Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Portables Hardware IT

The Sub-$100 Laptop? 345

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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Sub-$100 Laptop?

Comments Filter:
  • 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.
  • cellphone.. (Score:3, Interesting)

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

    bam - sub 100$ computer.
  • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bhtooefr ( 649901 ) <[gro.rfeoothb] [ta] [rfeoothb]> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @11:54AM (#11606698) Homepage Journal
    Well, they're going for $20 for the display, and it'll be a rear-projection screen.

    I think that if they use ARM or maybe even Geode x86 CPUs, they can get it under $100. $20 display, $10-20 CPU, $10-20 RAM, $10-20 flash memory (or HDD), which leaves $20-50 for the case, keyboard, and mouse.
  • by jimbro2k ( 800351 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:06PM (#11606806)
    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...)
  • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:07PM (#11606813) Homepage Journal
    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't want scientists or mathematicians... no engineers from *those* kinds of places... why, it might upset the way things are.

    Evan "Drip, drip, went the sarcasm"

  • 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 ) <digitalstruggle AT yahoo DOT com> 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 penguinoid ( 724646 ) 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.).
  • by nottsp1 ( 854247 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:26PM (#11606978)
    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.
  • 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?

  • 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
  • by ggvaidya ( 747058 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @12:53PM (#11607313) Homepage Journal
    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/month, or 18$/month) + Wikipedia (0$) and you've got something comparable. Oh, and Slashdot thrown in for free ;).
  • by jacoby ( 3149 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2005 @01:04PM (#11607482) Homepage Journal
    First, I like the idea. It's a good idea. I've long thought that there was an untapped market for trailing-edge technology. I've heard it said that literate Western culture thinks of sitting down all by yourself and reading stuff is considered doing something, which is an alien concept to the tribal cultures of Africa, but I can't tell how much of that is cultural sensitivity and how much is racism. So, I doubt if it would be as transformational as all that, and I remember a story by the guy who coined the term "cyberpunk" about a hacker who runs off into the wilderness with a laptop while being chased by the bad guys, and eventually he smashes it and uses the CPU as a lure so he could eat. Is a PC of any sort really what you need on the Serengeti? But I still like the idea.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming