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Give Flip Cameras a New and Better Life

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The NPR opening sentence is stark: "The super-simple Flip camera is dead." The CEO of Cisco Systems, John Chambers, announced that the company is closing its Flip camera division. Apparently the firestorm of new technologies -- including the smartphone -- has made the Flip camera obsolete.

I am wondering what Cisco is planning to do with its existing inventory. Surely there are shelves in a warehouse somewhere stocked with the small video-recorders? Perhaps they are simply destined for the Smithsonian or the bargain bins in dollar stores, but I urge Mr. Chambers to donate them to developing countries where they will be appreciated.

I know this because a few years ago I gave a Flip camera to a young woman who lived in the Kibera slums in Nairobi. She was able to use the camera to videotape weddings and other celebrations -- earning the equivalent of about $25 per event. That was enough money to pay her rent or buy food for a month. She was able to parlay that little camera into a small nest egg, one that is still growing to this day. She's not complaining about its simple design, or the fact that the video has to be uploaded to a computer, or the fact that its built-in microphone has a limited range.

I'm certainly not chastising American consumers who demand electronic devices that read to them, transmit photos instantly to the ends of the earth and help them create high-quality videos. We are a nation of multi-taskers, demanding new and evolving technologies.

But there are places on this planet where the Flip camera can change a life. Mr. Chambers would be a true humanitarian if he agreed to ship all the Flip cameras in his warehouse to people who would truly value them. And perhaps he can urge all those Americans who have Flip cameras lying at the bottom of a drawer somewhere to do the same. Today's obsolescence can be tomorrow's deliverance.