Wikipedia goes mobile


Nov. 1, 2009 at 5:01 a.m.
Updated Nov. 4, 2009 at 5:04 a.m.

Which star of the movie "Pretty in Pink" appeared on the sitcom "The Facts of Life?" What year was the Oreo cookie first developed? What is the largest prime number? If you have ever found yourself pondering these questions, where is the first place you go for answers?

Maybe you have a smart friend you call up for an answer. Or perhaps you are like me and just type up the question on Wikipedia, the Web-based, user-generated, free-content encyclopedia project. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown at a rapid pace, with the amount of articles, on the English site, topping more than 3 million. The content on Wikipedia has not been without controversy, partly due to the fact that anyone can contribute and edit articles. There's always been a question about accuracy. However, the site's popularity continues to grow, and has more than 10 million registered users and receives about 65 million visitors a month.

Recently, the company Openmoko announced a portable version of Wikipedia. The WikiReader ($99), is a small, hand-held device which contains more than 3 million topics from Wikipedia. The device does not require an Internet connection, features just three navigation buttons, a monochrome touch screen, parental controls and requires 2 AAA batteries. Free updates are available as downloads on Wikipedia's Web site, and require a microSD card to transfer the files from your computer to the WikiReader. Or you can purchase an annual update subscription for $29, and with this you get two memory cards with updates shipped to you twice a year.

How popular will the WikiReader be? It's hard to say, especially since the articles on Wikipedia are constantly changing, so the content on the WikiReader could have inaccuracies that last until the next update. Also, there are various applications available for download on smartphones that make it easy to have Wikipedia access in your pocket without having to purchase an additional device. However, if you live (or are traveling) in a location where Internet connection is limited, or want a safe way for your children to browse Wikipedia, then the WikiReader might be for you.

CJ Castillo is the interactivity editor for the Victoria Advocate and knows what the largest prime number is now (thank you Wikipedia!). You can follow her on Twitter (@cjcastillo) or contact her at or c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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