October 02, 2005

MIT's Media Lab announces $100 Linux Laptop initiative. No, you can't buy one. But they may change the distribution of education in Africa, India, Brazil, and yes, Boston and Detroit. (more inside)

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer issued the $100 computer challenge. MIT's Media Lab was already working on it--through a nonprofit they started called OPLC or One Laptop Per Child. Of course, there are any number of concerns to be addressed before the $100 laptop becomes a reality. With a minimum order envisioned at 1,000,000 per country I can see distribution problems, corruption problems, and not least, disposal problems. But the very idea of access for millions of children currently excluded from computing technology is exciting. No, I do not think that our modern progress is THE solution, but I think of kids in Detroit, Lansing, Benton Harbor who have no computers and I think that MIT's solution might work here.

  • Seem to recall drug companies had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the negotiating table before they agreed to sell low-cost anti-AIDs medication to countries in Africa. And lives were at stake there. So I imagine the screeching about this might be eardrum-splitting.
  • The hand-crank bit sounds intriguing. On some laptops I've owned, I imagine you'd get a hell of an upper body workout keeping the damn thing running. But that may be a good thing for a future generation of nerds. Also I suspect that when this happens, quite a few of these laptops will be resold on a black market.
  • bees, the beauty in the manufacturing is that some heavyweights are anteing up money (Google, AMD, RedHat) to underwrite production and engineering, so noone will be forcing Dell, HP, or Gateway to the table (though Gateway may want to fill up their capacity with something. So far, no screeching. un-, they've anticipated the gray market by licensing commmercial versions retailing for about $200/250. Not saying there won't be a gray market, corruption, or theft (misappropriation?) but if these machines become as ubiquitous as proposed, where's the resale market? I worry more about handlinng the obsolescence and disposal.
  • It seems to me that they might borrow similar stuff that has already been developed for military use. I friend of mine worked on the latest high tech soldier concept and they incorporated much of the same technology that it appears this will need. I also have my doubts that the pentagon would want to share, even though it isn't classified technology. Their job is making war on people, not educating them.
  • Huh! through a nonprofit they started called OPLC or One Pop Per Lap Child.
  • errr...OLPC OLPC OLPC. Sorry.
  • Question, squiddy...what might they borrow from military technology? (curious, not doubting) MIT does have a fair amount of DoD contracts in the computing/computers area, so it might also be a chicken/egg situation. Key cost saving development that Nicholas Negroponte discusses is the $35 lcd screen and, of course, the linux OS that avoids typical MS OS code bloat. The design, such as it is, appears to be wireframe prototype--nothing as of yet has been built, afaik.
  • inexpensive manufacture, self powering ability, shock proofing and flash hard drives.
  • thanks, squidranch. actually, the military does share, sort of. The concepts that firms come up with are generally from commercial firms that have DoD contracts (there are more than a few here in Ann Arbor). I remember the first laptop I ever had (a 286 model) was built using technology originally used for military purposes. The company sold commercial versions that were originally targeted for travelers needing a rugged yet protable computer. They were heavy as hades but indestructable. GRiDCase is still in business and still selling to the military apparently.