Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nonprofit Unveils $100 laptop, Worldwide Education Initiative

The world's first true $100 laptop has just been unveiled, and it looks to be a spectacular innovation.

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)....

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."
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.

OLPC's partner founding corporations are Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Brightstar, Google, News Corporation, Nortel, and Red Hat.

Says Negroponte:

"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."

[These are] 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."
If you buy one at triple the price ($300), OLPC will donate two to poor children. Sounds win-win to me.

More pictures are available here.

Quote of the Day:
"He who opens a school door, closes a prison."
--Victor Hugo


Anonymous said...

We are unable to find the $300 deal at the site: in fact, that site expressly states that they don't have the laptops yet and will not be selling them to individuals. Help.

Anonymous said...

I went to the site, and saw no mention of pre-paying $300 for one of those laptops. The front page states:
Please note that the $100 laptops—not yet in production—will not be available for sale. The laptops will only be distributed to schools directly through large government initiatives.
Where did you see mention of the $300 presale?

whomever1 said...

I didn't see any direct way of purchasing a laptop for $300 (so two were donated elsewhere)--do I just go to their e-mail link?

Anonymous said...

I have been following the $100 laptop race and was getting very discouraged. This story is a pleasant surprise! Thank you for sharing it. The only thing that bugs me is the offer at the end - if I buy 1 for $300 they'll donate 2? But isn't it really that I buy 3 and I donate 2? For some reason, the gimick bugs me. The computer itself - amazing!

Anonymous said...

As you might have noticed, the picture you show with the entry is of an older 'concept' model of the laptop. The handcrank you mention has been removed ( i believe it was too expensive to make them solid without putting strain on the rest of the machine)
Still, a very very nice initiative, now lets get the open source community to make cool educational software for these kids!

quixote said...

I want one! And $300 isn't bad. They ought to make sure the wireless can be used as a cellphone / voip, and then they'll have nailed it.

Microsoft is going to have fit if this really takes off in the 3rd world.

Selki said...

"If you buy one at triple the price ($300), OLPC will donate two to poor children."

Aw, you got my hopes up, until I re-checked their site (FAQs and so on). I'd love to, but OLTP has made no such commitment, nor do they currently have a distribution mechanism for it. There is a drive at Pledgebank for this, *should* OLTP be persuadable, however.

Anonymous said...

This is incredible, but how long do they last, and what about waste?

NoooBuDDie said...

There's a site where you can sign-up to buy three $100 laptops for $300. You get one and the other two are donated to schools in third world countries. Here's the site-