Virtual Happiness Charity, Paraplegic Boy Chip Away At Dreams

The keys to the Magic Kingdom were his for the asking, but Peter Valeo had other worlds to conquer.

When the charitable Starlight Foundation offered to grant the paraplegic 12-year-old’s fondest wish - a visit to Walt Disney World, perhaps? - Pete instead chose a chip: Intel Corp.’s new Pentium Pro microprocessor and all the hardware he could imagine.

Intel agreed, donating a $10,000 system that would make any cyberfreak salivate. The Santa Clara, Calif., company also made Pete a member of an elite user group that is testing the chip for flaws.

“He has the most powerful computer of any 12-year-old on the face of the Earth,” Intel spokesman Howard High said.

“It’s great,” Pete said Wednesday. “It is so fast compared to my other one, it is like light speed.”

He said a game that takes three minutes to load on his dad’s PC is ready to play in five seconds on the new system.

The sixth-grader, paralyzed from his midsection down since last December by transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord sheath, spends two to three hours a day playing games such as Doom, Myst and Mortal Kombat III, writing e-mail and reading. His injury is not considered life-threatening.

The Los Angeles foundation grants special wishes to severely ill children.

Pete’s colleagues in the 600-member “beta tester” group are putting their Pentium Pros through the torturous paces of engineering problems, mathematical research and movie special-effects creation.

Intel says Pete’s biweekly performance reports may help it avoid the embarrassment and multimillion-dollar replacement costs it suffered last year after users detected calculating flaws in the Pentium chip, the Pentium Pro’s predecessor.

Pentium Pro is expected to become common in home PCs in two or three years.

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