time.  It was a 186, one of those that operated with a MS-DOS system.  Back then, learning about computers was just plain boring, at least compared to what my mother had told me.

I didn’t learn too much about them.  The only thing I found out was that computers were not the grand oracles that could answer any question asked of them.  Instead, I discovered they were a means of storing and processing any type of information.

But then came the p1, p2, p3 and p4 —and with Windows installed— which completely changed the panorama of working with computers.  Now these machines were really starting to get interesting.  By that time there were several companies in Cuba that had them, as well as some musicians and other powerful figures.  But me? – I never dreamt of owning one.

The years went by and a girlfriend of mine on one fine day bought a computer, one that was spectacular at that time.  From her I learned almost everything I know about them, plus I discovered my vocation for computers.

I’m not saying I was going to study computer science or become some IT professional, but I did in fact become an amateur computer geek.  It felt great.  Nevertheless, one day we broke up and she took the computer with her, leaving me with a double emptiness inside – one romantic and the other technological.

It was then that I decided to try and save to buy one for myself, though it was just a dream given their high cost… In stores, the cheapest ones go for something like $600 CUC [$750 USD].  It would have been better to think about a cheaper one, from those people buy new ones and sell their old machines at a lower price.

But to buy even one of those you need around $200 CUC [$250 USD], a sum that never in my life have I had in my hands at any one time.

5 thoughts on “The Dream of a Computer

  • Grok
    I do not know of a person who earn a living in this country and can not afford a computer for 300 to 400 dollars
    That is much less than half their salary of 15 days assuming they earn minimum wage.

  • Nonetheless, grok, we must never be alienated from the true causes of low prices in many occasions: not ‘free-market’ competition, but semi-slave labor:

    There’s always a ‘hidden’ cost in low priced products, and somebody has to pay for it.

  • Forget the other comments from people trying to score cheap political shots: we know why Cuba is poor. And it’s all about the poverty — i.e. the Blockade — not the socialism. Nowadays, computers and much ‘hi-tech’ are dirt-cheap commodities — but then again, there are plenty of people in the West too who cannot afford this stuff either; believe me. Note that those other commentators here didn’t bother to point *that* inconvenient fact out, did they?

    Cuba obviously has to ditch its stalinist past, and all the tight social control this has represented. And the best way to do that is thru the ALBA trade/political federation — primarily with Venezuela. The sooner that cheap chinese/venezuelan computers and HDD TVs and “iPod” clones, etc. saturate the cuban market, the sooner this hypocritical source of subversion against socialism can be neutralized — and the sooner cubans can begin to enjoy the real fruits of their [semi-]socialist revolution.

  • You can get even a new computer for around 300 to 400 us dollars. So why does the state charge so much?
    Is it the monopolistic practice and having no other competition?
    Why does the Cuban regime tries to squeeze a few more dollars out of the very poor?
    Why not opening the country to healthy competition? and let people have computers?
    Computer= Information
    Not good for Cuban regime

    Hum! There is maybe the answer.
    Protecting access to free information.
    Why is information so dangerous to the Cuban regime?
    Could it be that people will not believe so easily anymore what the press , radio and Cuban tv says?
    What do you think?

  • Pity that the Cuban government puts restrictions on importing computers to Cuba. We could get used computers here for a lot less money and that are possibly more powerful than the one the state sells you for 750 dollars.

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