Maine Gov. Angus King, trying to bridge the digital divide in one of the poorest states in the country, has proposed giving all seventh-graders laptop computers to keep. If King gets his way, every child in Maine from seventh grade on will have his or her own laptop computer within six years.

Starting in 2002, the governor wants each of the state's roughly 17,000 seventh-graders to get a computer, regardless of whether they have one at home. "We're heading into an age when computer literacy is essential. It's going to be as important as knowing how to read or...

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