[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 
closed internationally?]


    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
    pure fantasy.

    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 [3]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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