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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 09:00 GMT
School bus offers web on the go
Manx Telecomputer Bus
The bus is more than 20 years old
A teacher on the Isle of Man has come up with a novel use for the next generation of mobile phone technology.

Information technology teacher Alex Townsend is using his 3G handset to provide a wireless broadband internet connection for schoolchildren.

The Manx Telecomputer Bus has 21 Apple Macs on board, taking computing training to every school on the island.

The O2 phone network has used the Isle of Man to test 3G technology, which promises fast net services, video clips and picture messaging on mobile phones.

Net focus

The Telecomputer Bus first hit the road in 1998. The vehicle itself is more than 20 years old but it has been kitted out with Apple Power Macs.

Children on the Manx Telecomputer Bus
These machines go like the wind and it makes my lesson go so much better, thanks to our 3G phone
Alex Townsend, teacher
"We use it to travel around the Isle of Man, bringing the big computer room experience to little primary schools," explained Mr Townsend.

"The Isle of Man is very keen to promote information communication technology, computers among young people as they see it as a way forward for the island's commerce."

In the past, the bus would have connected to a school's net connection using a cable. But Mr Townsend said this could be quite slow as the connection was shared with other pupils on the island.

So he hit across the idea of using his 3G handset instead. He tried it out on a laptop and found it worked.

"I found the speed was so impressive that I thought 'if it can do this for one computer, what could it do for the 21 machines on the Computer Bus?'"

'Like the wind'

On the bus, the phone is plugged into a laptop that acts as a server for other machines on board.

Despite sharing the connection between 21 computers, the speed has impressed Mr Townsend.

"The service that children are getting through this phone is actually quicker than on their desktop machines in the school," he said.

"These machines go like the wind and it makes my lesson go so much better, thanks to our 3G phone."

Mr Townsend said the Computer Bus had shown the potential for 3G technology, which fuses the scope of the internet with mobile telecommunications.

"People are hungry for information, people want to get on the web, get their e-mail, faster and faster and anything that allows us to do that is going to take off," he said.

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