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Negroponte Responds to $100 Laptop Criticisms 586

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-machines dept.
teefaf writes "Wired News is running an article on the most recent developments surrounding Nicholas Negroponte's (of MIT) $100 laptop project. The project aims to make 'cheap' computers available to children in developing countries. In the article, Negroponte responds to the inevitable criticism from Intel and Microsoft, "When you have both Intel and Microsoft on your case, you know you're doing something right", and elaborates on his vision for the future of the project, "He also said the display and other specifications could change as enhancements are made. In other words, he seemed to be saying to his critics: Don't get too hung up on how this thing operates now, 'The hundred-dollar laptop is an education project,' he said. 'It's not a laptop project.'". The article also states that the initial production cost of the laptops is expected to be $135; the $100 price-point probably won't be hit until 2008. It's possible that the cost could drop as low as $50 by 2010."
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Negroponte Responds to $100 Laptop Criticisms

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  • god (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:47PM (#15062998) Journal
    I think Bill Gates has a lot of nerve to critisize a project designed to help children and educate poor people in villages to do alot of great things.

    What exactly has he done to spread technology?

    Oh, thats right the project competes with their own Orgami sub $1000 thingie.

    Sorry Bill but I dont give a damn about the price of your stocks or your selfishness
  • by mhollis (727905) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:50PM (#15063013) Journal

    Everyone is very quick to speak ill of Negroponte's efforts here which are all about building a project that works and places computers onto the desks (or laps) of the "have-nots." Based on what I have read of the man he's an original thinker and very creative.

    Usually, the entrenched tend to be very frightened of those types.

  • by ezavada (91752) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:50PM (#15063016)
    I thought the most interesting thing about this was Negroponte saying "The hundred-dollar laptop is an educaton project. It's not a laptop project."

    Given that, it hardly matters what OS it runs, as long as school systems, educators, and students have the ability to write and run the educational software they need on it.

    IMHO, the real value of a machine like this in a students hands (especially if they are taught programming) is that they learn problem solving, not just information.
  • Why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:51PM (#15063020)
    skeptics have questioned whether the device can meet Negroponte's goal of inspiring huge educational gains

    Why do skeptics decide? Of what value is the opinion of a skeptic? Why do people listen to skeptics at all? Offer something constructive, or SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    "Geez, so why criticize me in public?" Negroponte said.

    Good question. Why everyone isn't on this guy's side is beyond me.

    Microsoft did not immediately return calls for comment.

    Wait, wait. Let me guess. A meeting! Right?!?!

    In time, Negroponte expects the $100 laptop to be a misnomer. For one thing, he believes the cost -- which is actually about $135 now and isn't expected to hit $100 until 2008 -- can drop to $50 by 2010 as more and more are produced.

    This man should be given a standing ovation everywhere he goes. Anyone who criticizes him should be ashamed of themselves and their companies. This is a worthwhile, workable project, and it should be supported.

  • Linux (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MadUndergrad (950779) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:52PM (#15063025)
    If this project really takes off, it would be interesting to see if it gives Linux a foothold (dominant market share?) in developing countries. Ten years down the road we might see people in these countries sticking with Linux over Windows when they get a decent computer because that's what they grew up on. Surely this is the main reason Gates is pissed, that it could lose Microsoft the foothold in these developing markets.
  • 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.
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:58PM (#15063061) Journal
    THe sole reason why undeveloped countries stay that way is because of the large unproductive workforce that is uneducated.

    If Africans (just an example) learn basic computer skills and children use education programs and can learn and connect with the rest of the world and be better informed the result would be tremendous!

    Many employers could then setup shops and hire people. One of the reasons India is hot and Sudan is not is because the Indians speak English and are more educated then the Sudanesse.

    Computer skills are essential and its silly in the US because any kid knows how ot use a computer but back in the mid 80's here in the first world, it was serious a problem with training. Not everyone knew how to be productive with a spreadsheet for example.
  • by qortra (591818) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:59PM (#15063066)
    This project is designed to benefit countries as a whole. Some countries have populations with no high-level skills. By providing these cheap laptops (along with a wireless infrastructure) to their citizens, they can prepare them for more high-level work, which will attract business, which will create jobs, which will put bread on the table.

    Ergo, $100 laptops will [indirectly] put bread on the tables of those who need it.
  • I want ONE! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tgraupmann (679996) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:02PM (#15063081)
    Where can I get a crank for my laptop? I'd buy just the crank if it could recharge the battery.
  • Re:god (Score:4, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:03PM (#15063091)
    I can't believe Bill Gates' comments regarding the sub $100 laptop. It just proves that all his donations to charity from his huge coffers don't really come from his geniune desire to help people in need, but rather to glorify himself.

    Or, just maybe, he thinks fightng AIDS among Africa's orphaned kids fills a tad more urgent need than MITS phantom $100 laptop.

  • by periol (767926) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:06PM (#15063100) Homepage
    In 1990 I was given an old x86 machine that ran DOS off of floppy, and then Word off of floppy. I took to that computer immediately, and 17 years later, after many different jobs, I work in IT. Without that x86, I wouldn't have pushed my parents to get me a 486 for my birthday, or tried to get a job at the college helpdesk before I arrived at college. Maybe I would have still ended up here, but I doubt it. Putting a computer in the hands of a child can be a powerful thing.

