Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, detailed specifications for a $100 windup-powered laptop targeted at children in developing nations.
Negroponte, who laid out his original proposal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, said MIT and his nonprofit group, called One Laptop Per Child, is in discussions with five countries–Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa–to distribute up to 15 million test systems to children.
In addition, Massachusetts is working with MIT on a plan to distribute the laptops to schoolchildren, Negroponte said.
“This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life,” Negroponte said on Wednesday during a presentation at Technology Review’s Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT. “Reception has been incredible. The idea is simple. It’s an education project, not a laptop project. If we can make education better–particularly primary and secondary schools–it will be a better world.”
He said a goal of the project is to make the low-cost PC idea a grassroots movement that will spread in popularity, like the Linux operating system or the Wikipedia free online encyclopedia. “This is open-source education. It’s a big issue.”
Negroponte said the idea is that governments will pay roughly $100 for the laptops and will distribute them for free to students.
The proposed design of the machines calls for a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory and an innovative dual-mode display that can be used in full-color mode, or in a black-and-white sunlight-readable mode. The display makes the laptop “both an electronic book and a laptop,” he said.
One display design being considered is a flat, flexible printed display developed at MIT’s Media Lab. Negroponte said the technology can be used to produce displays that cost roughly 10 cents per square inch. “The target is $12 for a 12-inch display with near-zero power consumption,” he said.
Power for the new systems will be provided through either conventional electric current, batteries or by a windup crank attached to the side of the notebooks, since many countries targeted by the plan do not have power in remote areas, Negroponte said.