Remember about 6 years ago, when your standard, off the shelf desktop computer got down to about $500-$600? Well, they're about the same now. Sure, the processing power, memory and overall technology have continued to improve, but the lower end models are still around $500-$600. Why is that? This is one case where lack of demand has actually kept prices up.
When the economy was doing relatively well, if a lower income family or individual wanted to make an over-the-budget purchase, they could either put it on the card (credit was easy) or they could fairly easily pick up some over-time or even do some free lance or piecemeal work on the side. Now, we have 15% of the workforce either unemployed or underemployed. Extra work is hard to come by and credit, even harder.
Yes, it's certainly possible to make a decent desktop computer, say with 2 or 3 year old technology, load it with freeware so one could still surf the web, create documents and modify images, and retail it at around $300, but who would buy it? Right now, the market for new computers is people who can easily afford a new computer. Those folks aren't interested in 2 or 3 year old tech, when for a couple hundred bucks more they can have the new stuff. There just aren't enough buyers at the moment for trailing edge technology, at least not brand new trailing edge technology.
The good news is, the economy will come roaring back eventually. The Progressive experiment will come to an end, not because of some broad based ideological enlightenment, but because Americans like new stuff and big government is simply not delivering.
Tomorrow's trailing edge will be today's top of the line, which is pretty darn good. Tech will become widely available and affordable to even lower income families/individuals on the store shelves. Until then, there's always Ebay and Craigslist. Of course, you may have to go to the library to go online and look for them. Just be sure to check those feedback ratings and always meet strangers in a well lit, public place. Also, when you go to the polls this Fall, remember, big government doesn't make cool new stuff. They regulate it, tax it and try to control its characteristics and distribution. Let them know how you feel about that.