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The Sub-$100 Laptop? 345

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-extras-like-disk-drives-and-batteries dept.
Vollernurd writes "The BBC is carrying this article detailing Nick Negroponte's plans to deveop and distribute a sub-$100 notebook computer. It would be very basic and stripped down and be used in developing countries as a way of distributing school books and such. Interesting to see how they will cut costs. Yes, it does run Linux." You can read another slashdot story about this machine when it was discussed on Red Herring awhile ago.
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The Sub-$100 Laptop?

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  • by gclef (96311) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:43AM (#11606569)
    I know the point of this is to be available in developing countries, but I can see this being very popular in "first-world" countries as well. (heck, I'd buy one) They may have to control how they're sold/distributed to keep the developed world from snapping them all up.
    • by theVP (835556) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:49AM (#11606652)
      all I would end up paying for is the price of mobility, really. I could care less how it performs at a price like that. Definitely wouldn't use it for my primary system, but for a CHEAP mobile secondary, why the hell not?

      And I really like this guy's motivation for this. I think it just goes to show that technological gurus aren't money grubbers by nature.
      • Like this will happen! Keep dreaming. This is about the third or fourth "sub-$100" computer that I have seen over the past three or four years. Guess how many I have seen over at CompUSA?

        To be sure, this is a noble idea. But the track record in this area is awful so far. I shall be quite surprised if one actually succeeds.

        Chips keep getting cheaper. This much is true. But the problem is that there is plenty of money to be made in DDR and DDR2. So, even if you imagine that old-fashioned EDO should
    • This is awsome. I wish they'd make a for profit version similar to this in the $150-200 range.
    • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yodaNO@SPAMetoyoc.com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:56AM (#11606715) Homepage Journal
      They may have to control how they're sold/distributed to keep the developed world from snapping them all up

      Why? If they sold well, you increase the volume produced, and the cost per unit decreases.

      While you would certainly want to regulate how many are sold in what market, assuming you design it once, and design it right, mass production is your friend.

      One item I think that should be introduced for portable, that would REALLY help the developing world, is repairability. There is no earthly reason why you can't design a laptop with an interchangable screen. And how about a standard battery connection system and package?

      These are all things that would be impossible to market to the developed world, but would be essential to the developing world. They simply don't buy into the idea that you throw something that costs many times their yearly wages away after 2 years.

      • I'd add to the request the ability for the power supply to handly multiple currents automatically and protect against surges, the ability to use alkaline batteries in a battery holder, and the ability to use 12V DC instead of AC for charging, automatically, since all cars and most solar cells use this.
        • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yodaNO@SPAMetoyoc.com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:37PM (#11607119) Homepage Journal
          I say design the whole damn thing to run off 12V DC. You can use a voltage divider (a simple circuit made with a network resistors in parallel) internally to create +/-5V and +/-3.3V. Simply provide a round, 2 contact plug that says "12 VDC In".

          The tricky part is the hard drives. They really want to see +/- 12V. I'm pretty sure, and please, someone correct me, that you could actually provide that by providing the +12V leg of the system with the straight power, and simply reversing the polarity of power coming in for the -12V. That is assuming that you can't find a hard drive that operates at 5V. I'm too lazy to research it.

          Couple that with a diode to prevent the system from being damaged by reversed wires, and a big Cap to handle power dips and surges and you will have a Joe-proof computer.

          • by dmaxwell (43234) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:47PM (#11607246)
            The tricky part is the hard drives. They really want to see +/- 12V. I'm pretty sure, and please, someone correct me, that you could actually provide that by providing the +12V leg of the system with the straight power, and simply reversing the polarity of power coming in for the -12V. That is assuming that you can't find a hard drive that operates at 5V. I'm too lazy to research it.

            Actually, hard drives want to see +12, +5, and ground. All of which can be supplied by a 12V supply. However, other components in the system may want to see -12,-5, G, +5, +12. You cannot simply reverse the leads on such a device. The "ground" or "(-)" floats above or below the actual ground and is a reference point for the other voltages. You can look at it as a +24 volt supply that has been referenced with +12V being the "ground" with other voltages above or below this reference. The -12,+12 point of view is equally valid as long as you are consistent. The point is that most computers expect a spread of levels that span 24 volts.
    • A can't believe that people in this country aren't developing an ebook like computer for the education market. Something along the lines of Apple's old laptop-like Newton, or Psion's NetBook would be examples of good platforms. These things would weigh less than 50 lbs of books...
    • I know the point of this is to be available in developing countries, but I can see this being very popular in "first-world" countries as well. (heck, I'd buy one) They may have to control how they're sold/distributed to keep the developed world from snapping them all up.

