The $100 Laptop – Bringing Computers to the World.
When Microsoft owner Bill Gates stood up a couple of years back and said he wanted a computer in front of every child in the world, many put it down as fancy thinking on the part of the computer giant’s guru. The cost alone of implementing this would make it immediately unfeasible. However, thanks to the non-profit organization OLPC and its $100 laptop, this dream is closer to being a reality.
The OLPC Difference
Standing for One Laptop per Child, OLPC is the brainchild of members of the MIT Media Lab faculty, and has been steadily gaining momentum since it was first premiered in 2005 at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Sharing the vision that children deserve to have the best opportunities possible, founder of OLPC Nicholas Negroponte came up with the idea of the $100 laptop to “provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves”.
Where the OLCP difference is really felt is that although the $100 laptop is essentially for benefiting children in third-world countries, it can also be used to help children in more affluent countries. This could be those living beneath or on the poverty line, and for whom their education is suffering because they can’t afford to have a computer in the home. This latter use for the $100 laptop has seen the unit receive strong interest from schools in North America.
The Laptop Design
Until recently, the final details of the laptop were still a point of discussion – however, in late September, Negroponte showed his design to the world’s press, and a prototype of the final machine should hopefully be seen at the World Summit on the Information Society in November 2007.
With the emphasis on getting the machine into third-world countries overtaking everything else, it’s perhaps not surprising that the design reflects this. With poorer countries such as Brazil, Thailand and South Africa amongst the early recipients, the unit comes complete with a hand crank attached. Much like the style seen on classic cars, this will be used when there isn’t an electrical power source.
To emphasize the sturdiness of the laptop, it will come in a rubber casing, ideal for the environments that Negroponte aims for them to be used in. A handy little design trick is to use the supplied AC adaptor as a carrying strap as well. Despite the price point that OCLP is aiming for, they’re still including some excellent features into the laptop itself.
For example, the machine will still come with at least four USB ports, so connection to normal accessories such as printers and phone or cable lines will be as easy as it is to do on a more standard arrangement. Additionally, it is hoped the laptops will come with a 500MHz processor, which although maybe not the fastest on the market is more than ideal for what the machine is needed for.
The display will also be able to switch between colour and mono, which is a far more sensible option for countries where bright sunlight is the norm. This display is also far more efficient cost-wise due to the fact that is uses the newer electronic ink technology, which saves on the power consumption and allows better use of the screen.
Although it’s yet to go into mass production, test versions of the $100 laptop have been met with almost universal acclaim. With a new program in place where you can buy a laptop and give one at the same time, and the costs coming down all the time, it may be sooner rather than later that the computers for all dream is a reality. For that reason alone, the $100 laptop deserves to succeed.