this laptop costs $100

MIT has released some new images of its $100 laptop prototype, of which it hopes to have 5 to 15 million test units within the year. The laptops are much more durable than your average commercial machine, can be used as writing tablets or rotated 90 degrees as ebooks, and run on Linux – 100% free software. The idea is for the machines to provide a platform for an open source education movement throughout the South – a major hack of the current global order.
I love the hand cranks on the side, a backup charging option for remote or poorly provided areas where there is little or no electricity.
(“The $100 laptop moves closer to reality” in CNET)

11 thoughts on “this laptop costs $100

  1. dan visel

    The hand crank is a good idea: they’re clearly putting thought into the hardware design.

    To play the devil’s advocate, though: are they putting as much thought into how (and why) these are being used? Certainly a hundred-dollar laptop is an exciting idea – and Negroponte does declare that this is a project in education, not one in technology – but how much thought is gone into the education part of the equation? That’s a more slippery concept, and I think that’s where this will succeed or fail.

    The question of “why”: I do worry that their ground assumption might be that “poor people need computers” which can be expanded to “poor people need computers to be like us” and I think that’s where I find this maybe problematic. Are we merely prepping the third world for American-style capitalism? Others are certainly more qualified than I to address this, but I don’t see it addressed.

    Two data points:

    In both, the implied assumption is what the rest of the world really wants is to be like us, which turns out not to be the case in Saudi Arabia. I think Bender’s attitude towards languages is deeply problematic; if not explicitly racist, it’s certainly arrogant, possibly dangerously so (cue Karen Hughes). The flip side of this kind of Anglocentrism is death for pre-existing cultures.

    Another data point, incidentally related, but perhaps illustrative of the question of how these things will be used: it turns out that you can’t type Bengali properly under OS X – vowels that are supposed to display to the left of consonants or around them don’t correctly place themselves. Nobody’s bothered to provide support for a language spoken & written by 200 million people on the Mac (which generally has quite good foreign language font support). If nobody at Apple (with all their resources) has thought to do this for the Mac, has anyone bothered to for Linux?

    I’m not positing this as a particular problem that needs to be solved (although one does note that their mockup has an American keyboard). Rather, it’s indicative of the sort of problem that needs to be solved. Nobody is going to get excited about providing Bengali font support – it’s certainly not exciting like a hundred-dollar laptop is &ndash but the majority of the people in Bangladesh whose lives feasibly could be improved by a project like this won’t be helped if nobody’s bothered to see if it works in their language.

    Technology by itself is not enough. This can’t be said often enough.

  2. ben vershbow

    I agree with much of the above, but in the end you have to come down somewhere. What Negroponte’s project is doing is laying down the infrastructure, for good or for ill. I too am wary of grand western schemes to remake the poor brown south in its image. And that could well be what’s going on here (I certainly hope Bender isn’t a part of this). But I’m encouraged by the fact that that they are using free software, that they are thinking about how to make machines that can generate their own energy. This is a push toward self-sufficiency. It strikes me more as the “teach a man to fish” variety of philanthropy.

    This is certainly not the approach that Microsoft would take. They’d do everything in their power to turn these people into dependent customers, dependent on support, hooked up to the little “updates” nutrient bag like an IV drip. It would be nice if all human beings could leave each other in peace. But there are big games of exploitation going on. The $100 laptop project has the potential at least to be a hack of this exploitation. To exploit benignly. To exploit in such a way that provides the tools for throwing off the yoke, and for throwing off Karen Hughes’ idea of what it is to be free and happy. If some of these kids turn into bloggers and start telling the west, on the machines they provided, about what a raw deal it is down there, about how they’re using this technology to determine their own future, that would be a great hack indeed, one that would surprise Negroponte, and positively mystify Bender.

    Our best hope is that the $100 laptops prove to be the lesser of two (or more) evils. The world, after all, is the world.

  3. paul gargagliano

    About the Mac/Bengali/Linux thing. The idea of open source software is not that a specific group of researchers type code that is then consumed by others, but that whoever has time and access to write code will. It is true that time and access exist in a far greater abundance in the global north, but the whole point of this machine and project seems to be the alleviation of problems of access. Sadly enough access to self-determination still lies in the nation-state structure. Courting self-determination without access to computers in this age seems like a losing battle.