      Or they could sell the same thing here for double the price and be able to lower the price of the machine in "less fortunate" areas. The more you can make, and sell, the cheaper you can make, and sell, them for (:
    • Remember the Baygen Freeplay clockwork radio? That was meant for use in developing countries, but ended up becoming popular in Europe and the USA as a sort of fashion statement.

      Selling some units in the West would be a good way to recoup some of the initial investment {tooling costs &c.}; though it would not be at all wise to rely on this as a permanent subsidy, because (1) the novelty value will wear off eventually, and (2) the ultimate aim must surely be for the third world not to have to rely on
  • Quality? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The question is what kind of quality will these machines be? As far as I know, $100 does not get you a lot of high quality computer components.
    • "$100 does not get you a lot of high quality computer components"

      So, is that 350 mhz Toshiba laptop on eBay for ~ $100 low quality? Of course not. It is old and slow, but the quality is not low.

    • Re:Quality? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by robertjw (728654)
      Hopefully the "quality" of the components will be good. I wouldn't anticipate that the machines would be fast or powerful, but they better be rugged and dependable if they are going to ship to third-world countries. It will be a wasted effort if the machines are just broken all of the time.
    • $100 'could' get you a lot of good quality components - plastics are not that expensive to make, electrical compenents are also cheap, probably the most expensive piece would be the hard drive and the display. How much does it 'really' cost to manufacture that lego set selling for $500 US? My guess is about $10 for raw materials at most.

      Problem is people will happily hand over a grand for a laptop in 'first world' countries. I've seen laptops for around 24,000 peso in the Philippines, that's about $400 US.
  • new saying (Score:3, Funny)

    by ch-chuck (9622) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:44AM (#11606586) Homepage
    It takes a network of laptops to raise a child.
  • Isn't it more a matter of Linux running on it? Well, at least you worked a Linux reference into your submission, just as I did in my comment.
  • by vasqzr (619165) <vasqzr AT netscape DOT net> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:46AM (#11606607)
    I recently bought a laptop on eBay for $109, + $17 shipping.

    Toshiba K6-2 350MHZ, 48MB RAM, 3.6GB HD, 12.1 TFT screen. Nice shape and it runs Damn Small Linux quite well. I actually loaded Slackware 9 on it for kicks and it ran pretty well using Fluxbox.
    • I bought a PII-266 Compaq Armada with 128MB Ram and a 3.8 GB HD on Ebay and I'm running Mandrake on it. It cost $99.95 (including shipping). It's my sub-100 laptop and it works just fine, thnak you.
  • He said the child could use the laptop like a text book.

    As in, fall asleep and drool on it?

    A laptop keyboard isn't nearly as pillowesque as, say, the cushy, thick pages of a physics book.
    • Messiah's soft cover quantum books are ok. The thick covers are nearly drool-proof. In comparison, hard covers on Jackson's E&M text gets pretty gross after a few sleep/drooling sessions. All this is, of course, hypothetical.
    • Yes, but it won't stick together when it gets wet.

      On the other hand, there's the electrocution hazard. I suppose you could call it the "alarm clock feature."

  • Error in TFA? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:46AM (#11606614) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:
    "The second trick is to get rid of the fat , if you can skinny it down you can gain speed and the ability to use smaller processors and slower memory."
    Um, why is using slower memory a GOOD thing? Esp. if these people are going to be using it like a textbook, it's going to be much more memory intensive than CPU intensive......
    • Re:Error in TFA? (Score:3, Informative)

      by yotto (590067)
      Um, why is using slower memory a GOOD thing?
      Because it's cheaper? Cheaper is better when you're trying to reach a certain price-point.
    • For applications like an ebook, memory speed isn't really all that important.

      People aren't going to be consuming the data at a rate where memory speed is going to come into the play.

    • Remember that modern machines are, essentially, supercomputers. It's easy to forget that a machine with 1% of the power, running software designed to have that much power, can still blaze, and Linux still all has the software from that era.

