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Working Model of MIT $100 Laptop a Hit 440

Posted by timothy
from the encheapening dept.
capt turnpike writes "The One Laptop per Child association and its chairman, MIT Media Labs's Nicholas Negroponte, unvelied a working model of their $100 laptop at the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) show, and the little laptop that might was a hit. It's got a version of Fedora Linux, is rugged, and each unit will work as part of a wireless mesh automatically. From the article: "However, as Negroponte put it in his address, One Laptop per Child isn't all about the laptops. The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own, thus helping children help themselves to learn." eWEEK.com also has photos."
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Working Model of MIT $100 Laptop a Hit

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:01PM (#15496064)

    From Negroponte's address in TFA:
    "The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own, thus helping children help themselves to learn."

    Negroponte then went on to say:
    With this in mind, we won't be supplying any documentation for these laptops. Instead, we're going to make the children sift through MAN pages and beg for answers on various bulletin boards, where they will be ridiculed as clueless n00bs. Hey, it seems to work for the Linux community..."
    • So true.

      In all seriousness, these kids should not have been given linux.

      They should be given the choice between windows (for that Real World Experience [tm]) or OS X (for the prettiness).

      I mean why pretend that ending developing nations software dependance on the west is a good thing?

      (winkie, smiley, etc for the humour impaired)
      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <SatanicpuppyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @02:19PM (#15496807) Journal
        True enough. Teaching millions of kids to run linux, with all those programming tools right there and available, in an environment where you can get the source and piddle with it any time you want, is bound to create a whole new level of computer savvyness.

        Also, since they have to be cranked, all those kids will also have Popeye forearms.

        I would like to be the first to welcome our future giant forearm/elite hacker overlords!
        • by sharkey (16670) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @02:46PM (#15497054)
          "I code to the finich, 'cuz I eats me spinach, I'm PERLeye the Recursion Man!" *printf-printf*
        • Also, since they have to be cranked, all those kids will also have Popeye forearms.

          Popeye has TWO massive forearms. Since you crank with only one hand, I think you mean a Trogdor forearm!

          --Rob

  • by m-wielgo (858054) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:03PM (#15496080) Homepage
    I know it's meant for children, but damn that thing screams Fisher-Price ugliness!
    • It's got a nice Speak-n-Spell color scheme, though.
    • by catch23 (97972) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:08PM (#15496122)
      As another commenter noted in the previous slashdot article, the colors are also a deterrent for potential theives stealing laptops from kids. Anyone who looks older than 18 and is carrying a fisher-price laptop probably stole it from a kid. Easy way to spot.
    • damn that thing screams Fisher-Price ugliness!

      Rumour has it that the physical design came about because they were originally considering Windows XP as the OS platform and thought it would be best if the hardware and software were "visually integrated" ;-)

    • Re:For the children (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @02:14PM (#15496759)
      Ugly or not, if you offered me a laptop with a keyboard, touch pad and hi-res screen for $300 with some useful productivity apps, I'd buy one like a shot. Whether it looked like a demented speak & spell or not. I hate lugging around expensive, fragile, battery sapping laptops just to get internet access when I'm away for a bit. I hate the small unusable screens on a Pocket PC. These things are meant to be kidproof so you toss them in a backpack without much concern, or whip them out on a train or airline clip tray for practically instant-on computing. It's no wonder Bill Gates is afraid of these things. Who the hell would buy his Origami concept costing twice as much when this thing fits the bill so well? That's assuming a commercial version does appear.
  • $130 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mopslik (688435) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:05PM (#15496096)

    Isn't that the $130 [guardian.co.uk] laptop? Or did they manage to bring the cost back down?

  • by agent dero (680753) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:06PM (#15496107) Homepage
    This isn't trolling or anything, I am still in American public schooling (public uni.), and this quote struck me as odd.

    The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own, thus helping children help themselves to learn.

    I'm in an engineering degree, and I'm shocked at the lack of this ability in college students at american schools! I'm tickled by the fact that we're so set on helping foreign education, when our own educational system is in dire need of....some bloody education.
    • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:10PM (#15496134) Homepage Journal
      We need to encourage this sort of thing overseas, so these kids can grow up into the next generation of outsourced tech support reps serving the next generation of American pointy-haired bosses who can barely work a can opener.
      • We need to encourage this sort of thing overseas, so these kids can grow up into the next generation of outsourced tech support reps

        Oh the potential SPAM

        The Nigerians will have to take a back seat to the [Congolese Algerian Angolan Gabonese Gambian ...] spammers.


        Imagine the possibilities.

      • " so these kids can grow up into the next generation of outsourced tech support reps "

        Your commenting on the wrong program. Your thinking of the $600 Microsoft Windows laptop strapped to every child in a third world country sweat shop working as outsourced tech support reps.

        While OLPC is about teaching children how to learn and not about the laptop the Gates version is about the laptop and teaching children how to use MS Office for their future careers as clueless drones.

        Yes I know, you were just being face
    • Yeah ... it reminds me of the new math they're teaching in elementary schools. My wife is a teacher ... and we both agree that it's as gay as hell. Instead of teaching kids long-hand division and how to actually do their math ... they teach the kids how to guess & check on division ... So for example ...

