$100 Laptop Close To Reality

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology says it is close to making available a laptop for developing markets that would cost around $100 USD. At a minimum the computer would feature a color screen, Wi-Fi, a 500MHz processor, and 1GB of flash memory.

The unit would even be able to generate power on it own through the use of a hand crank, making it useful even in areas where electricity is not readily available. Developing countries would be able to buy a laptop for every child, allowing new educational opportunities previously thought impossible.

"If you take any world problem, any issue on the planet, the solution to that problem certainly includes education," Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab, told attendees of Technology Review's Emerging Technology Conference. "In education, the roadblock is the laptop."

When first announced in January of this year, the project received corporate backing from AMD, Brightstar, News Corp., and Red Hat Linux.

Brazil, Thailand and Egypt have already expressed interest in purchasing up to a million units each, with several other countries inquiring about the program, Negroponte says.

MIT educational researchers say the computers would help students in math, planning and reasoning skills. Plus, with a connection to the Internet, students would be able to interact with the broader world community.

"I think there is good reason to believe that if everything were open, fewer bad things could happen," MIT educational theorist Seymour Papert told the MIT Technology Review. "So give everyone the tools to observe and communicate what is happening."

Several prototypes have been made, but researchers are still working on ways to get the retail cost of the unit down to $100 USD, and even lower in the future. One possible solution for a cheaper yet effective screen was to use the same technology found in today's portable DVD players.

Negroponte remains committed to the project until its successful completion, calling it "the most important thing I've ever done in my life."

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