      In fact, if someone puts a bit of work into it, these laptops may have a higher subjective speed than a brand-new laptop would right now. Of course, you too could have that blazing speed if you worked purely in a console, but most of us don't want to work that way.

      Using
    • A link that other pople have failed to draw: slower = cheaper; cheaper means you can put more in. I'd rather have 512MB of FPM DRAM than 128MB of DDR533, for example.
    • Re:Error in TFA? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yodaNO@SPAMetoyoc.com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:11PM (#11606843) Homepage Journal
      Smaller processors (with slower memory busses) don't require cooling fans, even in tropical climates.

      If you have ever worked in a factory or with a piece of remote instrumentation, cooling fans are the bane of your existance. They die quietly, and next thing you know you have random crashes, or worse, damaged components. And they have a great way of sucking dust, dirt, and other undesirables into the inner workings of the machine.

      Plus, you save on the cost of the fan, the cost of the connector for the fan, the cost of the holes in the PCB to run the pins to supply the fan, and can chop that much more power off the requirements for the supply. You also have one less part that needs to be assembled onto the final product.

      All of that can add up to a few hundred thousand dollars of savings over a production run of a few million computers.

      And for the record, a textbook program is NOT all that CPU intensive. There is not rule that says you can't scale the format to the capabilities of the machine.

    • Um, why is using slower memory a GOOD thing?

      Most non-volitile memroy (Flash memroy) is VERY slow.

      IF the coumputer uses mostly flash memory - then i'd be hard to loose your work. That would be quite nice!

    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      " Esp. if these people are going to be using it like a textbook, it's going to be much more memory intensive than CPU intensive....."
      Reading text is not intensive at all. If it uses flash ram or battery backed up ram it will be many times faster than a hard drive.
      I hope they put a nic on it. For a developing country it could really be a replacement for the phone. Heck it would almost make sense to go straight for VoIP and broadband from the start with these and skip phone lines. Small villages would only
  • by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:46AM (#11606616)
    I heard that they are only going to sell them to governments.

    So it will be a day or two's delay until you can grab one off eBay.

  • I wonder if it is going to be something like the p-p-p-powerbook [gdwebmedia.com]?
  • cellphone.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:49AM (#11606648) Homepage Journal
    +keyboard.

    bam - sub 100$ computer.
    • Re:cellphone.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drew (2081)
      except that cell phones are only cheap/free if you buy them with a two year agreement to speng $35 or more on your cell phone service.

      the cell phone i just got for free with my two year cingular service agreement costs almost $250 to buy without a service agreement, if you can at all.
  • Because a laptop is gonna fill a hungry stomach. For areas that are truly poor and need better education doesn't it seem a little over-the-top to give them laptops. How about sticking with regular old books (which are hard enough to teach without having to teach how to use a laptop on top of that) and using any extra money for things like oh... food, medicine, housing development, water treatment, agriculture, etc, etc, etc...
    • I know they have those "paperback international editions" of textbooks, but in the US, you'd be hard pressed to find a major textbook for less than $100. And this laptop could contain several books.
    • books have a limited number of pages on them. once they are read, their knowledge ends. A laptop, however, can have it's knowledge replenished.

      Also, education is much more than just reading what's in a book. Being able to view pictures, videos, up-to-date maps, and other media is a large educational benefit.

    • You're right, of course. Let's abandon their education. They don't need things like literacy or math... they don't need any sort of help that would let them help themselves. It's far far better if we, as the benevolent haves, are the only supply for handouts to the have-nots. And if they get uppity, we can always cut off their food supply - I mean, it's ours to control, right?

      Yes... far better to leave them in a third world existence without any chance to accelerate their technology. We certainly don'

      • For me I have a lot of family who has worked in various third-world environments helping to try to bring about a better quality of life and I'm sorry, but bringing in laptops is not going to create a big impact. Remember that in most of these areas people are not growing up to be tech's, they are simply aspiring to maintain a family and have a decent life. I just think that money for laptops can be better spent. I am not saying keep them uneducated. Books and teaching materials that are given to these areas
    • Books are not free to produce or distribute, either. Laptops have the advantage that once distributed, they could greatly ease later distribution logistics: want kids to have 10 text books each for their class curriculum? Ship the school one CD.
    • by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:15PM (#11606880) Homepage Journal
      Because a laptop is gonna fill a hungry stomach.

