Is A $100 Laptop In Your Child's Future?

MIT's Media Lab has launched a research initiative that could transform how children are educated all over the world by designing, building and producing a rugged, yet versatile, $100 laptop.

Media Lab chairman Nicholas Negroponte got the idea after watching how children in a small Cambodian village benefited from having portable laptop computers (donated by a foundation he runs) they could use at home and school.

The trick has been how to make those laptops functional in a wide range of environments and virtually indestructible. Here's how:

  • The machine is built to be carried like a small lunchbox and foldable into more positions than the typical laptop.
  • The electronics would be housed in a closed rubber casing.
  • Its AC adapter could also be used as a carrying strap, and a hand crank would power the laptop where no electricity exists.
  • Laptops connect to the Internet and each other via WiFi networks.
  • For easy reading, the display would shift from black-and-white to color depending on ambient light.

But how do you make laptops that cost $100? The MIT Media Lab has that figured out too. Their machine would run on a 500-megahertz chip built by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), not Intel, and the open-source Linux operating system, not the latest version of Windows. Also, flash memory would replace an internal hard drive.

The goal is produce and distribute as many as 100,000 laptops for children in Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa and Thailand by the end of next year. And Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to buy them for all the middle- and high-school students in his state.

MIT Media Lab September 2005

Yahoo News September 28, 2005

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