    Why knock it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:10PM (#15063109)
    It reminds me of a picture I saw in a sociology book that showed half a dozen people crowded around a T.V., and all of them were poorly clothed, and they were sitting on a dirt floor.

    They talked to the leader of the village and he said how people told him how television was going to bring the village knowledge and information (the weather for example), but now all everyone does with any spare time is sit in front of the T.V. and watch shows (sit-coms).

    So, how long before these lap-top users hit /.?

    I don't even think it's worth it anymore trying to apply any critical thinking to this laptop situation, at least not here. You'll either be modded down, or be bombarded with the responses of karma whores. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP THE POOR! IT BRINGS KNOWLEDGE SO YOU CAN TRADE PRICES WITHOUT HAVING TO TRAVEL! YOU CAN SEE THE WEATHER!

    T.V. can do a lot of things, though no dynamically, that these laptops can do. So can radio. But they don't. And before someone goes off saying about how I can't compare T.V. and radio to the vast expansive future that the internet offers, consider this.

    Radio. How long before this turned to shit? T.V. How long before this turned to shit?
    Internet? It's shit.

    But whatever, I guess Negroponte can do whatever the hell he wants, and spend money he raises anyway he wants, the same as some guy with eleven houses and 12 hummers is free to.

    Either way, when it comes down to it, it's not really under our control anyway.
  • Re:god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shobadobs (264600) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:13PM (#15063124)
    and how many governments he's lied to

    As if lying to governments were a bad thing.
  • Publicity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:14PM (#15063129) Homepage Journal
    It is just me, or does it seem that this project is much more interested in publicity than in actually producing cheap computers? If it were all about cheap computers for poor nations, just publish the specs and be done with it. Or just collect and ship used throwaway computers overseas. Instead I get the sense that more effort is being spent promoting Negroponte as a wonderful humanitarian than is being spent actually helping the poor.
  • Re:god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Viking Coder (102287) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:15PM (#15063131)
    How do you fight AIDS in Africa, with a sub-machine gun?

    No, you fight it with education. "The hundred dollar laptop is an education project." I'm watching this program on PBS talking about AIDS in Africa, and this doctor is explaining the birds and the bees to this 19-year old kid who has just infected his wife, because he used to have unprotected sex with prostitutes while he was off fighting a war for his country (from the time he was 14). The kid had no idea how AIDS was spread.
  • by The Warlock (701535) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:18PM (#15063153)
    Well, it's not like it's running from straight ROM. It has a gig or two of flash space. A hard drive would be too fragile for the conditions this thing is built to endure.

    Sidenote: If they throw a single USB port on that thing, I'll buy one in the US for whatever they'll sell them to us at (probably roughly $250).
  • by Null Nihils (965047) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:24PM (#15063192) Journal
    Let me get this straight... this laptop is $100, can be manufactured, distributed, and purchased by huge numbers of impressionable, ingenious young people, can form a mesh network with its peers, and comes with a variety of useful F/OSS software.

    So when the kid grows up, and maybe due to his computer fluency perhaps starts living in a "higher" society that uses MS software, overpriced "Extreme Edition" hardware, and ISP's that want to rape their customers and extort service providers while providing service an order of magnitude poorer than can be found in places like Japan... well, perhaps this person will be less inclined to even think of putting up with this crap?

    ...I think this laptop idea is brilliant.
  • Re:Why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:25PM (#15063205)

    Why do people listen to skeptics at all? Offer something constructive, or SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    Believe it or not, not everything is a good idea. Despite what you have been taught in school, trying hard isn't good enough. It has to actually accomplish something!

    As such, questioning whether this will further their stated aims is perfectly appropriate and useful. Negative feedback is not intrinsically bad unless you have a severe case of crybabyosity. It's not the world's job to pat you on the back for every stupid idea you have, even if your intentions are good.

    I'm sorry, but I can't stand people who think that doing something is intrinsically good in itself, whether or not that something is actually useful. It's not. Some things are just fucking stupid ideas that should be buried.

    Not that my personal opinion is that this is a stupid idea, just that your attitude is a prime example of fuckwittery at its worst.

  • by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:26PM (#15063209) Homepage
    "First, they ignore you.

    Then they laugh at you.

    Then they fight you.

    Then you win."

    It appears that we are currently transitioning from 2 to 3.
  • by Hellboy0101 (680494) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:29PM (#15063221)
    While in theory, I wholeheartedly support this, in practice, this could have some unintended negative consequences. One aspect of this that is often overlooked, is whether or not these laptops will be used at all. Remember, $100 in the US (and many other countries) is very cheap. In the countries that this is intended for, it's a lot. Perhaps even several months wages. When you are looking at not being able to feed yourself or your family, that laptop will most likely become a bartering tool, or sold outright to get food on the table. Taking it a step further, you may even see people losing their lives over this. In some under-developed countries, it's nothing to take someone's life over something worth a small fraction of the value of these laptops.
  • Ego, Ego, Ego (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tinkertim (918832) * on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:35PM (#15063265) Homepage
    Gates doesn't have a problem with a sub $100 laptop. His problem is that someone other than Microsoft will receive the praise associated with it.

    As Microsoft continues to trip over their dicks geting VISTA out the door, I for one am glad these kids will get these laptops prior to becoming senior citizens.

