September 28, 2005 8:55 AM PDT

The $100 laptop moves closer to reality

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--A low-cost computer for the masses moved one step closer to reality on Wednesday.

Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, detailed specifications for a $100 windup-powered laptop targeted at children in developing nations.

Negroponte, who laid out his original proposal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, said MIT and his nonprofit group, called One Laptop Per Child, is in discussions with five countries--Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa--to distribute up to 15 million test systems to children.

The $100 laptop

In addition, Massachusetts is working with MIT on a plan to distribute the laptops to schoolchildren, Negroponte said.

"This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life," Negroponte said on Wednesday during a presentation at Technology Review's Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT. "Reception has been incredible. The idea is simple. It's an education project, not a laptop project. If we can make education better--particularly primary and secondary schools--it will be a better world."

He said a goal of the project is to make the low-cost PC idea a grassroots movement that will spread in popularity, like the Linux operating system or the Wikipedia free online encyclopedia. "This is open-source education. It's a big issue."

Negroponte said the idea is that governments will pay roughly $100 for the laptops and will distribute them for free to students.

The proposed design of the machines calls for a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory and an innovative dual-mode display that can be used in full-color mode, or in a black-and-white sunlight-readable mode. The display makes the laptop "both an electronic book and a laptop," he said.

One display design being considered is a flat, flexible printed display developed at MIT's Media Lab. Negroponte said the technology can be used to produce displays that cost roughly 10 cents per square inch. "The target is $12 for a 12-inch display with near-zero power consumption," he said.

Power for the new systems will be provided through either conventional electric current, batteries or by a windup crank attached to the side of the notebooks, since many countries targeted by the plan do not have power in remote areas, Negroponte said.

The machines, which will run a version of the Linux operating system, will also include other applications, some developed by MIT researchers, as well as country-specific software. "Software has gotten too fat and unreliable, so we started with Linux," he said.

For connectivity, the systems will be Wi-Fi- and cell phone-enabled, and will include four USB ports, along with built-in "mesh networking," a peer-to-peer concept that allows machines to share a single Internet connection.

"In emerging nations, the issue is not connectivity," Negroponte said. "That was the issue, but there are many people working on it, (thanks to) global competitiveness. But for education, the roadblock is the laptop."

Five companies are working with MIT to develop an initial 5 million to 15 million test units within the year: Google, Advanced Micro Devices, News Corp., Red Hat and BrightStar, Negroponte said. He said the current plan is to produce 100 million to 150 million units by 2007.

Negroponte admits that his goals are ambitious. Currently, the world production of laptops is just under 50 million, he said.

While the initial goal of the project is to work with governments, Negroponte said MIT is considering licensing the design or giving it to a third-party company to build commercial versions of the PC. "Those might be available for $200, and $20 or $30 will come back to us to make the kids' laptops. We're still working on that," he said.

Others have launched low-cost PC ideas in the past, though MIT's project may be the most ambitious.

Last year, Advanced Micro Devices announced plans for its Personal Internet Connector--a prototype with a price tag of at least $185, with no display. And an Indian company called Novatium said it plans to offer a stripped-down home computer for about $70 or $75.

In addition, Microsoft's antipiracy-minded Steve Ballmer last year called for a move toward the $100 PC for developing nations.

225 comments

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Very ambitious, but...
What children in poorer nations need is - food, clean drinking
water and clothing, along with basic education. Even $100 is alot of
money for them. Where many people make less then $10 a day, I
can assure you laptops are the last thing in their mind.
Posted by indrakanti (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Very ambitious, but...
What children in poorer nations need is - food, clean drinking
water and clothing, along with basic education. Even $100 is alot of
money for them. Where many people make less then $10 a day, I
can assure you laptops are the last thing in their mind.
Posted by indrakanti (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Will Be The Scenarios....
When all these children in the developing world grow up to become adults, move into the productive labor forces where the Microsoft $$$ backed "Office" productivity suite may very well still be the "king" of the road; also, much more American jobs becoming exportable in addition to the increased number of H1B, (HSLW1 - Highly Skilled Low Wage 1 Visas...). Will this strategy be more Americans on the bread lines and the now touted $100 laptop becoming paper weights in some homes or offices.
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Will Be The Scenarios....
When all these children in the developing world grow up to become adults, move into the productive labor forces where the Microsoft $$$ backed "Office" productivity suite may very well still be the "king" of the road; also, much more American jobs becoming exportable in addition to the increased number of H1B, (HSLW1 - Highly Skilled Low Wage 1 Visas...). Will this strategy be more Americans on the bread lines and the now touted $100 laptop becoming paper weights in some homes or offices.
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about *OUR* students?
Forget about the world for a minute. What about *OUR* poor,
*OUR* students? I say tackle issues at home first. I'm damned
sick, as an american, of hearing all of the effort we're pouring
into countries abroad, when we've got high school graduates
who routinely can't read. No Child Left Behind doesn't work,
most students still don't have adequate access to technology
that's becoming more and more a requirement. And we're not a
third world country.

Most schoold districts here don't have enough qualified tech
people, many businesses here complain of a lack of qualified
techs HERE. So let's start there.
Posted by (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about *OUR* students?
Forget about the world for a minute. What about *OUR* poor,
*OUR* students? I say tackle issues at home first. I'm damned
sick, as an american, of hearing all of the effort we're pouring
into countries abroad, when we've got high school graduates
who routinely can't read. No Child Left Behind doesn't work,
most students still don't have adequate access to technology
that's becoming more and more a requirement. And we're not a
third world country.

