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Negroponte's Talk at Emerging Technology Conference 195

Posted by Zonk
from the from-the-horses-mouth dept.
xacting writes "The video of Nicholas Negroponte's talk about MIT's One Laptop per Child (OLPC) research initiative was just posted to MIT World. In it, he discusses the challenges of tripling the world's laptop production, dealing with China's policies towards free speech and the problems of grey markets." From the article: "The key to churning out these cheap educational devices is volume -- and the more countries that join the bandwagon, the sleeker and less expensive the computers are likely to be. Negroponte casts a wary eye on the potential grey market appeal of the machines, and is determined to make them so distinctive as a government-distributed, educational tool that taking one would 'be like stealing a post office truck.' Negroponte concludes, 'Changing education on the planet is a monumental challenge,' taking decades. But OLPC will 'seed the change,' and help 'invent the future.'"
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Negroponte's Talk at Emerging Technology Conference

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  • Not so sure ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RageEX (624517) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:38PM (#14366799)
    Why is everyone so sure that putting a laptop in a kids hand will help them that much? I'm sure it's a great idea on some level but what about starving illiterate kids, wouldn't food and teachers be a better investment?
    • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:41PM (#14366814)
      Not every community in Africa is starving and lacking teachers.

      Think of what benefits would result if every student in a small Kansas town were given a $100 laptop with Net access.

      • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GoofyBoy (44399)
        The Internet is a mixed bag, good and bad.

        I rather have kids (in Kansas or Africa) read a good international newspaper than to have them uncontrolled access to the Internet.
        • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:08PM (#14366999)
          The Internet is a mixed bag, good and bad. I rather have kids (in Kansas or Africa) read a good international newspaper than to have them uncontrolled access to the Internet.

          The internet is a good international newspaper, and much more. Internet access with good training is probably the most empowering thing you can donate to people who don't have access to such tools. Save people from dying of starvation, malaria, and war, and then teach them how to use the Internet. Then they can write their own international newspapers.

          • >The internet is a good international newspaper, and much more

            Its the "much more" that I wouldn't want kids to access. There are lots of stuff I wouldn't want adults to access either.

            Just give them the international newspaper, not a step by step how to send spam emails.
            • oh, yes. it's ok they they read about international events i a paper, but lets not give them an avenue to learn or study, cause you might get more SPAM.....
              If getting more spam is the reult of helping people learn to help them selves, This I, for one, Welcome are new spam overlords! Bring it on, hell if I thought creating an open relay would help people fend for them selves, I would create one.
        • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by flyingsquid (813711)
          The MIT media lab website says: Kids in the developing world need the newest technology, especially really rugged hardware and innovative software.

          Frankly I think these MIT guys are idiots. Perhaps kids in the developing world need 19th and early 20th century technology- clean water, decent roads, adequate food and nutrition, basic literacy, electricity, basic medical care- before we start worrying about the goddamn laptops. But hey, what do I know, these are MIT engineers and I only spent three months in

          • Because we all know the world is divided into rich countries, which would all benefit from a laptop-per-child-programme, and poor countries, which are all like rural Madagascar.

            • You should only be sarcastic when you're describing something that isn't real. 80% of the human race lives on an income of less than a dollar a day. So, yes, the world is divided into places like Madagascar, and then a tiny fraction of really really lucky places.
        • good luck finding a good international newspaper, atleast if "good" defines a unbiased one.

          all newspapers, all information channels for that matter, is biased in some way or other. its just that some are more openly so then others (or maybe just worse at hiding it).

          thing is that the laptop isnt about the internet, or not just about it. its a 100$ electronic tinkering toy. kinda like what the C64 and the others 8-bit systems was at their time.

          from what i understand, these laptops will come with the full set
      • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RageEX (624517) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:51PM (#14366878)
        Who said Africa?

        A lot of fat Ameircan kids get very early access to computers, what good does it do them? Seems like we still have a problem with math, reading, and reasoning in this country and throwing money at it doesn't necessarily help.

        I'll repeat myself, I'm sure it's a great idea on some level. But will spending all this money on technology ahead of treating disease, famine, poverty etc. produce results? These machines can't teach a child to read or write can then? Will they just become a fancy Feynman-eque abacus?
        • Well, hopefully, with better education, these kids will be able to avoid the disease, famine, and poverty routes. How long are we going to keep the poor of the world in a box, living and dying at our discretion? It is only through education that they will break the cycle of poverty and dependance.