    I'd like to take a minute to remind everyone that there are areas in the US that aren't much better off than the third world, and could benefit from devices similar to this. Here's a parts list if you'd like to try your hand at constructing one :

    P III ULV Single Board Computer with 10/100 NIC, USB and I/O riser for IDE and LCD : $65 , these usually come with a power supply.

    128 MB SODIMM $30

    Linux (free)

    LCD : $10 - $15 depending on what you can find on e-bay.

    Enclosure : You can use almost anything you want thats non conductive. Get creative.

    Throw in a small travelstar drive , keyboard and mouse and you're slightly above the $100 limit, however only by $20 or so. Still much cheaper than conventional. Easy to build.

    If you are an educator, you may consider having some of your kids strive to build a project similar to the one featured in this article. I'd love to see Gates go after an army of 12 year olds. Start a pen pal program to go along with it and send their creations where they are needed.. be it Indonesia or Kentucky.

    Teach kids to enrich culture, compassion and not (always) their wallets so we limit the amount of future 'Gates' produced.

    Is he trying to piss off the world? Or just so self absorbed he doesn't notice he's doing it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:41PM (#15063292)
    A few more years and economies of scale, the Nintendo DS will be the $100 PC. Just add a $6 usb keyboard and tweek the lcd to a fullsized 640x480.

    Plus you'll be able to play mario cart ds over wifi. Sorry to say but all these mit/benevolent groups have already lost the race.
  • Or in other words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aCapitalist (552761) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:45PM (#15063306)
    Microsoft and/or Intel have no right to criticize because they are Microsoft and/or Intel and we are doing this for "poor children", and we're using open source and we know that open source is great and it doesn't matter what the outcome is because as long as it "feels good" to us MITers and as long as its open source and....
  • Re:Why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:03PM (#15063400)
    Throughout the History of Humanity, $100 laptops have not been neccesary for education. The best way to educate people who are utterly clueless is to provide competent teachers. Who the hell is going to teach these kids to use the laptop? Who's going to troubleshoot it? My kid sister lives in a first world country with full access to schooling, the internet, and books, and she STILL needs me to fix anything that goes wrong with the computer. I shudder to think what would happen if you gave her a hand-cranked laptop running linux.

    On the other hand $100 can print a heck of a lot of books. Books which don't break, don't require training or maintanance, and don't need to be cranked to function. Still not a replacement for competent teachers, but it's a hell of a lot better than this laptop.

    With all of that said, I'd gladly shell out $100 just to use this thing as an e-book reader :) Just ditch the hand crank dammit.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:04PM (#15063404) Homepage
    The action in third world countries seems to be in adding features to cell phones, not trimming down PCs. A cell phone is inherently useful; you can make calls. Adding on extra features doesn't run the manufacturing cost up all that much. The niche Negroponte sees will probably be filled by some cell phone based product that looks like a Blackberry or a Game Boy or a Palm Pilot.
  • Re:Publicity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:06PM (#15063412) Homepage Journal
    f it were all about cheap computers for poor nations, just publish the specs and be done with it. Or just collect and ship used throwaway computers overseas.

    The point, as Negorponte said, is that this is an educational project, not a project about cheap computers. If the aim was just to throw a random lump of computer hardware in front of a kid in the thrid world then indeed used computers would be fine. The project is trying to do more than that however, and that means more effort needs to be spent on the design. The laptop needs to be incredibly robust and durable, otherwise they'll just get broken immediately. It needs to have low power modes, and the ability to be hand-powered because the reality is that electricity is at best intermittent in many parts of the world where they hope to distribute these. It needs to have its own system for automatically generating its own network on the fly with all the other laptops because many parts of the world don't happen to have free WiFi access. There are a hundred other such constraints and requirements, all of which require special engineering. The point is not to give kids cheap computers, the point is to give them cheap devices that are designed from the get go for the express purpose of being as useful as possible in educating children in third world countries. That means you need more than some second-hand Dell.

    Jedidiah.
  • by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:10PM (#15063436) Homepage Journal
    Why do these countries need a widespread distribution of $100 computers?

    It's aiming to be more than just a laptop, it is being designed for the express purpose of being an ideal educational tool for children in third world countries. Haven't you ever read "The Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson? Think of it as our primitive version of "The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" based on the technology we have available at our disposal currently. That sounds like a worthy goal to me.

    Jedidiah.
  • Gates not all bad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by opencity (582224) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:10PM (#15063437) Homepage
    Gates once stood up at a do-gooder tech conference (saving Africa with wifi or some such) and said: These people don't need computers, they need security, clean water and medicine. Bash Gates and MS for their ugly tech all you want, and I do, but he ponies up cash for real health problems. I honestly doupt MS is worried about market share in the Sudan.

    Flame away, I can take it.
  • Re:god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tyr_7BE (461429) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:12PM (#15063444)
    What exactly has he done to spread technology?

    Well, there's that whole "computer in every home in America" deal.
  • Re:god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by at_slashdot (674436) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:17PM (#15063467)
    Now... do you picture a guy who fights in a war will use a laptop to learn about AIDS, he's either going to sell it or at most use it for prn (assuming that he finds a networks somewhere or the laptop has a DVD bay).

    Giving pens to people who bear arms is not going to turn them into poets especially if they don't know how to read and write.
  • by Ruie (30480) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:21PM (#15063482) Homepage
    Even if they stuffed a PII 400 mhz and had a 12" screen, it would be very usefull.

    This is an excellent point.