  4. Eddie Lloyd

    Some fascinating ideas, especially Kim’s.
    Social and language problems aside, I have to wonder how heavy the power rod/screen is in comparison to the keyboard; doesn’t it look like this should be falling over backwards?
    Also, how easily will the software on this translate to the PC world? Will we be able to seamlessly move documents from one to the other? What about Word? All this has to be figured out first, otherwise, it WILL fall flat.

  5. Begonia Buzzkill
    …”Computer manufacturers appear to be cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security to make every person who buys a new computer subject to immediate, unrestricted government recording of everything they do on those computers! EVERYTHING! ….”
    Keylog hardware is installed in new computers and all info being sent to Homeland Security
    Recently…. MIT annouces $100 laptops (and yes, we all know about the military funded labs of MIT)……San Francisco is trying to do free wireless access to all the boys and girls AND the above………….(free) hardware installed for the Big Brother’s in DC……………… all just starts connecting up to the “master plan” of ultra spying on America.
    I would think making sure everyone is online would make is so much easier for this White House regime to find the dissenters!
    Beware of strangers bearing gifts!

  6. Nazmul Huda

    100-Dollar Laptop: UN Secretary General’s Office shouldn’t be used for exploiting the poor
    My eyes were stuck to the news that the UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan, while launching a 100-Dollar Laptop, on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia, said “the invention is an impressive technical achievement. The project promises to provide flexible technology that can be used in any place, even in the desert without energy supply”. It is also reported that the U.N. is backing the project even with financial support thinking that it could help to promote education in the Third World. A professor and his team mates of MIT (USA) have claimed the credit for the project and the invention (!).
    At the very outset, let me state certain hard facts, which I believe will largely explain the title of today’s write-up. Long 31 years ago, in 1975, I invented the Free-play Radio technology and demonstrated a working model in a jam-packed press conference on 23 July 1975 in Dhaka. The news came out in almost all the news papers in the country in addition to an editorial the following day. Raymond Lee Organization, Inc.(USA) wanted to take initiatives for patenting the invention and marketing the product (Receipt No.71001, dated 13 February 76 ) when I contacted them from the then West Germany. On the request of Bangladesh Science Museum, a working model was presented to them in 1978. The invention, although apparently a simple (addition of storage facility to a hand generator) one, was never conceived and publicly demonstrated by anyone on this earth before 23 July1975. It opened the gate for free playing and playing low-powered electrical gadgets and equipments in remote and yet vast electricity-less areas of the world.. Thus the technology is especially handy for mass communication, mass literacy, emergency weather forecasting or as a life-saving communications tool following a natural disaster ( be it in the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal or New Orleans city), mass-scale low-powered emergency medical equipments etc. However, to reduce the price of a product with free-play facility and bring its price closer to the product without that facility, mass-scale production was a necessity, for which the desire to do so by the wealthy and powerful people who rule and control the world economy was also essential. But it appears that the world leaders were not keen to give the green signal unless and until the very free-play technology could be hijacked, first by the British and then by the Americans.
    In 1989, I sent a brief on my inventions and research works (including the free-play radio) to ITDG (UK) in the hope of mutual cooperation. In reply, they informed me that they would be establishing an office in Dhaka soon and re-contact me after that. But they never contacted me again, although they opened their office in Dhaka alright. One fine morning, on 28 August 1996 to be precise, through a British High Commission press release in a local daily, a company named Bay-Gen proclaimed itself to be the inventor (!) of the Free-play radio, which was reported to be developed under British technical and financial assistance under the ODA program. Immediately after the British press release, a wave of protests flooded the news papers and periodicals in terms of editorials, post-editorials, features, letters etc. in the country. Bangladesh Patent Office gave me recognition as the inventor of the Free-play radio and congratulated me for the invention and wished all success. The Bangladesh Govt. and I contacted the British High Commission, Bay-Gen company and the British Patent Office, but no to-the-point replies were received. Understandably so, since the UK Patent Office awarded a patent to a British named Trevor Bayliss in the 90’s on a technology which was in display in the Bangladesh Science Museum