Nicolas Negriponte dreams of supplying all of the children of the Third World with inexpensive laptop computers to help further their education. How does he plan to make it work? What roadblocks does he face? And what will happen if he achieves his dream? DMOS ponders the issues.
These days a low cost system from Dell or your local FutureShop costs close to $400 US. This basic setup will do every mundane task needed for Joe Sixpack, just not very quickly when it comes to anything beyond them. The question though, is can we do better?
While $400 is a fantastic price of entry for the typical North American family, that only covers part of the cost of using the machine (the initial investment). On top of that, $400 is still an incredible amount of money for people in developing areas such as parts of Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East.
That level of cost still makes it difficult for places such as schools to acquire them to use as tools to teach skills that we here often take for granted -- or even as a tool to educate with, period. This is sometimes a fact that is lost on people who believe computers are for games and little else. A research group at MIT has made specific strides to address this problem, with the idea of creating a computer which can be afforded in those areas mentioned above.
Professor of Media Technology Nicholas Negroponte has looked into helping that part of the world by improving the ways in which they can to educate people. His vision was to design a mobile computer that would be viable to use in a situation where cost of ownership must be kept very low. A few key technologies were responsible for achieving this goal. None of these are found in the typical commercial laptops that you and I would be able to buy.
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