    When I was doing undergrad in Moscow I had two friends whose specialization was hydrodynamics.

    Obviously they needed to write and run some code, but computer time was hard to come by. So they put their savings together and bought an IBM XT clone for $5. It was that cheap because at that time 386 were already low end. That XT machine was still very useful - and all theirs.

    In a similar fashion, what Negroponte is going after is not performance but capability - a device that has a screen, a keyboard, some processing unit and a wireless card makes a whole lot of difference versus the absence of such device.

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:36PM (#15063552) Homepage
    To be fair, there's also some compelling economic policy reasons for the poverty situation. Take Zimbabwe. They decided to go ahead with this massive land redistribution program, kicking the white people off their spacious farms and redistributing the land to blacks. A noble endeavour? Perhaps in theory. But now they're stuck with an inflation rate of 600% or so and massive starvation.

    Other African countries have... well, few things so extreme, but sometimes they have things to prevent their population from being "exploited". And it may just be that a little exploitation is the price of economic success. I have a random column on the matter of Africa [townhall.com] by some award-winning economist if you care for a peek.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:47PM (#15063602)
    They are making a laptop that will cost $100, and perhaps $50 by 2010. Who cares about the specs, it will not be a buisness machine.

    No, it will be an excellent business machine. Writing documents, doing spreadsheets, inventory, email. We used to do that on 286s 10 years ago. That's 98% of what most small businesses use a PC for. And there are lots of more specialised apps on SourceForge, they can probably use DOS apps under emulation, and with millions of these machines around there will be a demand and market for more to be created. That's what Gates is afraid of, a whole world of non-MS software.

  • by Sathias (884801) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:53PM (#15063622)
    So is this targetted at the poor, but not poor enough that they actually have electricity? I was under the impression that the main issue affecting the poorest people of the world is the real basics, like food and water. Only on /. could the critical problem of world poverty be brought down to a windows vs linux argument.
  • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tehdaemon (753808) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:55PM (#15063632)
    " Good question. Why everyone isn't on this guy's side is beyond me

    Because some people think there are more important things, like curing/controlling AIDS, building infrastructure, and enabling access to clean water. "

    That explains why they are not helping him, but it does not explain why they are opposing him. And they are opposing him.

  • Re:god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by I_redwolf (51890) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:03AM (#15063658) Homepage Journal
    Hi. don't you see a little problem with the fact that he was off fighting a war for his country (from the time he was 14)? Maybe he would of had more time to learn about AIDS had he not been packing mags, slinging rounds?

    Bet he knows alot more about an AK or AR than you. So yes, he probably had no idea how AIDS was spread but he knows he can shoot an AK clear for 4-5 mags without jams or barrel sieze. So with that said, how is a $100 dollar laptop going to help him? Do you think he's going to magically look up AIDS and how it's spread?

    Ignorance is the problem, sure.. education can help. The laptop isn't going to cure ignorance. I'm sure, a laptop wasn't used in communicating to him how the spread of AIDS occurs. +5 Insightful my ass.

    Surely, you're educated enough to come to your own conclusion.
  • by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:32AM (#15063768) Homepage Journal

    "Remember, $100 in the US (and many other countries) is very cheap. In the countries that this is intended for, it's a lot. Perhaps even several months wages. When you are looking at not being able to feed yourself or your family, that laptop will most likely become a bartering tool, or sold outright to get food on the table."

    As others have already pointed out (albeit somewhat misguidedly), when you're worrying about satisfying one of Maslov's basic needs, you're probably not in school anyway.

    But take another look at the countries where these computers are destined for first use. None of them appear on the UN's list of Least Developed Countries. Almost all of them have a fairly well-developed (if uneven) educational system, and while deepest poverty does exist in some (if not all) of those nations, they also feature a large majority who are doing okay in day-to-day terms, but who have few opportunities for self-advancement. Until the laptop arrives, that is.

    My experience in development is not as extensive as some people's, but I do work on technology-related projects in the developing world. I live in the community (rather than in an expat haven), and have found that people care a great deal about education, and see its value very clearly indeed. The majority of parents I've encountered are willing to go to great lengths - indeed, forego a great many things - in order to improve their children's lot in life. While every society maintains its quota of greedy, selfish and violently anti-social behaviour, it's always the exception rather than the rule. So while I agree that you have a point, I suspect that in practice its effect will be limited.

    Furthermore, if these laptops really will be ubiquitous (which IME should not be assumed until they're actually delivered), then their individual value will go down, likely to a point where they have more value as a possession than as an exchange item. As I mentioned, there will always be desperate parents who would gamble away the children's shoes, but they're not as common as you might think.

  • Oh, please. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:43AM (#15063816) Homepage Journal
    Wait a second there ... now, I'm willing to give Gates credit where credit's due, particularly in terms of being a shrewd (one might say ruthless) businessman, but I think it's totally out of line to just hand him credit for the PC revolution. Anybody who believes that is either seriously misguided, or getting a paycheck from Redmond, or both.

    If IBM had gone with a different company to make an OS for its computers, nobody would have ever heard of Bill Gates or Microsoft, 90% of the world would be running some other operating system, and we'd still have computers on our desks. In fact, if you wanted to find a single company to give the majority of the credit to, I'd say Compaq is probably the most deserving, for reverse-engineering the IBM BIOS and producing the first clones, thus breaking IBM's pricing structure.