          I am not generally a fan of long term government handouts, especially when the systems are poorly designed and encourage dependancy. The one thing which is always safe and good to give out, however, is educa

          • The part about better education avoiding disease, etc. reminds me of the story that surfaced a while back here about the microbes that inhabit computer keyboards.

            Joking aside( and I almost completely agree with you), I don't think $100 laptops are a very good idea at all. I'm assuming you were referring to welfare programs when you said poorly designed systems, but if the laptops are poorly designed then it's a double whammy. I just don't see good laptops coming out of this unless it is driven by the mark
    • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:51PM (#14366870)

      Food is a temp sollution as it feeds them once, barely, and after being fed they require being fed again after.It grows dependency on the Western world. Making them independant, giving access to information and education creates independance and in the long run will help them feed themselves, maybe train some doctors engineers and farmers in the long run? Education will be able to provide that, in the long run.

      Further, having the 3rd world countries develop, will create an economy to do business with for the Western countries, instead of exploitation.

    • by Slugster (635830) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:59PM (#14366923)
      This is the problem--that there is not really much useful media to put on these machines.
      For the most part, "the Internet" in itself is not directly useful in a lower-grade classroom, unless you want to teach kids about porn. What electronic media is available is usually only optional, and designed to complement the printed books.

      What really needs to be created is MEDIA, electronic versions of suitable textbooks. And a database of quiz and test questions, organized by book sections, and a program to automatically check those answers. If the hardware had a way to do very-short-range networking (I'm thinking IR here, it only needs to work inside one room and not cause interference in adjoining rooms) then the ability to push file content over it and a way to check quiz answers in real-time would be a good thing too.

      But you really don't need a whole laptop to do this. A laptop is really just adding a whole bunch more problems. A simnple e-book type device with a few input buttons would work. You wouldn't even really need a multi-tasking OS; this greatly cuts down on the speed and memory requirements of the hardware.

      And finally, the thing's got to be drop-proof, water-proof, crayon-proof, ect. It needs to run off of regular disposeable (or possibly rechargeable) batteries, not $150 li-ion jobs. A laptop is NOT what will work for this.

      And really--e-textbooks would/should be priced far lower than printed copies. There's no incentive for any school to even consider going to e-book use, if they are going to have to pay a bunch of money for hardware, and then pay a bunch more for "e-book licenses". If they just go with the printed books, they only pay a bunch once.
      ~
      • Ouch dude, the Internet is not directly useful for them?
        What a monumental understatement.

        For a very basic start, just check all the mathematical, biological, chemical and so on information collected on Wikipedia. And that's just one single site of millions containing useful information - instantly searchable and accessible.
        • For a very basic start, just check all the mathematical, biological, chemical and so on information collected on Wikipedia. And that's just one single site of millions containing useful information - instantly searchable and accessible.

          The World Book is known for its ties to the standard school ciriculum, articles begining at the level they would be introduced in the classroom. You do not teach elementary science to kids by using The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics as your textbook.

        • He did say "for the early grades", and he may be right. I don't know what educational material there *is* available. I also don't know what would be appropriate. And I don't know the languages in which it would need to be written.

          But once some significant number of kids have this computer, perhaps someone will start turning out things beyond "Typing Tutor" and KFlashCards. (That last is an invented name for a program that should be obvious.)
        • As much as I love Wikipedia, it isn't ideal for simple explanations. I tried using it to help my 10 year old daughter do a report for school and it took far too much time to read, assimilate and translate for her understanding. I eventually gave up and went for less technical sites.
      • But you really don't need a whole laptop to do this. A laptop is really just adding a whole bunch more problems. A simnple e-book type device with a few input buttons would work

        My wife and I have been looking at a laptop-like learning toy for our son. It has a small LCD screen and costs about AU$100. For $150 I can get a cheap palm pilot, complete with IR and a market for cheap/free software.

        So I see these cheap laptops as mass marketed palm devices with keyboards instead of (probably) more expensive touc

      • Y'know, if you;d actually bothered to find out what you're talking about first your post would've been legitimately insightful, instead it's just hopelessly offbase.