since 1978 and which was publicly demonstrated even before, i.e. in 1975, which is not only unethical but also highly illegal. The illegal invention of Bay-Gen received BBC product design award 1996 also. When the matter was raised to the BBC, they replied “development of the Bay-Gen is not a BBC matter”. A question was asked on the conscience of the BBC “Had it been the other way round i.e. a British invention in 1975, could you still have given a BBC product design award to a Bangladeshi company in 1996 and a reply to the British inventor “…..not a BBC matter” ? But no reply was received. According to a report titled “Launch set to go like clockwork” published in a foreign news paper, Bay-Gen received a multi-million pound cash boost from the GEC(USA) and planned to produce devices like free-play radio (originally planned for use in African bush fighting aids, with the blessing of the President Nelson Mandela, would go on sale throughout the world for about 50 pounds), mobile-phone charger, torch light, even TV sets etc. in its plan to launch a billion-pound business. During the recent war with Iraq the BBC talked about (and showed the product) using 5000 free-play radios by the allied forces. The 100-dollar laptop authorities must have acquired the hand-cranking free-play technology’s manufacturing right from the illegal patent holder as already mentioned above. A hand-cranking mobile-charger is recently being flooded in the local market @ USD 2, and appears to be a Chinese/Taiwanese product although no manufacturer’s name is printed, without caring for any patent rights. The President of a Japanese company appears to be right. He came to Dhaka towards the end of December’04 to discuss with me the modalities of acquiring the manufacturing rights of my new invention of free-electricity (2002) and commented on my new invention “the Americans will not care for your patent on such technologies, some Japanese companies may care but not every company will and the Chinese wouldn’t take more than seven days to reach your home with a manufactured product if they get a prototype”. He further added “some people told me that you did not elaborate in certain places in your patent paper”. I replied “75% answer of your question have just been replied by you yourself. Besides, there is hardly any time left to complete the patent formalities for the invention. I am not sitting idle, I am trying to develop a better process, and also to make a prototype with that”. At that time, I also discussed with him about my hand-cranking mobile-charger technology which he appreciated and now I can see the manufactured product in the market.
    My new invention of Free-electricity has already been registered with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) with a filing No. PCT/IB03/03366 dated 04 August 2003. The 44-page story with diagrams and a very favorable search report from the American Patent Office (USPTO) acting as the International Searching Authority (ISA), has also been published by the WIPO in the form of a booklet and is also in the display of WIPO website since 04 March 2004, under publication No. WO 2004/019476 dated 04 March 2004 (revised on 22 April 2004 for correction and again on 22 July 2004 to accommodate the ISA report). Actually, the ISA report dated 21 April 2004 from the USPTO was delayed by about 5 months. When the legal section of WIPO was contacted, they replied “there may be special circumstances where time is needed to resolve matters arising in connection with important workload in certain technical areas etc. As to your particular case, I would suggest that you contact the USPTO directly. You may also inquire about any refunds in such a case.” Accordingly, I contacted the USPTO, but I did not get a proper reply.
    On 04 July 2004, the patent paper of my new invention was sent to many notable eastern/western universities of the world for their evaluation and comments. Although the “Innovation” magazine of Singapore National University opined it to be a “too high level research work”, the aforesaid MIT (USA) refused to give any comment on it. People started saying that the MIT was busy in building a mobile laptop using Bangladeshi technology and therefore it refused to talk at that time. Energy Technology Innovation Project of Harvard University (another university of USA) replied “we (the project of Harvard) do not do any original research either of science or of technology”. Most of the Universities of the Western world replied “this is not our project, we do not want to be involved”. My answer to all the universities was “I certainly honor your decision if it is honest and non-racial. But the way my free-play technology was hijacked, how can I be sure”? I did not get any further reply. A journal of the Physics faculty of a notable university of Canada was almost ready to publish the paper. But they asked me for my postal address on the plea of “addressing me properly”. As soon as they found out that I am from the Third World, they did not correspond with me any more. A New York born President of the Conserve Energy Engg. Inc. wrote to me while reading my paper “I am impressed with the parts that I have read. The dangers in bringing forth a low cost or free energy source, dangers that you must be aware of by now, the “powers to be” or most certainly in the USA, Corporate America and also the worldwide Oil Mafia, will do just about anything to protect their interests”. Not a single university however could point out any fault in my paper and I strongly believe that my pressure-motion equivalence theory is correct and there is no scientific basis behind Newton’s third law of motion.