      What, you've been to a third world country where people go hungry? Most are agrarian economies, so food is quite easy to come by (and yes, I usually get better food in my "underdeveloped" country than here in the great USA. I come from Paraguay.).
    • Because a laptop is gonna fill a hungry stomach. For areas that are truly poor and need better education doesn't it seem a little over-the-top to give them laptops. How about sticking with regular old books (which are hard enough to teach without having to teach how to use a laptop on top of that) and using any extra money for things like oh... food, medicine, housing development, water treatment, agriculture, etc, etc, etc...

      Because the laptop would be cheaper than the books. That's the point of the sub

    • by ggvaidya (747058)
      As a citizen of a developing country (India), I don't think this computer is aimed at people living below the poverty line, who have no access to food or study books. I think it's aimed at the lower middle class - people who can afford food, books, and all the necessities, but for whom a Rs. 20,000 (500$) computer is too big an expense. It would also be great for schools to buy for their students.

      Also: the Encyclopedia Britannica costs 200$. A Negroponte computer for 100$ + Internet connection (~ 800 Rs/m
  • The technical details are a littel to sketchy. Slower processor and memory? Gotcha. But who supplies them? Rear-projection screen. Check. But can you make it thin enough so a child can carry it? And who will do the R&D? An earlier poster mentioned first-world appeal. Amen. Sell a sexier version in developed nations for, say, $200US and then see where this thing can go in the third world.
    • Well first off, no child is going to be lugging these laptops around. The target here is to set up workstations in schools and government facilities. Second, you don't want to make a "premium" version. You defeat all of the advantages of mass production. Finally, as far as suppliers go you have a ready market. Most of the chips that go into consumer electronics items, like Cell phones and calculators and game consoles, are available by the millions, are cheap, and have more than enough processor power for t
  • I don't understand why these hyper-cheap hardware soloutions are only planned for the developing world. There are still huge price-limited markets in the developed world for hardware, which could potentially create still lower costs for the developing world.

    £47 is still a lot of money in China, but in the US and Europe people routinely spend more than that on keyboards and mice. There are untold applications for $100 laptops here still.

    Launch the $100 laptop here too, and then by 2010, you can be
    • i think labor costs associated with distribution and other various aspect of "selling" such computers will probably push the price up. the hardware may cost less than $100 to manufacture, but getting those to consumers add cost, more in developed countries.
      • I would beg to differ on that. The distribution costs in developed countries can be surprisingly low. I mean, the distribution costs for moving a ton of bannans from Central America to New York City or Kansas can keep the cost of down to less than a 50 cents a pound.

        The distribution infrastruction in many developing countries is almost non-existant, and I think you would find that the labor costs associated with selling items like this computer would be much more in Gambia or Rwanda than it would be in L
  • Profit ! (Score:3, Funny)

    by AtariAmarok (451306) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:55AM (#11606704)

    1. Distribute cheap Linux-based laptops to 2 billion indigent Asians
    2. Extort $699 Linux license fee from each user
    3. Profit!
  • ...is how children in these countries will gain access to all of the other things you need to make a laptop into a real tool for learning (and while whether stuff like a printer and shiny pre-packaged educational software may or may not be necessary, I think we can all agree that they would at least need an internet connection, and some software that may not be available as freeware). While this is a great idea, I wonder whether he also has plans to set up a free or low-cost ISP in these areas. Or, barring
  • Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The-Bus (138060)
    I sincerely hope the plan is not to outfit each student with one of these ridiculous things. Certainly I learned how to do everything without a computer, and had the honor of seeing computers/internet introduced into the classroom gradually through my education and can tell you that for the most part, they didn't do much.

    Most of the uses were for Power Point slides and other useless replacements of existing technology: a blackboard, an eraser, chalk, paper, pencil, etc. It has made research a lot easier, b
  • by ek-1000-ek (701465)
    What about that?
  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:00PM (#11606755)
    From looking at my inbox, Nigeria is populated by thousands of princes worth tens of millions of dollars each.
  • Meanwhile, on eBay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:05PM (#11606800) Journal
    Looking at old PowerBooks (Pre-PowerPC), you can get several color screen PowerBooks for under $50. Many have a built in modem or Ethernet, you can run Adobe Acrobat to handle PDF's and it will also support Internet Explorer for web stuff. I am sure there are comparable Windows laptops selling for the same price or less. IMHO, we really should be making an effort to use older computers with proven hardware/software first before manufacturing newer computers for people who have never owned them before.
    • by Jerf (17166)
      Looking at old PowerBooks (Pre-PowerPC), you can get several color screen PowerBooks for under $50.