        These are crayon & water proof.

        These don't require a $150 LiOn battery, they use a hand-crank.

        They're not just intended to be dumb reader devices but links to the larger world. Online encyclopedias, newspapers, updated textbooks, communicate with other kids in their native languages (IM shorthand in Urdu), get their assignments from th

        • Y'know, if you'd actually bothered to find out what you're talking about first...

          Thank you for posting. This topic seems to be a veritable magnet for people with strong opinions and a complete inability to read or even just watch a video. There also seems to be an assumption that this non-profit effort is taking money out of some of these commentators pockets. Hey, if you have another idea that you think is better then go for it! No one is holding you back. Negroponte has been pursuing this goal for years a
        • Govt's like China allocate the equivalent of US$20/year for each kid's printed school books. With these laptops they can offer those gov't text supplied texts, a coupla thousand others, the latest news, access to encyclopedias, etc. all for negligible cost over the laptops.

          I have to take issue with that. I'm assuming based on the 5579 after your user name that you've been around slashdot for a while. I would hope that you are aware of the censorship issues that exist with the internet and the benificent

      • A simnple e-book type device with a few input buttons would work. [...] It needs to run off of regular disposeable (or possibly rechargeable) batteries, not $150 li-ion jobs. A laptop is NOT what will work for this.

        Your comments about software and e-books are great, however the above quote shows you haven't actually read anything about these or watched the video. Don't rant about something that you don't know anything about. This laptop more or less IS just an ebook but with a full keyboard, or did you r

        • I'm glad you made the comment on Internet porn. There's so much more stuff on the Internet that's NOT porn. While it might be easy enough to find porn sites, the number of non-porn sites easily outnumbers them. It's a bunk argument that's always used as a point against the Internet.
      • You need to learn how to purify water?
        google: "how to purify water?"

        there are a ton of good math sites, educational site, science sites. etc. . .

        of course, if you had bothered to look into these device you would know they are hand cranked power based, and not full featured laptops.

        printed books are expensive. dollar, it information, a internet connection from a 100 dollar laptop is vastly more economical.

        Established school systems are so ingrained, it is difficult to come up with new ways ti utilize new tec
        • I'm not sure I agree with you here. In fact, books are exceedingly efficient ways of distributing valuable information that everyone wants. Thing is, the marginal cost for printing and distributing a book is very low, not much more than a few dollars. Plus they're sturdier and more portable and accessible than a laptop can ever be. All you need to boot them up is some decent light source. The only skill you need is to be able to read.

          The Internet by contrast is superior at distributing actual applicati
      • "the Internet" in itself is not directly useful in a lower-grade classroom, unless you want to teach kids about porn ... What really needs to be created is MEDIA, electronic versions of suitable textbooks./i>


        Dude, if you think the internet is nothing but porn [thehun.com], and there aren't any suitable media for educational purposes [wikipedia.org], you need some changes in your browsing patterns.

      • Content from http://www.skoool.com [skoool.com] (flash required) is being used on Linux computers in schools in India [intel.com].
    • wouldn't food and teachers be a better investment?

      Not food, definitely not. When the current president of Brazil was elected, one of his campaign themes was the so-called "zero hunger" program, for distributing food to the allegedly starving poor people of Brazil. Much to his embarrassment, after he came to power, the Brazilian federal agency in charge of statistics [ibge.gov.br] published the results of a study showing that among the poorest people in Brazil obesity is a much worse problem than hunger. The managers for

    • They aren't starving because there is no food, they are starving because of conflict and war, because the nations they live in aren't failed because they never worked to begin with, because there's of the political machinations of minor figures and the obstinance of bureaucrats.

