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Mad Props to Negroponte

November 18, 2005

And no, I don't mean John Negroponte of Honduras death-squad blind eye fame, I mean Nicholas Negroponte of hundred-dollar wind-up linux laptop for third world children fame.

This is a fantastic idea and it's bloody great to see IT nerds doing some real palpable good for the world outside the G8:

Image of the $100 laptop with crank extended
TUNIS, Tunisia -- If tech luminary Nicholas Negroponte has his way, the pale light from rugged, hand-cranked $100 laptops will illuminate homes in villages and townships throughout the developing world, and give every child on the planet a computer of their own by 2010.
The MIT Media Lab and Wired magazine founder stood shoulder to shoulder with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to unveil the first working prototype of the "$100 laptop" -- currently more like $110 -- at the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society here Wednesday. The Linux-based machine instantly became the hit of the show, and Thursday saw diplomats and dignitaries, reporters and TV cameras perpetually crowded around the booth of One Laptop Per Child -- Negroponte's nonprofit -- craning for a glimpse of the toy-like tote.
With its cheery green coloring and Tonka-tough shell, the laptop certainly looks cool. It boasts a 7-inch screen that swivels like a tablet PC, and an electricity-generating crank that provides 40 minutes of power from a minute of grinding. Built-in Wi-Fi with mesh networking support, combined with a microphone, speaker and headset jack, even means the box can serve as a node in an ersatz VOIP phone system.
Under the hood, it's powered by a modest 500-MHz AMD processor, and uses a gig of flash memory for storage. But the key to building it cheaply enough to educate the world's children is an innovative, low-power LCD screen technology invented by Negroponte's CTO, Mary Lou Jepsen. "The manufacturers are the toughest audience, and they stopped laughing in September," says Jepsen. The machine is expected to start mass production late next year, and the governments of Thailand and Brazil have already said they're serious about placing $1 million orders for their school kids. Others are close to lining up.

Posted by Jonah at November 18, 2005 9:24 AM