      No, you can't. You can get a PowerBook for $50. You can not get millions of PowerBooks for $50, for two reasons, each sufficient on their own: One, there aren't that many on the market, the supply is finite and you can not "create" new used products at any useful rate, and two, when you raise the demand, you'll raise the price and they won't be $50 anymore. Economics 101.

      Besides, if you're going to create $
  • I'm sure the textbook publishers will be happy to cooperate with this venture. Won't they?
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:07PM (#11606808) Homepage
    Do I dare to hope it will come preloaded with Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wikipedia.org] and the full collection of Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.net]eBooks?

    (I remember how intriguing it was when Steve Jobs premiered the NeXT with the American Heritage dictionary and the complete works of Shakespeare as standard equipment...)
    • Great. So now not only do you have to teach the Children how to read and write in their own langauge, they have to learn better english than most native speaking children.

      Come on, how many American teenagers do you know that have read H.G. Wells or Thomas Hardy... well, at least of their own free will.

      As for the Wikipedia, it suffers from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy syndrome. A whole lot of contributers. Editors? You mean like Notepad?

  • by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:08PM (#11606823) Journal
    I believe it was somebody from Commodore (or Atari) who said that (in subject line) back in the early 80's. At the time the primary display for home computers (since it was the C-64 and Atari's...and Apples) were composite monitors and TV's. It's what everybody had.

    You could...and they did build computers that were at the sweet spot of $200 bucks. People forget that Commodore sold MILLIONS of Vic-20's and C-64's

    With High def capable TV's being sold (even without an HDTV tuner) and HDMI and DVI connectors on them it seems that you could do this again. Make a $200 (or less) computer with a keyboard and mouse (or maybee track pad) attached or built into it and connect it via HDMI to to a high def capable tv (HDMI also includes sound).

    The manufacturer that comes out with a device like this could sell A LOT of these devices!
  • It sounds like a great idea, but how are these things going to be powered in developing countries? Electric generation is at a premium, when it's up, and a laptop is just going to suck that much more down.

    Books can be read by candlelight or anywhere away from a power source and for more than 3 hours!

    (Never mind the fact that, when you need to, they become a nice heating source! What do you do with a dead laptop?)
  • by TeeJS (618313) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:09PM (#11606828) Homepage
    I have to admit that I currently hate laptops. Part of it is that they are expensive and fragile, but mainly because when someone can carry a computer about with them, it becomes "MINE" - they assume they can do whatever they want with it. I could envision using these as a mobile lab or textbook running off of a LTSP type host, but otherwise I'd be afraid at the upkeep time needed for them - even running Linux!
  • Diamond Age? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by laxian (174575) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {elggurtslatigid}> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:11PM (#11606840)
    Did anyone else get a "Diamond Age" vibe when they thought about huge numbers of Chinese kids with laptops?
  • by windowpain (211052) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:21PM (#11606924) Journal
    Dell, a big fat name brand is selling a $600 laptop. I recently read in TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics) that LCD screens are expected to drop 50% this year and another 50% in 2006 as increased production and yields forces prices down. So I'm guesstimating we should be below $200 for conventional laptops some time in 2008.

    I think a bigger challenge than getting cheap screens is making the machines rugged enough. Kids + Third World living conditions = MDL. (many dead laptops).
  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:21PM (#11606930) Journal
    The only sub-$100 notebook you'll ever need can be found right here. [ebay.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:22PM (#11606939)
    "United Nations officials report a mysterious 50,000 percent increase in Ethiopian pr0n online...
  • by nottsp1 (854247)
    I remember an article from several years ago that ran in the printed version of The Jakarta Post [thejakartapost.com] (link to paper, not article) stating that the Indonesian government ran something like 97% of its computers on pirated versions of Windows and Office. Corruption asside, this and similar cheap alternatives could help stamp out pirating at the government level, perhaps inducing a positive trickle down effect.
  • Point-Counterpoint (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jutus (14595) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:31PM (#11607065) Homepage
    And here's a great e-week article which asks: Where would they get the power for the laptop from? And wouldn't a cell phone offer better cost/benifit?