      Africa is a land that could feed all its occupants, with resources for industry, trade, construction and any number of kinds of advancement. Africa doesn't lack in these things. But a variety of disfunctions and injustices mean

    • Re:Not so sure ... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JOrgePeixoto (853808)
      I think this 'Africans don't need laptops, they need food" is absurd, for so many reasons:

      1) Yes, starvation is a huge problem in Africa. But it doesn't mean that "the optimal way to help is to devote all resources to this problem". Fighting problems is not always exclusive. Actually, sometimes there are synergies. Also, different people have different abilities. You see, Mr. Negroponte is probably much better at designing a cheap laptop than at organizing a fundraiser for food.
      Think about it: should we al
  • by Medievalist (16032) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:38PM (#14366800)

    I'll happily pay for at least one 3rd world child's $100 laptop if I can buy another one for MY kids!
  • by giorgiofr (887762) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:41PM (#14366818)
    Time and time again, we have been shown that trying to deny people access to things they want leads to one thing only: black market, with all the niceties that usually follow it.
    So why is Negroponte so keen on preventing everybody who's not a starving child from getting the 100$-laptop? Especially since he seems so worried that they might not be in enough demand to grant them the best prices for components etc.
    I say, why limit distribution and *force* this to be a government-sponsored program?
    • I disagree. Banning things is very successful at limiting access.

      Any solution less then total, and you seem to believe that banning things does nothing.

      No, au contrare, banning does a lot.

      It's the difference between cities in Nevada that decriminalize prostitutions, and cities in other states that criminalize it.

      Even though the effects are not total in other states, they DO make a visible difference in what people see, and even what people do.
  • ...will we see a group of, oh, 20 or 30 kids get these, open the box, and do something with them? I revisited TFWebsite, and even the Wiki page is completely devoid of softare. I'm still waiting to see exactly what these things will do. Seriously, I want to see a study where they give a few dozen kids brand new boxes and show me how the peer2peer is going to revolutionize things.

    I remember being this excited about Ginger (aka Segway), and Transmeta's plans to dominate the CPU world. I'd like to hope the
    • It is not revolutionary technology.

      I, and presumable you since you posted here, live in a world where knowledge is taken for granted.
      The people these are for do not.

      What is revolutionary is giving people this much control of what they can learn.

      IT like the interenet 20 years ago, who knew about all the cool ways to learn, get knowledge and meet people that would be invented?

      of course, giving them a device with no connection, and anything short of a library of indormation would be a com,plet wast. well, the
  • Okay, so you have a kajillion kids laptops out there -- which are then quickly out-dated in terms of both hardware and software.

    Wouldn't it be a whole lot better to first develop and distribute a "thin client" laptop that is not much more than a browser, screen, keyboard, and Wifi connection, along with substantial enough (and presumably pricier) servers that act as access portals, and then second, a more advanced laptop that can store useful data and other programs usable by more advanced students that qualify for them?

    Secondarily, I would think that the first and/or second laptops could be sold as an entry level laptop in the first world countries with a sufficient profit margin (and the ability of educational systems like rural school districts, etc. to purchase a limited number of machines without the profit margin built in) to underwrite the distribution of many more machines to the third world? After all, if the whole thing is done under a non-profit framework, there isn't shareholder bottom line to worry about. What think ye all?

    • From the Laptop website:
      "The laptop will have a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, with 500MB of Flash memory; it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports"

      That sounds a lot like thin client hardware to me. I think the idea is to create a meshnet between the laptops and some sort of central server and then push info to the kids. That and let them look things up online at the same time.
      • by maggard (5579)

        That sounds a lot like thin client hardware to me. I think the idea is to create a meshnet between the laptops and some sort of central server and then push info to the kids. That and let them look things up online at the same time.

        It only sounds like that because you couldn't be bothered to do a bit more research before rushing off to post.

        These are NOT thin clients, they are fully stand-alone devices. The mesh part only comes into play for communications, not for operations. There is no central server,

  • by uxo (415276) on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:00PM (#14366933)
    I'm guessing there are a couple billion people in the world that would rather have clean drinking water instead of a goddamn $100 laptop.

    Particularly since $100 is probably a half to a third of their yearly income...
    • they would like to find out how they can improve there water so it is drinkable.

      Improve water use in agriculture, improve wells, improve sanitation, find out what then need to filter water, have an avenue to contact other people to help them

      It is said, that if you give a man a fish he eatse for a day, but if you teach hin to fish he eats forever. This tool has the potential to teach everyone to fish.
    • I'm guessing there are a couple billion people in the world that would rather have clean drinking water instead of a goddamn $100 laptop.

