[Paleopsych] NYT Mag: Laptop That Will Save the World, The
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Sun Dec 11 03:06:02 UTC 2005
Laptop That Will Save the World, The
[How far does anyone predict that the educational achievement gap will be
By MICHAEL CROWLEY
Here in America, high-speed wireless Internet has become a
commonplace home amenity, and teenagers with Sidekicks can
browse the Web on a beach. For many people in developing
nations, however, the mere thought of owning a computer remains
But maybe not for long. This year, Nicholas Negroponte,
chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media
Lab, unveiled a prototype of a $100 laptop. With millions of
dollars in financing from the likes of Rupert Murdoch's News
Corporation and Google, Negroponte and his colleagues have
designed an extremely durable, compact, no-frills laptop, which
they'd like to see in the hands of millions of children
worldwide by 2008.
So how can any worthwhile computer cost less than a pair of
good headphones? Through a series of cost-cutting tricks. The
laptops will run on free "open source" software, use cheaper
"flash" memory instead of a hard disk and most likely employ
new LCD technology to drop the monitor's cost to just $35. Each
laptop will also come with a hand crank, making it usable even
in electricity-free rural areas.
Of course, the real computing mother lode is the Internet, to
which few developing-world users have access. But the M.I.T.
laptops will offer wireless peer-to-peer connections that
create a local network. As long as there's an Internet signal
somewhere in the network area - and making sure that's the
case, even in rural areas, poses a mighty challenge - everyone
can get online and use a built-in Web browser. Theoretically,
even children in a small African village could have "access to
more or less all libraries of the world," Negroponte says.
(That's probably not very useful to children who can't read or
understand foreign languages.) His team is already in talks
with several foreign governments, including those of Egypt,
Brazil and Thailand, about bulk orders. Gov. Mitt Romney of
Massachusetts has also proposed a bill to buy 500,000 of the
computers for his state's children.
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