Associated Press reports the Cuban government is finally allowing the general public to buy computers. Sales of computers and many other consumers goods like DVD players, cell phones, motorbikes and plug-in pressure cookers were prohibited in the country but new president Raul Castro is slowly removing some of these despised bans. Unfortunately Cubans are still not allowed to access the Internet.
A tower-style QTECH PC and monitor costs nearly US$780 (euro505). While few Cubans can afford that, dozens still gawked outside a tiny Havana electronics store, crowding every inch of its large glass windows and leaving finger and nose prints behind.
Inside, four clerks tore open boxes, hastily assembling display computers. By the time a sign went up listing the PCs specifications, more than a dozen shoppers were lined up to get in.
"Look at that!" murmured Armando Batista as he pressed against the window. Although he can't afford to buy one, he said, "these are good for a start."
The gray and black QTECHs, complete with DVD players, bulky CRT monitors and standard-issue black mice and keyboards, are the only model available.
The Cuban PCs have Intel Celeron processors with 80 gigabytes of memory and 512 RAM and are equipped with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. Both could be violations of a U.S. trade embargo, but not something Washington can do anything about in the absence of diplomatic relations with Havana.
Clerks said the PCs were assembled by Cuban companies using parts imported from China. For about $80 (euro52) less, buyers in the U.S. can get a desktop with more than twice the memory, a 80GB SATA hard drive and 22-inch LCD flat screen monitor.
The crowded store in central Havana's Carlos III shopping center is the only outlet in the country now selling the PCs. Clerks at a few other government-run stores — where Cubans must buy everything — said they expect to receive deliveries sometime after next week.
Brian Brito, 14, saved his allowance for two years to buy himself a PC for his upcoming 15th birthday.
"It's good for playing games," he said, while lugging his new computer from the mall.
But his mother had other ideas. "He'll use it for school, for learning," she said. "And besides, it's a form of healthy entertainment."
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.