      Ah yes, the old "we shouldn't give them anything they want until after they have everything they need" excuse. So I guess I shouldn't donate old eye glasses either. Those go to people that don't have clean drinking water, and what do they need with the ability to see clearly if their water is unclean? We should just stop all efforts to assist them until after the drin
    • I'm guessing there are a couple billion people in the world that would rather have clean drinking water instead of a goddamn $100 laptop

      It's good that you (and a dozen others) raised this old "poor people need clean water" meme. Because one of the things people in poor countries could do with this $100 laptop would be to buy online a water purifier [submarino.com.br] for the equivalent of $20, if that product weren't available in their neighborhood store.

  • by laptop (942299)
    There's nothing like connectivity to information, and there's nothing like getting accurate information, and there's nothing in the world that can provide this link between people and data like the internet. Kids learning languages and merging languages. Kids learning about cultures and merging them. Kids identifying problems and solving them. Kids exploring their world with the wisdom of others at thier fingertips. These laptops could be a major step!
  • by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@y a h o o .com> on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:05PM (#14366977) Journal

    Why put any artificial barrier at all in front of your product? If your goal is to make them ubiquitous, then let nothing get in the way.

    He recognizes capitalism's inexorable hand, but refuses to accept it. He'd be much better off working with it. Accept that there is going to be a market for the things, and sell into the market. Someone's going to.

    For instance, he could make a bare-bones, fully-functional version of the product available to schools, but sell a more elaborate model to consumers, a similar but higher priced one to business, and a milspec one to the US DOD.

    By working with capitalists, instead of fighting them, the project would stand a much better chance of actually succeeding.

    • WOW, what a GREAT IDEA! Do *EXACTLY* WHAT THEY'RE DOING!

      Oh wait, you didn't bother to actually watch or look up any of this before posting, huh?

      'Cause if you did you'd know that they're actually pretty attractive little boxes. Their 'unattractiveness' will be in the sense of "You're using a device my community paid for, you're not a kid, not a school-teacher, what kind of jerk are you and have you met the business end of my hoe?!" unattractive.

      Regarding capitalism, yes Quantas, Nortel, Intel, Redhat,

    • That's not how capitalist markets work. You can target a niche (that nobody else is targetting), you can target the bottom end (on price), or you can target the top end (on price) - all of those methods will work. You cannot target a broad demographic (except based on religion or physical constraints, like gender and disability) or the middle of the market; if you try, then the people targetting the top and bottom ends will crush you between them. This is simplified (there's other things you can do and surv
  • Just a thought.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chaffar (670874) on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:07PM (#14366994)
    What is the first thing a kid receiving a $100 laptop going to think? Yep, that's right:
    HOW MUCH CAN I SELL THIS FOR?
    The fact is that $100 for these kids is worth 200 days of work if you follow 50 cent/day wage they get for 12-14 hours of work (according to this [corpwatch.org] but I've heard of even less...).

    What to do? Use this "machine" for an undefined incomprehensible goal, I mean even the makers don't really know exactly how this laptop thingamagig will actually be beneficial in REAL terms (ignore the use of buzzwords such as explore, interact and create, they don't mean anything). OR, they could flog it in the closest market for the highest they can, giving them REAL benefits, such as cash, to buy that tin pot they'll use to boil water, or whatever it is they need.

    The first thing they need to realize is the importance of education. The second thing will be for them to actually do something about it. The third and last component will be to give them the tools they need to achieve their educational goals.

    Both my grandfathers were refugees from the Armenian Genocide and arrived in France/Syria with nothing at all with them, they were orphans 5/7 years old and couldn't read or write. One of them went to a French school, got the education he needed. The other one didn't have the same privilege, he taught himself everything. Guess which one actually was the more educated person at the end? Yep, the one who taught himself.

    The point? Education is not only about the tools you have at your disposal, it's also the willingness and dedication to learn.

    • no shit sherlock.

      This is about giving someone the tools so they have that option.

      THey will not be able to resell the device for 100 bucks. Maybe 20.

      "(ignore the use of buzzwords such as explore, interact and create, they don't mean anything)"
      yes, they do.
      It is important to give an avenue for a person to look at new ideas, interact with people around the world, or next door, that may have a solution to a problem. They can find ways to create solutions to problem, use the internet to make money.