    Although I received a local patent on my new invention of Free-electricity (and a very favorable search report from the International Searching Authority), I could not manage patents in other countries for want of sky-high financial requirements. Since I am a member of the International Federation of Inventors’ Association (IFIA), Switzerland, and the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE),USA, and an invited scientist of many inventors’ associations like East West Euro Intellect, World Association of Inventors, SIMED etc., I had
    requested the inventors’ associations to try to make an arrangement to evaluate a WIPO published patent paper with a favorable search report , after the leading universities of the world had expressed reluctance to do so. An inventor cannot plead his case himself in the national phase of an international patent application. An attorney or at
    least an address of correspondence in that particular country is required, which is highly expensive and really impossible for an inventor of a Third World country. As it is, the basic fees for pursuing a patent is exorbitantly high too.
    Coming back to the comments of the UN Secretary General on the 100-Dollar Laptop, it is worth mentioning that there was again a wave of protests in the leading local dailies against the hijacking of the Bangladeshi technology of Free-play Radio by the100-Dollar project authorities. On the question of 100-Dollar Laptop’s technical achievement as opined by the UN Secretary General, I became tired and was unable to find any such thing. The Linux operating system, the flash memory instead of hard disks/CD-Rom drives, the LCD displays (the dual-mode display as claimed by the project was not operational in the WSIS prototype. The prototypes were shown with conventional transmission TFT LCD displays)etc. are pretty old technologies. Cheap components have been used in the 100-Dollar Laptop. But one who knows about the definition of “invention”, should understand that merely using cheap things to reduce the price does not constitute an invention. Use of “parasitic power” of typing, although not a totally new idea, could however be considered an achievement if it could be economically and reliably utilized. But I am afraid, this seems not to be the case so far. Using of low-cost, low-power and high-resolution eInk displays will be a good idea, but the project’s undisclosed technology appears to be not a novel one either and understandtably the project has no plans to patent their display innovations(!). As far I understand, the project authorities are not confident enough to bring such display innovations(!) in the market before the hardy Chinese (without any UN backing or multimillion pound cash boost from GEC,USA).
    At the UN conference in Tunisia, several African officials, most notably Marthe Dansokho of Cameroon and Mohammed Diop of Mali were suspicious of the motives of the project, and claimed that the project was using an overly American mindset that presented solutions not applicable to specifically African problems. Dansokho said the project demonstrated misplaced priorities. Diop specifically attacked the project as an attempt to exploit a new market under the guise of “non-profitability”. He further added “It is a very clever marketing tool. Under the guise of non-profitability hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments. That’s the only way of achieving the necessary economies of scale to get the price low. They’ve finally found a way of selling to a huge number of poor people. Even at a hundred dollars, as the well dressed Africans were pointing out last night, these things are absolutely not a bargain for an African child. Schooling for a year would make more sense. Better food would be nice. If it ever does make sense for Africa’s children all to have laptops, this will surely not be until the price of them goes down to something nearer to ten dollars than a hundred. My guess is they will all have mobiles long before. And we don’t need to give this one away. If somebody puts in the research to design the thing and really, really optimizes for cost, I’m sure there’s a Chinese factory somewhere you can build it for”. Mr. Bill Gates in his criticism said “The world’s poorest two billion people desperately need healthcare, not laptops”.
    Unfortunately, my “free-play” technology has been hijacked and incorporated in the 100-Dollar Laptop to reach a vast population of electricity-less poor people (without incorporating free-play technology this wouldn’t have been possible). Even a profit margin of barely USD 25 in the cleverly designed marketing plan of “one laptop per chid(OLPC)”suggests a profit of only(!) USD 50 billion, from the world’s poorest two billion people.What a Nobel-prize winning maketing plan indeed!