    Really I think the only credit you can give Microsoft and Windows is for driving a very rapid hardware upgrade cycle over the last decade; this created sales volumes which led to economies of scale in the past few years which have kept the price of computer hardware on an ever-decreasing spiral.

    I don't think there's anything that Microsoft did that you can't argue would have happened anyway, had they never existed or had IBM adopted a different OS. And frankly I can think of several scenarios which might have resulted in better outcomes for the average PC owner than the current one.

    On the other hand, maybe you were just trolling.
  • by bfwebster (90513) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:49AM (#15063844) Homepage
    I lived in Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama) for two years, back in 1972-74. The literacy rate in Honduras and Nicaragua at that time was around 25-30%; there were no public schools; still, most people had electricity and a significant number had telephones. I knew lots of bright kids and young adults who would have benefitted tremendously from something like the $100 laptop. Using the US consumer price index as a crude measure of purchasing power, a current (2006) $100 laptop would be a $25 laptop back then--and lots of families I knew could have afforded that (and would have leapt at the opportunity).

    Interestingly enough, the literacy rate in neighboring Costa Rica at that time was something over 95%, higher than even in the US. The people were well educated, but (compared to the US) poor. I can argue that they would benefit even more from the $100 laptop.

    Several posters here seem stuck on a image of giving these laptops to Masai tribes in unelectrified Kenyan backcountry. The potential market for such laptops is global; there are many millions of people who live in countries with the requisite electric infrastructure, who could eke out $100 for one of these laptops, and who could benefit thereby due to poor educational opportunities in their countries. ..bruce..

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:52AM (#15063864) Homepage
    You're 25 miles from an electrical outlet. You don't have a car and the bus doesn't come by for two more days. Your powerbook battery just died.

    Which computer is more useful? Your shiny $2000 powerbook, or the $100 computer that can be charged with a hand crank?

    Pretty obvious if you think about it.
  • by AiZ (595385) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:52AM (#15063866)
    We, the people who live in those needy countries do not need cheap computers.
    Thank you Nicholas, but we need some other stuff first if you guys want to help us. And our governments are so stupid that they will buy these computers for our people instead of using that money to address some other issues.

    The will is ok, but it will end up doing us worse.

    In my country (Argentina) all those computers will end up in wrong hands. We dont need computers for education; it seems that americans believe that are helping the world, but from this side of the counter it is all different.

    Countries dont need to be invaded to get help... not with your armies, not with your patents, not with your companies that take full advantage of our corrupt governments (as this project)... It is our fault, but please stop "helping" us in those ways because it harms people seriously.

    Your banks lend money to our govs, that money goes somewhere else, no-one controls that seriously and we all end up paying that "help" and nobody gets anything.

    Nicholas, if you want to help then travel to our country and do something punctual. But SKIP governments; or else you will be feeding corruption and you will never know.

    Regards,
    AiZ
  • by prakslash (681585) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:11AM (#15063944)
    Putting a computer in the hands of a child can be a powerful thing.

    umm.. actually..

    Putting a computer in the hands of a nerd can be a powerful thing.

    I am sure if the said computer was given to Chuck Norris as a child, the computer would have ended up as a totally shattered thing.

  • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:11AM (#15063946) Homepage Journal
    The laptop is going to be distributed for free by governments and NGOs.

    That's the one part of this plan that I have the most serious reservations about.

    Here's what I think is likely to happen. Plane full of laptops is unloaded at airfield in Uganda. Negroponte gets photo op, handing first unit to smiling child. Technology companies, computer users, all get warm fuzzy feeling.

    Cameras go off, Negroponte and cadre go home. Ugandan government officials come out, confiscate laptops, load into trucks, take to black-market smuggler, trade for AK-47s. Laptops go in shipping container, shipped to India where workers in sweatshops file serial numbers off, then to LA where they get sold in stores and via eBay for $125. Ugandan goverment officials draft children into Army, give each one an AK-47.

    Net result: African children get guns, Americans get warm fuzzy feeling and cheap black-market technology.
  • by OneFix (18661) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:31AM (#15064014)
    And you bring up a good opportunity for sales of the machine...business machines for companies in developing countries...and how much more likely would they be to buy one if they knew that for every laptop they bought, they would be helping to pay for the children down the road to get laptops for school??? It certainly looks good on a local level...not to mention the infrastructure that will probably shoot up overnight to support/upgrade these new laptops...

    Dell may not have a service center close by, but an enterprising school that has been issued these could easily open their repair shop to local businesses (for a fee of course)...
  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:11AM (#15064131)
    " Maybe it was cool to you, but most kids in your class thought it was lame"

    No, actually most kids in my school _did not have computers_ at all! Like I said, you weren't there. You're not old enough to witness the transformation from _not_ having computers to _having_ them. Even the lowest powered machine, something on the order of a Kaypro luggable (talk about rugged!) suitcase computer can give culture shock.

    "but solving this other problem would be even better!"

    It would! Give them teachers, books, literacy, and a stable society and the rest will take care of itself. You'll then _get_ electricity for things like refrigeration (ooh!) for food and drugs, and to be able to power, of all things, computers.

    "It will have much longer range transmission than regular WiFi"

    It will? Where does it say that? It takes electricity to drive radio waves, there, and the more distance needed to communicate, the more power you need.

    "The laptop is going to be distributed for free by governments and NGOs"

    Hahahahahah!

