Delaware nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, initiated by CAD pioneer Nicholas Negroponte and run by MIT's Media Lab faculty, designed the laptops to be sufficiently inexpensive to be given to every child in the world. They are poised for distribution as digital textbooks in China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, Thailand and elsewhere.
Each laptop contains a 500MHz processor, 128MB of dynamic RAM, and 500 MB of Flash memory in place of a hard disk, with four USB ports and wireless broadband that allows it to "talk to" its nearest neighbor, in an ad hoc local area "mesh" network.
Costs are significantly cut by using the open source Linux operating system and the same LCD displays found in inexpensive DVD players, which support full color or sunlight-readable high-resolution black and white.
According to Negroponte, the OLPC laptop can do everything a $1000 laptop can at one tenth the cost. The only difference is its permanent data storage capacity is limited to that of a high-end PC from the early 1980s. But what makes these digital textbooks an incredibly powerful global education resource is that they require no outside electricity; they're run by hand cranks. Explains Negroponte:
"Our laptops will run on human power. [They] will come with at least two means of charging: with your arms and your feet (one each, as a minimum)....Founder and chairman Negroponte is also co-founder, director and professor at the MIT Media Laboratory and a CAD (computer-aided design) pioneer. His bestseller, Being Digital, has been translated into over 40 languages. He also sits on the board of directors of Motorola, Inc. and has provided start-up funding for dozens of companies, including Wired magazine.
Human power is not dependent on the number of hours, but the ratio of human movement to subsequent run time. I mean that, simply in the worst case, one minute of cranking means 10 minutes of operation. If you use your legs, like a bicycle pump, it skyrockets, perhaps as much as 25 minutes."
OLPC's partner founding corporations are Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Brightstar, Google, News Corporation, Nortel, and Red Hat.
"Recent work with schools in Maine has shown the huge value of using a laptop across all of one's studies, as well as for play. Bringing the laptop home engages the family. In one Cambodian village where we have been working, there is no electricity, thus the laptop is, among other things, the brightest light source in the home."If you buy one at triple the price ($300), OLPC will donate two to poor children. Sounds win-win to me.
[These are] ...tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to own something - like a football, doll, or book - not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care."
More pictures are available here.
Quote of the Day:
"He who opens a school door, closes a prison."