      What is 400 / 20 ?

      The student is supposed to guess ...
      • Well, 20 * 2 = 40 ... nope that's too little ... guess higher
      • Well, 20 * 5 = 100 ... nope that's too little ... guess higher
      • Well, 20 * 10 = 20
    • I'm in an engineering degree, and I'm shocked at the lack of this ability in college students at american schools!
      The lack of the ability to not read a manual? I'd call that an asset. "RTFM" was coined for a reason.
    • Yeah, I agree with you because I grew up in a third world county in South Carolina... ;-)
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <SatanicpuppyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:41PM (#15496456) Journal
      It's the way we've set up the system. You go to school so someone can tell you the facts, and present practical math and science concepts in the driest, most abstract way possible.

      Every time I talk to a kid and they say something like "Algebra sucks. I'll never use this again in my life" I want to jump out of my skin. And hell, I didn't know it myself, because I was taught the same way. I just ended up in a lot of fields, not even complex fields, where you had to have a grasp on practical math.

      If you teach the answers then people are always going to be looking for someone to tell them the answers. If you teach people how to find the answers themselves using manuals, newsgroups, and, if all else fails, their damn brain, then you'll end up with well educated people.
  • by Theovon (109752) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:08PM (#15496117)
    Seriously, aren't bright reds and oranges supposed to make you a little nuts if you're surrounded by them too much? The orange would make me ill after a while. Are we trying to make the users hyper-active or something?

    Everything else is great, but PLEASE TONE DOWN THE COLOR.
  • by dr_dank (472072) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:10PM (#15496133) Homepage Journal
    This will all be worthwhile when we have first African child get first post on Slashdot (and then gets modded down. Welcome to the interweb, n00b!).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:11PM (#15496139)
    I was there at the event and got to try it after Nick spoke. It is definitely not a toy. He said people might be able to buy one in the U.S. next year (paying double so half could buy a kid in another country one). It was very light and the screen (which has two modes) was really nice (1200 x 900). The orange plastic was cool and the little rabbit ears (looked almost like devil horns) move freely to get optimal wi-mesh signal. It's definitely Fedora, but is "skinny" as it has been modified somewhat.

    The specs?

    500 Mhz chip
    128 MB RAM
    512 MB Flash Memory

  • no manual? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:12PM (#15496153)
    >The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual
    >and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own, thus helping children help themselves to learn.

    So in other words, a global pandemic of people who don't know how to RTFM.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      So in other words, a global pandemic of people who don't know how to RTFM.

      You're at /. You're already experiencing a global pandemic of people who don't know how to RTFM

  • by peterdaly (123554) * <petedaly@ix.netc[ ]com ['om.' in gap]> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:13PM (#15496165)
    I've heard it described as the technology gap will, and has already started to push the first and third worlds further apart. More importantly, it is becoming ever more difficult to improve the living conditions and economies as this gap widens.

    This device and plan, if it can be pulled off, could be the single most import thing in helping third world populations on a large scale over the long term.

    It's not the technology itself, per say, but the communications that it enables. Getting cell phones into places is a similar type of project. Things as simple as finding the market price of lets say rice, can apparently make big diferences in building economies.
    • "I've heard it described as the technology gap will, and has already started to push the first and third worlds further apart. More importantly, it is becoming ever more difficult to improve the living conditions and economies as this gap widens."

      So your claim is that impoverished nations, too poor to help themselves, are capable of helping other impoverished nations? The primary cause of national poverty is tyranny.

      The phrase you are looking for is "per se".

  • OMG NOES! (Score:2, Funny)

    by ackthpt (218170) *

    It's cute! It's almost kitsch!

    It'll be a hit with the /. crowd which will drive up the price through demand.

    Heck, I already want one for the kitchen!

  • Want one? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:14PM (#15496182) Homepage Journal
    Here's the page [pledgebank.com] where you can pledge to buy one for triple the price, donating the other two.
    • And here is the pulse, and here is their finger, far from the pulse...

      They'd probably sell an order of magnitude more of these at only double the third-world price, thus providing more machines.

      I'm willing to pay double. I'm not willing to pay triple. $300 will get you a used laptop that beats the living shit out of this thing (aside from the low power consumption and foot-pedal charger.)

      • The pledgebank page has no actual connection to the project, it someone's independent "bright idea". The project itself is, by its own statements, considering a commercial version in "parallel" though, unless I've missed it, no details have been released, which makes me rather skeptical how parallel that consideration is.
      • The point isn't to just get the laptop (although I'm going to enjoy showing mine off) but to donate to the cause. When you're rewarded with a t-shirt or tote bag or something for donating $50 to some charity, you can't expect that your reward is actually worth that $50.
  • by Momoru (837801) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:15PM (#15496196) Homepage Journal
    How long before we find these on eBay for $200? Money and food probably means a lot more to many of these people's immediate needs then a laptop for their child.
    • How long before we find these on eBay for $200? Money and food probably means a lot more to many of these people's immediate needs then a laptop for their child.