      Who are they g
    • The fact is that $100 for these kids is worth 200 days of work if you follow 50 cent/day wage they get for 12-14 hours of work (according to this but I've heard of even less...).

      There are countries where people get paid 5$/day (e.g. Russia today), but many people still managed to pay 1000$ for a desktop computer so that their kids can stay competitive.

      Regardless, this is an extremely complex topic. Education is sitting in the middle of all other issues and you can't oversimplify it like Mr. Negroponte does
      • pay 1000$ for a desktop computer so that their kids can stay competitive.

        I can configure a 64-bit processor based system with totally basic functionality for $300 (linux) or $379 (legitimate windows XP)

        So the question begs to be asked, why would somone making $5 a day, pay $1,000 for a 'gaming' pc, when a perfectly legit 'educational use' pc can be configured for $700 less? plus the kid gets the 'learning' experience of putting the parts together ;)

        I can configure a 32-bit system for even less, but then yo
    • And the other immediate question people in the area will ask is how they can steal this laptop shipment from the local kids before somebody else does. A few guys with AK-47s could harvest a few hundred of these from the local school without much trouble.

      A major reason much of the third world is poor is that it has no reliable system of private property for poor people, and armed thugs will take anything of even marginal value that they happen to possess. Of course, the kids know this, and it's half the reas
  • "like stealing a post office truck"

    It's not stealing. Isn't this more like BUYING a used, surplus truck from the postal service? You give someone a laptop-- what's wrong with them selling the laptop?

    What would be the disadvantage in selling these laptops to people in wealthy nations as a commodity? That is precisely what the Freeplay Foundation [freeplayfoundation.org] does with their "Lifeline Radio", which is a robust, windup/solar powered, AM/FM/SW radio designed for people who live in areas without power. You can buy one radio through CCrane [ccrane.com] and they'll donate a second one to someone in need.
    • You can buy one radio through CCrane and they'll donate a second one to someone in need.

      They could finance the delivery of these laptops in the same way.

  • There's two ideas going on here: 1) using computers for education, and 2) using an ebook instead of a regular book. Idea 1 has been going around and around for years and has produced very minimal results, given all of the money that school districts have spent on equipping every school with the latest hardware. The most important thing for teaching is a teacher and computers have not proven to be a good substitute for that. That doesn't stop the local schools from pushing an annual 'technology levy' to
    • I work in IT today because I taught myself computers, starting when I was 13. I never took a class, had only one class ever where there were computers in the classroom. But that learning environment was tightly controlled. Because I had the computer at home, I learned without constraints. And now it's my job.

      All of which means I think there's a world of difference between giving a kid a laptop, and letting them use a computer in a lab at school occasionally. A world of difference.
  • Books (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:22PM (#14367090) Journal

    The modern world throws away thousands, if not millions of books ever year. Some of them are reference materials, spanning every education level. If the thrid world was given these books instead of a connection to the internet, I think it'd be vastly more useable, longer lasting, and cheaper.

    This removes the need for electricity, connectivity, and familiarity with technology. Books are what the entire world has used for much much longer than the internet as a source of knowledge. it's a shame to skip this.

    • Re:Books (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      there expensive to ship.
      A 100 dollar laptop that can connect to the internet is FAR more valuble, and is a less expensice. Becasue one device can get you a lot more information then the same weight in books.
  • We need a first wave of these devices ASAP in the hands of the free software community to sort out the capabilities of the device and then create a software base for it that will be useful for its intended purpose. It's going to be a tough sell until then.

    I can just see some gummint beauracrat in Turdistahn trying to figure out why he should spend a billion dollars on these things when his country's GDP is half of that, and he won't know what to do with these things once he has them.
  • Since most of the posters seem woefully under-informed (you DID watch the video before posting?) here are responses to a few of the silly comments that have already come up:

    • Q: Why stop these US$100 laptops from being sold?
      A: They're not. Quantas, their manufacturer, is free to sell the same item to anyone. However those commercial versions cost will be closer to US$200.

    • Q: Why is this only for 3rd World places?
      A: It's not, the State of Massachusetts and others are already committed to large purchases. Why not get your community involved?

    • Q: Why insist on targeted distribution?
      A: Because all the research shows that 'seeding' 1 per 5 kids or whatever doesn't have the same network effect (figuratively & literally) that ubiquitous use in an area does.