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401352014/102-73 62304-2355308?v=glance&n=283155 [amazon.com]

    Read that. Then get back to me when you have a clue.

    --
    BMO
  • Re:Why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:22AM (#15064158)
    "Now, teachers will be assisted by those computers, so they will be able to educate much more children than without."

    Prove it. Show me any study that has shown that computers in the classroom improve literacy. People become literate by reading and writing. The more one does of both, the more one becomes literate. People don't need computers for this, and quite frankly, have done quite well without computers for millennia. In the United States, we have no shortage of computers, yet we have a pretty bad literacy problem here.

    To butcher Betty Freidan: Literacy needs computers like a fish needs a bicycle.

    --
    BMO
  • Cell phones are more expensive. Obviously smaller techn is always going to be more expensive. Cell phones don't have decent keyboards and they don't have a decent screen size.

    Cell phone are not even programable so they're pretty much useless from a programing perspective. (Kind of obvious I guess, but you asked).

  • by windborne (700592) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:37AM (#15064381)
    Wow, that's probably the most cynical thing I've ever heard. Someone got up on the wrong foot this morning...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:39AM (#15064384)
    Corrupt governments are generally allowed to survive for two reasons. The first is weaponry - that's the obvious one. This problem is basically unsolvable. You could try arming everyone (that's just a recipe for disaster), or you could try invading the country in question. But anything you can try will result in a bloodbath.

    The second is an uneducated population. If the population is uneducated, it's not going to be able to do anything much to stop you, assuming they even realise that there's something wrong, and that they could possibly do something about it. That's why most corrupt governments try to replace legitimate education with indoctrination and propaganda, and the more corrupt the government becomes, the more they try to keep the population stupid.

    Frankly, attempting to educate people (and teaching them to think for themselves) is far more important in the long run. You can try propping them up all you want, but if they don't know how to stand up for themselves, they're just going to drop right back down again as soon as you leave.

    At least medieval peasants, while uneducated by modern first-world standards, knew how to grow their own food, and all the other stuff they needed to know to actually survive. Most people in poor African countries can't even do that - they don't know how to grow their own food (and that's bloody hard to do out there), they know nothing about diseases and how they spread, they don't know how to tell what water is safe to drink, or how to make it safe to drink, and so on. The result is that, between the population being totally ignorant, and the government being highly corrupt and heavily armed, the entire country is a desolate wasteland, easily preventable diseases are pretty much pandemic, there's massive starvation, overpopulation, and all that other bad stuff.

    These MIT guys can't wave a magic want and solve all the problems in every country around the world. They can't force governments to be fair and equitable. They can't magically feed everyone. They don't have billions of dollars to blow on trying to throw food and medicines at developing countries, which is largely a waste of time if the underlying problems are not solved. What they can do is try to help a bit, by providing some people with tools they can potentially use to educate themselves. There is literally NOTHING ELSE they can possibly do.
  • "do-gooder" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:50AM (#15064415)
    Gates once stood up at a do-gooder tech conference
    Anyone who uses the word "do-gooder" in an unironic fashion is a fuckwit. No ifs, no buts.
  • by bstoneaz (661994) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:10AM (#15064466)
    He's holding pro-education banners to mask the fact that this is a non-profit cash cow for his darling media lab. Having experience in high volume manufacturing and design in this area, I totally agree optimized systems can be knocked down in price, but they are pitching a way to rosy picture to everyone with respect to features, schedule, and cost. The original releases were saying volume in 2006 targeting $100. Notice how the cost is now listed as 'actually $135', less than $100 in 2008, and the magic crank dropped? Well wait and see cost goes up and features get dropped or schedules get pushed. He's a master at vision and hype, and likely a master of getting away from the fan before reality hits it.
  • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:13AM (#15064475) Homepage Journal
    We, the people who live in those needy countries do not need cheap computers.

    Who elected you spokesperson of a couple of billion people?

  • by gjuk (940514) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @05:21AM (#15064642)
    One of the greatest drivers of economic development across Africa is the mobile phone. It's done more for development than almost any number of international agencies. The mobile phone has enabled people to find out what's happening in other parts of their country, or other parts of the world, without having to go there. It enables farmers to find out what prices are in markets, or traders to find stock. It's even allowed millions of kids to set up their own telecoms businesses, with phone booths providing affordable calls to local people. Affordable computers will enable similar progress. Not everyone needs one - although you'll be surprised how many people will be able to scrimp, save and trade. But many communities will, in one way or another, get one. Typical ingenuity will enable people to do all kinds of things we won't anticipate. Allowing them the freedom to share, innovate, discover and get entrepreneurial will drive incomes up and improve democracy. So much better than the usual well-meaning but ineffectual direct attempts to improve lives in developing countries.
  • Re:god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Floody (153869) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @05:36AM (#15064679)
    Come on, what more education do you need than "don't shoot up drugs with strangers and don't have sex with them"


    What an incredibly simplistic, narrow and ignorant viewpoint.

    The problems Africa has are unrelated to education and more in line with corrupt politicians and warlords. A $100 laptop ain't gonna solve that one bit, no matter if the poor kids there can now blog about how crappy their lives are.


    The challanges facing emerging third-world nations are very much rooted in education (or lack-there-of). Anachronistic feudal systems are a symptom, not a cause.