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1759073,00. as p?kc=EWRSS03129TX1K0000605

    The article:
    "Power Politics Overshadow $100 PC Concept
    February 2, 2005
    By Guy Kewney
    DAVOS, Switzerland--Nicholas Negroponte, wandering around this city, was trying to get people excited about the idea of a very small, very cheap PC, costing $100. A favor, if you like, for the poor countries at the World Economic Forum, from the rich.

    Nothing wrong with the idea, as another delegate to the WEF (World Economic Forum) pointed out last week.

    But Wenchi Chen, founder and president of VIA Technologies, knows a bit more about small, cheap PCs, perhaps, than the MIT Media lab chief, and he pinpointed the flaw in Negroponte's pitch quickly enough. It's power.

    I've been amazed at how few people in the First World really understand how important it is that PCs don't chew up wattage like an elephant munching hay. We've gotten so used to having cheap energy that we honestly don't realize we are paying to charge our mobile phones.

    You can cure yourself of this blindness simply enough. Check out any online store for something such as the Maxxima hand generator, and then try it. Just try generating enough charge in your cell phone for a five-minute conversation. It really isn't funny; it's hard work for little result. And so now, try to imagine generating the power to run a 75W personal computer.

    Chen's point at the WEF was simple: All of the things we are hoping to harness the personal computer to depend on power. "Even if we built a nuclear power station a day for the next few years, we wouldn't have enough to drive all the PCs we're hoping to build," he warned.

    Naturally, VIA has an axe to grind: It has focused its technology, as have Transmeta and ARM, on the power budget. But the days of cheap energy can't be taken for granted anymore, and within a decade, it may be that even we in the West will have to share the Third World's concern with power budgets.

    Whether we can have cheap energy or not, the remote, rural communities of Africa and China don't have the sort of revenue that would let them put a computer such as the Media Center in every home. And I think that's where Negroponte's vision exposes its Achilles heel: He's said the minimum order for his $100 PC would be a million.

    Next Page: Better to buy a cell phone?
    As Peter Rojas pointed out sardonically enough, most poor villagers would rather buy a cell phone.

    And indeed, why not? Cell phones are usually subsidized by the network operators for the text and call traffic revenue they generate. Increasingly, they have considerable local processing power--and, with the built-in camera, substantial local news-gathering ability, too. And the networks are now offering offline storage for trivial amounts.

    Wenchi Chen is best known, in my part of the forest, for his mini-ITX range of motherboards which, amazingly, are forming a growing thicket of wireless mesh boxes providing rural broadband links to people who don't have ADSL or cable, and can't afford satellite. But the interesting thing for me about the low-power platform isn't just the wireless application.

    Read more here about wireless mesh networking.

    Rather, it's the discovery that more and more people are using these things as servers. And again, why not? It may take two or three low-power PCs to match the performance of a top-range Xeon, but the power budget is a tiny fraction.

    And in a co-location center, they charge you for your heat output. And so smart guys are buying a half-dozen mini-ITX boxes and sticking them in their co-lo corner--and that's the cue for the Third World.

    One machine per home may be a rich boy's dream. One machine per village, however, with mobile-phone peripheral access, is another matter. You can work out a power
    • Way before power, you would have to deal with literacy. These laptops are not designed for the chunks of the world that still living a subsistanance agrarian culture.

      This system is designed for the chunks of the world that already have electricity and water and phones (at least in civic structures), but where $1200 is a fortune, and where a unit costing $100 that could replace 10+ textbooks costing $10, while providing some added functions, is economically advantageous.

  • What do I have to do to get some love around here? [boston.com]

  • I dunno which developing countries they're talking about, but in India at least the school books are developed by the government and sold essentially at the cost of printing them. You could buy at least 200 school text books for $100.

    Maybe it would make more sense for higher levels like college where you could buy a mere 10-50 (depending on whether its an Indian reprint of a foreign text book, or one by a local author) text books for $100.
  • by randomErr (172078) <ervin,kosch&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:51PM (#11607299) Homepage Journal
    This could really work. Take the basic design of the portable Tandy Color Computer 3 that had a greyscale LCD screen and redesign it a little. Make a bigger screen (line 640x480), a clam shell design, and a low cost ARM processor (/. had an article about cheap 32 bit processors a couple of months ago) with 64 megs of ram. Make sure it has either and a serial or a USB port, 1 gig flash drive, and a cheap 16 bit sound chip. If the they even come close to the Tandy design this system would last decades.

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