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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.
Nolan Bushnell, the inventor of the video game that may have started it all -- pong -- speaking at MIT's Emerging Technologies Conference.
Segway inventor Dean Kamen talking about his next invention at MIT's Emerging Technologies Conference. According to Kamen, billions of dollars are being poured into curing diseases that afflict 20 percent of the world's ill. But the other 80 percent are succumbing to bad, undrinkable (unpotable) water. So, he's building a dirt cheap box that solves the problem and that can be distributed all over the world. Said Kamen about how to make it work: "Just add water." According to Kamen's co-workers, the device even works with urine. "If it has water in it, we can get drinking water from it," one of them said.