    • Q: Why do these kids need laptops? Why not food/water/medicine?
      A: They need all of those, and those are vital things to see they get. But once those immediate needs are met the long term goal of providing an education is what will help these kids and their communities be self-sufficient, indeed able to assist other neighboring communities.

    • Q: Where's the software for this?
      A: It's Redhat Linux, this is /., are you serious? OK, less inflammatory answer: With a standard cheap platform out there individuals, organizations, governments, and the communities receiving these will be able to develop what they can take advantage of.

    • Q: So what's to keep unscrupulous folks from buying these out the back door of warehouses?
      A: First the local communities will likely look down on this theft of their resources pretty intensely. Second the goal is to make any trade in these universally unsavory. Will it be 100% effective? No. But this is an easy issue to rally behind and the $100 models will be distinctive from their commercial kin.

  • I haven't understood his strategy from the beginning: He wants the economies of scale, but he won't seel one to me and you, and he wants theft prevention by the shame of being seen with such a product. And the children are supposed to feel proud to carry them>

    And what's wrong with 'borrowing' a mail truck, anyway?

  • And if Every Geek (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nik Picker (40521) on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:43PM (#14367215) Homepage
    Sponsored at least one laptop .. how many more laptops could be paid for ?

    I wrote to them asking where I could send $100 to sponsor the creation of the laptop.. I was automailed a response.

    im still waiting for a real person from their group to answer my question .
    • Re:And if Every Geek (Score:3, Interesting)

      by grcumb (781340)

      "I wrote to them asking where I could send $100 to sponsor the creation of the laptop.. I was automailed a response."

      While you're waiting, why not consider supporting other IT-related work that's changing lives in the developing world? Take a look at the GeekCorps [geekcorps.org], a volunteer sending agency that specialises in short-term volunteer work in the developing world. I find their Mali Project [geekcorps.org], where they're building a nationwide wireless network for peanuts, especially interesting. I'm on their mailing list, an

  • The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) hand crank.
    Surly it would have been better to have a usb foot operated pedal for the wind-up power so you don't have to remove a hand to charge it back up, this will end up being a job for little brothers/sisters.

    Love it.
  • Once kids get the cheap laptop, book manufacturers are going to take a stance so they can sell E-books to the kids. And other software manufacturers will look in how they can come to the education front when kids are using computers instead of books.
  • I just searched all responses and was astonished to find only two promoting books as an alternative.

    As near as I can figure out from 15 min. of googling, books cost about $2 to print. And I suspect that's high if you're talking about a print run of 10 million, and can tolerate pulp paper.

    With a little care, even crappy pulp paperbacks last decades. That automatically means these are several times cheaper than the laptops even if you bought each kid the full $100 worth of books, because the laptops aren't
  • You all seem to assume they are going to use these laptops for surfing ?
    Getting fast Internet anywhere besides North America, Europe or Far East is almost impossible. Are they going to use one dial-up connection for the whole class ? That is, if school has a phone line ... or electricity.
  • I realize most /.'ers have no training in education, so let me...um...educate you.

    This is not about creating a utopia, feeding the hungry, etc. Most of the anti-$100-laptop posts here focus on those red herrings.

    Bottom line, this is about the digital divide. The internet provides access to more information than has ever been collectd in the history of humankind (wiki, etc). Right now, only those with a certain level of wealth have ready access to the internet. Now, don't you say 'they can go the library
  • "-- and the more countries that join the bandwagon, the sleeker and less expensive the computers are likely to be."

    Sounds like: "and the more countries that join the bandwagon, democracy will provide us a better/sleeker world".

    or even...

    "and the more countries that join the bandwagon, energy will be cheaper for all".

    Same paradigm, obivously hasn't worked to date. Move along Nicholas...

    Though last MITEF I attended, he was enteraining with his cynicism on the current politicians.

  • Where is the presentation software and the course-ware coming from?

    Just because it's Open-Source, that's not the same as being able to wave a magic wand, while saying "Abracadabra" to make the educational content suddenly appear. It takes skill and time, both by the truckload, to create effective teaching material.

    Where is the training for the teachers coming from?

    If my experience with teachers is anything to go by, computers are an absolute anathema. If this exercise is going to work, a great deal of c

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