    The western world preaches for open-market economy, but this OLPC maketing plan (with a minimum market lot of 1-million) will be executed through the corrupt governments( the beneficiaries of so-called western assistance programs through World Bank,IMF etc. while the common people have to shoulder all the loans with cleverly designed effective heavy interests), so-called donors, absolutely loyal to their masters the NGOs, and other similar arrangements under the umbrella of UN. One Mr. Lee opined “The U.N. is backing the project
    because it can help promote education in the Third World”. But the question is, what is the per capita income of the vast targetted people? I am afraid, the figure may not be very much away from USD100, if the income of the western so-called assistance nourished so-called elite groups are not taken into account.Therefore, after being forced to buy a 100-Dollar Laptop, he wouln’t have anything to eat ,anything to live on or anything to wear (attire
    is a must for the poor, although optional for the western people).However, the OLPC project will be first launched in countries like Nigeria, Egypt, India, China, Brazil , Argentina and Thailand. Between five million and 15 million units are expected to be provided to these countries.
    Actually, even the computers failed to calculate the wealth gathered by the powerful and leading arms- producing countries of the world each year. They invest the surplus wealth in a highly profitable business of so-called assistance programs(in terms of interest, supporting even the misdeeds of the so-called donors, listening to harmful dictations, serving as an assured market and accepting all kinds of garbage tools and so-called experts etc.) by channeling the money through the world Bank, IMF , loyal NGOs and similar tools. They create and spread conflict and corruption and demoralize the people in other countries in order to sell their arms and to arrest their progress with an ultimate view of keeping a vast assured market and less powerful nations to rule.
    In the WSIS, Mr. Kofi Annan also said “This is not just a matter of giving laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within-within each child, within each scientist, scholar or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day”, but the question is why should anyone be a scientist in the third world country? To give scope to the western world for hijacking their inventions or to helplessly tolerate USPTO delaying the search report by 5 months (on grounds of special circumstances where time is needed to resolve matters arising in connection with important workload in certain technical areas etc.) without giving compensations or to become a puppet to the whims of the rich people where “intellectual property” has been very cleverly and effectively been shaped as “rich people’s property” or to get no answers either from the governments or from patent offices on the question of alleged hijacking of inventions or to discover racism in leading western universities when they were reluctant/failed to evaluate a science paper or simply to be a victim of the West /oil Mafia in trying to do good to mankind?
    If the UN sincerely believes in the welfare of the third world, why shouldn’t it try at least a few following things :
    1. Close all the arms manufacturing plants in the world.
    2. Make “intellectual property” as an “intellectual property” in reality and not “rich people’s property” effectively : (a) Make arrangements so that an individual scientist of the Third World can get a patent for the whole world with a maximum expenditure of USD 100. He should be allowed to plead his case himself and perform all the necessary formalities from his own residence through correspondence with his own equivalent currency. (b) Fully assist in fighting the “hijacking of inventions” cases, including my one in the International Court of Justice. (c) Make arrangements to evaluate a WIPO published patent paper with a favorable search report.
    3. Monitor the ill-motivated so-called assistance programs through IMF, World Bank, loyal to their masters the NGOs and similar tools of the West.
    4. Do not be a party to the huge profit-making programs of the West by exploiting the poor in disguise of humanity, child care, education and God knows what not.
    5. Do not allow the West to escape competition from hardy nations under the umbrella of the UN by marketing any product forcibly (invisible) in huge numbers through corrupt governments, so-called donors, loyal NGOs and similar agencies. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Written by: Nazmul Huda , 38/10 Siddheswari Road, Dhaka-1217, Bangladesh. E-mail :
    Copy forwarded for your information and necessary action by : NAZMUL HUDA

  7. abubakar umar nagwari

    to whom it my concern,
    i wish to write and infrom you that i have intrested to help me, in note book or laptop computer i would respecting requsting becouse laptop or note book is very infrotan in my education i hope u do understand my concern in this requsting,
    from,no=50 uban dom aroad sokoto state of nigeria.
    contact parson. abubakar umar nagwari
    thanks yours,
    and god blsening you. ameeeeeeeeeeeeeeen.

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