    When one's only knowledge of issues like disease and sexuality comes from an oral tradition that is lacking in causality-based logic, being told "don't shoot up drugs with strangers and don't have sex with them" is going to be completely meaningless; especially if one's heard such gems as "having sex with a virgin will cure you of X disease" from your peers for most of your life. In order to understand and incorporate the importance of "don't have sex with strangers", one first needs to understand what can happen when this rule is broken and why/how it happens.

    This means teaching, at a minimum, the basis of critical thinking; e.g. causality. In developed societies, east or west, causality is taught almost from birth (whether explicitly or implicitly); and it is often assumed that causality-reasoning is a "built-in" human feature. This is very much not true, and has not been the majority-case until relatively recent history. Such knowledge comes no more naturally or automatically to man than it does to your dog. The difference is that humans have the physiological capability to significantly extend and modify their reasoning abilities, while rover is somewhat limited in this capacity.
  • Re:Oh Please (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Oldsmobile (930596) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @06:10AM (#15064787) Journal
    For the one-hunderth-time! These laptops are NOT for people who are goig hungry or living in a tent in some barren wasteland. You go to any village in China, and you can see what Negroponte etc. are talking about. People who farm, who have gone to schools and are already educated, but don't really make a whole lot of cash. People who would otherwise be left out in the cold as far as a higher education goes.

    THOSE are the people who would benefit from these laptops! Oh, I forgot, you gringos don't know a damn thing about the world, as the only thing you know you get from CNN. To you, the rest of the world is a bunch of Somalians living under a tent in some dry field. Well how about using some of that cash of yours and go out and visit the world. And I'm not talking about getting drunk in a Cancun hotel room.

    Infact, alot of the people working in hotels in poor countries could really use a laptop, but can't afford one. They already have an income and plenty of food, would they sell it for food?
  • Re:Publicity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dekortage (697532) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:51AM (#15065061) Homepage

    someone is out-charitying him

    You're kidding, right? You think a $100 laptop project -- working with $29 million dollars donated by some tech companies -- has surpassed the Gates Foundation's $10 billion in donations [gatesfoundation.org] to nonprofits (particularly to solve health issues in Third World countries)? Try working in the international nonprofit sector for awhile, you'll start getting ticked at Negroponte too. These kids needs nutrition, vaccines, and education. A laptop might help with the latter, but good teachers, clinics, and/or radio networks would solve this problem MUCH MORE CHEAPLY.

    Negroponte is a visionary, and I like him a lot, but in this case he is using a chainsaw to hammer a nail.

  • by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:20AM (#15065584) Homepage Journal

    In fact, I'm willing to agree with a post somewhere above you and say, if this laptop costs $100 to a developing country poor person, I'm willing to pay $200 for it here, to get myself a $100 laptop AND get someone else a $100 laptop. Absolutely. I mean, I'll get a cheap laptop, someone else will get a free one, and the world is a slightly better place.

    ~Will
  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:34AM (#15065682) Homepage Journal

    We, the people who live in those needy countries do not need cheap computers... In my country (Argentina)

    Sorry AiZ, but your country isn't the sort that Negroponte is targeting. Argentina's had a very rough time economically over the past few years, but compared to much of the world you're quite wealthy, and your country already has a well-educated populace with a very high literacy rate (slightly higher than the US, actually).

    So why don't you let the people who are the targets of this effort speak for themselves?

    Countries dont need to be invaded to get help... not with your companies that take full advantage of our corrupt governments (as this project)

    Whoah, whoah, just how is this project considered a company taking advantage of anyone? These devices are going to be built below cost, subsidized by donations. No one's going to be making a profit (other than, possibly, some Asian manufacturer), so where's the advantage? Now, it's possible that the effort is misguided and there's no *benefit* to the recipients (I don't believe that, but it's possible), but that's completely different from saying that the people doing this are taking advantage.

    Nicholas, if you want to help then travel to our country and do something punctual.

    I'm not criticizing your English, AiZ -- it's generally excellent -- but I think what you mean to say would be better expressed as "do something appropriate". The Spanish word "puntual" has a meaning that the English "punctual" lacks. "punctual" means "to be on time", nothing more. I often have the same problem in Spanish: words that English has adopted from Latin look and sound similar and have the same "core" meaning, but ancillary meanings often diverge.

    But SKIP governments; or else you will be feeding corruption and you will never know.

    I agree that in many parts of the world, governments are the worst possible distribution channel. Negroponte also knows this.

  • Re:Why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:05AM (#15066004)
    You can provide the teachers, but unless the taught have a reason to stay, they will just leave for where there is more opportunity. Then you have to provide teachers to the next generation.

    What you need to do is provide broad education, so that the local infrastructure can be built up. The $100 laptop project could do this, because it has a short range wireless connection. It would let children communicate with close neighbors. (would could communicate with neighbors not so close to the originator) When you get everyone working on a problem, (local) solutions will be found.

    Bazaars, not Cathedrals, will provide the most to the poor.
  • by DeathPenguin (449875) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @11:39AM (#15066976)
    Another noteworthy thing about this project is that it's going to be based on entirely free software. Free as in beer, and free as in speech, right down to the BIOS (LinuxBIOS [linuxbios.org] in this case). And seeing how LinuxBIOS + GNU/Linux breaks their dreams of controlling everyone's machine via "Trusted Computing" (Or whatever they're calling it these days) I doubt Intel and Microsoft are very fond of the deployment of this machine on a grand scale. Their own greed has caused them to be cut out of the picture like a cancer.

