California's Santa Barbara County has begun an innovative program in which economically disadvantaged students are given used computers so they can keep up with their wired classmates. Since its inception in 1997, the Computers for Families program has grown to encompass 24 elementary school classrooms and 800 families.

The program was started by a consortium of business, government, and educational groups in the area. In contrast to many programs that rely solely on volunteer help (and often fail to meeting objectives), the effort began with funding from Raytheon Corp. for a director, who then led...

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