Most schoold districts here don't have enough qualified tech
people, many businesses here complain of a lack of qualified
techs HERE. So let's start there.
Posted by (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
market share
150 million by 2007, and it will run Linux. That alone would give Linux maybe 20% of the world PC market.
Posted by Eduardo1234565 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
market share
150 million by 2007, and it will run Linux. That alone would give Linux maybe 20% of the world PC market.
Posted by Eduardo1234565 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exciting Opportunity for American Kids
I'm sure mistakes will be made along the waydesign,
distribution, tech support, etc., but I'm excited about this
project. In the 1st world we see children out-pacing adults in
technological literacy, and I imagine this will be even more
extreme in the 3rd world.

How will African, Egyptian, Thai kids go about "learning the
computer"? Mostly on their own, without much help from
adults. They will benefit from not having their imaginations
stunted by technology-jaded adults. What kind of virtual
communities will they develop? How will they reach out to their
1st world peers? How many American 8 year olds are going to
start up friendships with these 3rd world kids? How might their
relationships develop into innovative, problem-solving
collaborations?

How many American kids are going to start wanting to learn
Linux so they can work on projects with other kids around the
world?
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exciting Opportunity for American Kids
I'm sure mistakes will be made along the waydesign,
distribution, tech support, etc., but I'm excited about this
project. In the 1st world we see children out-pacing adults in
technological literacy, and I imagine this will be even more
extreme in the 3rd world.

How will African, Egyptian, Thai kids go about "learning the
computer"? Mostly on their own, without much help from
adults. They will benefit from not having their imaginations
stunted by technology-jaded adults. What kind of virtual
communities will they develop? How will they reach out to their
1st world peers? How many American 8 year olds are going to
start up friendships with these 3rd world kids? How might their
relationships develop into innovative, problem-solving
collaborations?

How many American kids are going to start wanting to learn
Linux so they can work on projects with other kids around the
world?
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Still way too expensive for the billion poorest people in the world.
Still way too expensive for the billion poorest people in the world. They're better off getting used PCs from the west.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Still way too expensive for the billion poorest people in the world.
Still way too expensive for the billion poorest people in the world. They're better off getting used PCs from the west.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cooper Union Students
I am currently working with other students in an Engineering and Design class at The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art. Our project for the semester is designing a computer for the masses: In particular, designing a computer that is low-priced and that provides access to the internet.

This article was forwarded to our class by our professor.

It is great to see the strides that are being made in this area, as I believe it to be one of the most important developments/projects of our time. Knowledge is power after all.

Good luck to all of those involved.

JD
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cooper Union Students
I am currently working with other students in an Engineering and Design class at The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art. Our project for the semester is designing a computer for the masses: In particular, designing a computer that is low-priced and that provides access to the internet.

This article was forwarded to our class by our professor.

It is great to see the strides that are being made in this area, as I believe it to be one of the most important developments/projects of our time. Knowledge is power after all.

Good luck to all of those involved.

JD
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its Nice.
Well I was impressed by the 4 type of utility of this product. Even you spend 2000 bucks you don't get Laptop and tablet combine. MIT start selling customized version of this product in market will be a great hit.
Posted by hemen thacker (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its Nice.
Well I was impressed by the 4 type of utility of this product. Even you spend 2000 bucks you don't get Laptop and tablet combine. MIT start selling customized version of this product in market will be a great hit.
Posted by hemen thacker (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amazing...
It looks like that laptop is more aestheticly appealing than the $1200 Dell Inspiron notebooks. Frankly i'd buy one just because of the crank letting me recharge it on the go.
Posted by jer2eydevil88 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amazing...
It looks like that laptop is more aestheticly appealing than the $1200 Dell Inspiron notebooks. Frankly i'd buy one just because of the crank letting me recharge it on the go.
Posted by jer2eydevil88 (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's right, but
The billion poorest people are not footing the bill. The country buys the $100 laptop and distributes them to the citizens.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's right, but
The billion poorest people are not footing the bill. The country buys the $100 laptop and distributes them to the citizens.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Even So!
What guarantees are there that corrupt governments and individuals in some of these under-developed and developing countries would not exploit the poorer classes in their countries. Then again, why not place these responsibilities in the hands of the "United Nations" (even the oil producing and exporting countries such as Nigeria and others) since I believe they have the resources to adequately implement such programs; as if we have forgotten the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on our own doorsteps already. Why not put your own house in order first! As the saying goes... self preservation is the first rule of nature.
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Even So!
What guarantees are there that corrupt governments and individuals in some of these under-developed and developing countries would not exploit the poorer classes in their countries. Then again, why not place these responsibilities in the hands of the "United Nations" (even the oil producing and exporting countries such as Nigeria and others) since I believe they have the resources to adequately implement such programs; as if we have forgotten the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on our own doorsteps already. Why not put your own house in order first! As the saying goes... self preservation is the first rule of nature.
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Poor nations children need a school and a teacher first!
The concept of making a $100.00 Laptop is a nice idea, but there is a flaw in the logic. What good are laptops for children who have no school or teacher? What good is school if these children don't have food, clean water, clothing and shelter! This is another prime example of the priveleged (MIT student) with unrealistic perspectives. Hey, if ther're hungry, how about we "let them eat cake" while we're at it! Moron!
Posted by gibsonelliot (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Poor nations children need a school and a teacher first!
The concept of making a $100.00 Laptop is a nice idea, but there is a flaw in the logic. What good are laptops for children who have no school or teacher? What good is school if these children don't have food, clean water, clothing and shelter! This is another prime example of the priveleged (MIT student) with unrealistic perspectives. Hey, if ther're hungry, how about we "let them eat cake" while we're at it! Moron!
Posted by gibsonelliot (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hilarious
this is hilarious! we've gone from mit labs to the 3rd world to american inner cities to the linux gospel revival tent to the microsoft satanopoly to the latin american drug trade and it's "gringo" customers and i'm not even halfway through the comments yet! LMAO!!!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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