A Moment of Science

Laptops for the Masses

Is the day approaching where everyone in the world can own a computer?

MIT's $100 laptop

Photo: François Proulx

The MIT Media Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a plan to let children in developing countries have computer access. To meet this goal they're launching a $100 laptop.

You may remember when hand held calculators were a really big deal.

The only real computers at the time were the size of entire rooms, and cost a lot more than any one person could afford.

A lot has changed since then. Today, it’s a safe assumption that most people have at least one computer in their household, if not more.

What’s the next step? Some researchers at MIT think it’s to get everyone a computer, and they mean everyone.

The MIT Media Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a plan to let children in developing countries have computer access. To meet this goal they’re launching a $100 laptop.

You heard right, a laptop computer that costs one hundred dollars. MIT designed the device along with some partners in industry, specifically with kids in mind. The thought is that super-cheap laptops will increase learning both inside and outside of classrooms, and maybe bring the nations of the world a little closer.

You would think connectivity would be the biggest issue, but lab chairman Nicholas Negroponte says he doesn’t think it will be for long. The bigger issue, he says, is just getting access to a machine.

The laptops have an AC adaptor that keeps them running, and also a crank that you wind up by hand. Cranking it once gives you 10 minutes of energy. The laptops have one gigabyte of memory, and the casing is rubberized and intentionally made tough, so kids can’t break them.

There was a time when nobody was rich enough to own a computer. Maybe there will also be a time when nobody is poor enough not to own one.

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