$100 laptop moves closer to reality

ZDNet has an article on how MIT's specification for a $100 laptop aimed at children in the third world is moving closer to reality. Earlier this week, Nicholas Negroponte (co-founder of the Media Lab at MIT, and responsible for project development) laid out hardware specifications and detailed the countries his initiative, dubbed One Laptop per Child, would be partnering with for initial distribution. The laptop's $100 cost will be paid for by the government, with systems then distributed to students.

Current design specs for these systems call for a 500MHz CPU (currently built by AMD), 1GB of memory, and a dual-mode display that can function either in color or in black and white (for outdoor usage). Power will be provided via a windable crank, with approximately one minute of cranking translating to 10 minutes of power. The systems will run Linux, include Wi-Fi and USB ports, and support cell-phone connections.

If successful, this initiative will put computers into the hands of literally millions of students who previously couldn't afford them. The long-term ramifications of such a project could be tremendous. Not only could it drastically raise computer literacy among previously uneducated groups, it also has that group working with Linux, not Windows, as a default operating system. In the past, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has called for a $100 PC aimed at developing nations. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft starts aggressively funding its own $100 initiatives based on how the MIT program is received.

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