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MIT Media Labs $100 laptop prototype for its One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. According to MIT Media Labs director Nicholas Negroponte, because of the environments in which these notebooks must survive (eg: the jungles of Cambodia), these machines will be made of rubber, and will hermetically seal when closed. The AC power cord doubles as the shoulder strap. The ruggedized laptop can be self-powered, too -- its wind-up crank, designers hope, will deliver 10 minutes of power for every one minute of cranking.
MIT Media Labs director Nicholas Negroponte was very careful to advise the audience that a United Nations version of the laptop does not yet exist. But, he said that discussions are underway, and it's certainly easy to imagine the existence of such a "branded" version.
Children in a Cambodian village with their laptops. These are not $100 laptops, but the image is typical of the sort of children that will benefit from them. In 1999, MIT Media Labs director Nicholas Negroponte and his wife built some schools in Cambodia. The villages where these schools were located had no sewer, no water, no telephones, not even roads. The average income was $47 per year. To recharge the notebooks, they brought in generators. A WiFi network with a satellite uplink to the Internet was installed and they told kids to take computers home to play with them. The morning after the first night that the kids brought the laptops home, it became clear not one of the notebooks had been opened. The parents were apparently worried the notebooks would get broken and they'd be held accountable for the breakage. On the next night, after the parents had been reassured that the notebooks could not be broken (at least not easily) and that the children wouldn't be held responsible even if something did break, the parents loved them. Not because of what the computer was capable of, but because the computers were the brightest light sources in the Cambodian villagers' one-room houses.