    OLPC is on the virge of doing what the fossils in these companies and in governments have only been able to talk about for the past several years--Bridge the digital divide. I'll bet the FSF [fsf.org] people are happy they can now have their 100% free software+firmware laptop, though maybe not in the form they were expecting it ;-)
  • by mozu (862682) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @11:46AM (#15067062)
    WiFi needs an infrastructure.

    This $100 laptop has in its design a way for it to work in a P2P fashion by acting as frame/packet/both forwarders. (Now will this cause signal loops?) To connect to places outside its pool all it needs is a single access point that acts as a router per school/village/block that connects to a copper wire. Though in this case I'm very worried about effects of constantly being exposed to source of radiation transmitting so close to the body.

    This $100 laptop would not work universally in all situations. Though I'm sure there will be places where something like this would be of much benefit.

    In my particular example poverty was caused by war and bad government. The telecoms expertise was definitely there. The copper wire trunk line infrastructure was there as well.

    Even if the infrastructure isn't there, maybe they can come up with ingenious ways to exchange information. For example by giving their memory cards to the to the teacher on his visit to the city and let him download information for them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @11:58AM (#15067220)
    In case anyone remembers, the Tandy 100 was the first "laptop" with a small black/white display and ability to run on AAA batteries for weeks. It had a 300 baud modem that could be used nearly anywhere (ears that would connect to a payphone). It was one of the last programs that Bill Gates worked on prior to becoming worth gadzillions.

    My cousin was a reporter for a US paper working in Central America and she one. She could write reports of the wars from nearly anywhere and send them back to her office. She didn't have to worry about 2 hours between charges, keeping the laptop overly safe in a $50 protected case, finding a power source, etc. She didn't have to worry about power or even having a hotel with a non-dirt floor. She could use just about any pay phone to send her reports back home.

    The bottom line, the T100 was a good, very low-power device that served a good purpose just about anywhere but didn't have much memory (hence no e-book, limited education software, etc.). Now 20 years later we have the $100 laptop. The world is ready for it and it is ideal for education: able to run graphical applications, serve as an e-book, support wireless networking, and not even need batteries or connecton to the mains because of its hand crank. The timing is right with wireless networking, the Internet, cheap but powerful hardware, good low-power hardware, etc.

    The downside is that it doesn't run Windows or have an Intel processor -- oops, as so many have mentioned on this thread, that is most likely Bill's objections.

    The main risks to the laptop are political (Microsoft and Intel, their lobbies, etc.), and cultural (will they sell it for food or guns).

    The non-industrialized world (and poorer parts of the industrialized world) need health care, clean water, food, communications, and education. A Jewish friend mentioned that during WWII, they could take your house, business, job, etc, but couldn't take your education, hence after the war many Jewish could rebuild -- they had the foundation. Edumacation and speling are very impotent.
  • Some points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr@teleb[ ].com ['ody' in gap]> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:49PM (#15067867) Homepage Journal
    Negroponte has I believe said IIRC from one of his presentations that as tech improves, the $100 pricepoint could be maintained but keep improving the machine. To me, this means that as an economy improves the machine will appear cheaper while becoming more powerful.

    People used to laugh at him about even being able to do it for $100, the key I think he had said was a $30 LCD. Looks like he did it.

    Consider there are perhaps the same number of geniuses (in literature, chemistry, particle physics, politics, whatever) born per million in population in the third world as in say the U.S.A. or other countries. The number of Nobels handed out would seem to speak more of the educational system. What if there is no way for geniuses to get more than grade school teaching?

    Imagine the same exact you was born in the third world. If you are a slashdot geek maybe you are a self-starter and just need the machine in your hands. Personally I used Pascal, 6502 Assembler and two flavors of Basic on my Apple ][ and it was great. But I was so frustrated having hear a whisper of something called the Internet (not public then) and being able to figure out how to reach it. Got stuck in BBSs and finally the Source (Compuserve). They were not really the gateways to knowledge I was trying to find but I used what I could get to. Screw politics and economic systems. Tell me you wouldn't want that machine. I used to dream of something called a Dynabook described in the World Book Encylopedia's Year Book, in which you could make a character move around using Smalltalk commands. I saw it in my sleep. Of course these kids need medicine and food, this assumes that is available for at least smart kids.

    I helped support a Cambodian school for children with no parents called Future Light. A friend who started it got Apple to donate a bunch of Macs, and it is growing perhaps the next generation of Cambodia's leaders, at least as that friend believes.

    A representative from Nigeria at a conference I remember said you cannot solve everything with IT - there is a problem finding firewood, and the worst problem is the brain drain from rural to the city. Maybe these machines would help support the rural populace too. Assume the smartest people you have ever met live in an economically disadvantaged locale. Are you telling me they couldn't do anything with a laptop like this which makes its own grid lan?
  • by ClamIAm (926466) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:53PM (#15068630)
    I think one thing a lot of people are not understanding is that people need help at all economic and social levels that are sub-standard. Sure, people who are starving can't afford this, and people who use their computers to play the latest 3D game won't want it. But it misses the point that there are people who do fit the profile this project will help. If I donate to a local food shelf, am I an idiot or heartless bastard because some of the people who receive services there aren't dirt-poor and on the brink of starvation? Of course not.

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