      Well, about as long as it takes for them to use the laptops to get to eBay for the first time, I'd say.
    • by Tweekster (949766) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:24PM (#15496292)
      No you are thinking of the western POV. You believe that Africa has one class of people, dirt poor, barely surviving and in a constant struggle for food and shelter.

      In reality this isnt focused at those people, but rather the ones that have overcome that daily struggle and have what is considered a decent live there, education is the next goal for them.
    • What would it cost to ship from Africa to the Americas or Europe?
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:46PM (#15496507)
      Money and food probably means a lot more to many of these people's immediate needs then a laptop for their child.

      It certainly does, and if you were paying any attention you'd find lots of organizations devoting to addressing those immediate needs.

      OTOH, if they don't deal with the longer-term needs of education and economic development -- both of which dirt cheap, mass-produced computers that are nearly universally available can help with -- those underlying problem driving those "immediate needs" that are temporarily alleviated by cash and food will simply worsen, and more cash and more food will be required to acheive the same results.

  • Usability? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fritzk3 (883083)
    I wonder how useable these things will be - the screen looks awfully small with regard to resolution. Just looking at the calculator (the thing takes up about a third of the whole screen!) makes me wonder how cluttered the interface will be when people start trying to shift between one app and another.

    Does anybody else think the demo model resembles a Speak & Spell, with its bright orange color and its handle? :)

    • Re:Usability? (Score:3, Informative)

      by vidarh (309115)
      You know, when I grew up, we had to make do with 22x23 characters on screen at once :)
    • Re:Usability? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by daybyter (684997)
      The screensize is not that much of a problem, if you reduce the number of applications. We are working on a system for senior citizens, and I guess we reduce the number of apps to 20 or less.
      Use multiple desktops, and your screen could look like this:

      Seniorix desktop [seniorix.de].
        Sorry, only available in German yet, since we only cooperate with local retirement home yet...
    • 1: Dump the desktop metaphor.
      2: Get rid of menu bars, status bars, process bars, window borders, titles etc.
      3: Go full screen for every application

      Unfortunately we're still getting portable machines, handhelds, pdas with very limited screen real estate ridiculously cluttered by windows, borders, menus, button bars, status bars. Qtopia for instance is a pain in the arse because of this.
  • The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own ...

    ... so that by age 18 they can change their professional name to "Bob" and tell Americans weaned on PlayStations that "WiFi connections do not involve 'gremlins,' sir;" "any software company offering free pornography for each install probably should not be trusted" and "there is no 'feng shui' component on your iPod, and if there were it would not be defective, and if it were defective then no, it would not be covered by AppleCare."

    Yay capitalism ;->

  • I guess I would buy one myself, even when I'm not a child left behind. ;-)

    Weren't there plans to create one for the western market too? Even an ugly laptop would be worthwhile, for such a low price. But it shouldn't go above 200 euros', otherwise they will just create a black market where 3th world countries (at least, their citizens) will sell it back to rich western dudes.

    Ah, well, give it a black color, and put in something which doesn't need the crank always to power it up, and for 100 euros, you have a
  • by feijai (898706) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:27PM (#15496320)
    Extremely rugged, no moving parts, flash RAM, inexpensive, small screen laptop designed for K-12. Where did I hear of such a thing before? [the-gadgeteer.com]

    Oh that's right. $800 back in 1997. By Moore's law, that should be about $25 now. So with a color screen, USB, and wireless, $100 isn't bad. Lost the touchscreen though. :-(

  • by k1980pc (942645) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:28PM (#15496335)
    You said you could get it done..more than half the world did not believe you. You have got it delivered within such a short span. Its sheer brilliance compared to certain companies promising certain products and the timelines getting forwarded by years. I remember a specific company doing that about a product called Vista :)
    Speaking about the OS, great that it uses fedora core.. Open Source for a Good Cause. Way to Go.
    BTW, fire the designer for that orangey look..uh..wait..may be this might catch on like the old ibook..keep him for the timebeing.
  • n00bies on the raise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by layer3switch (783864) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:29PM (#15496339)
    "The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own..."

    As a future warning for Fedora community, expect sudden jump in n00b questions in several different languages. Also keep in mine that those n00bs are mostly children. Please refer "RTFM" as "Read The Fine Manual" and "STFU" as "Stop Talking Fast, User".

    And most importantly, every time you use "LOL" and "ROTFL" and "LMAO", just remember; You are laughing with them, not at them.

    Thank you,

    concern citizen from Softer Gentler Linux community
  • An idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dexter77 (442723) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:33PM (#15496388)
    I have strange feeling that this laptop will be more popular in western world than in developing countries. I, for one, will definately buy it, just have a nice new gadget. $100 is cheap for any gadget.

    But hey! I have an idea. Let's make the price $200 in western world and each computer that we buy, will give one for free to someone in developing countries! $200 isn't much for a working computer. Plus, atleast for once, you get a good feeling for buying something that you don't really need :)

    • The $100 (actually, $130-something now, initially) price is premised on enormous bulk orders by national governments -- with individual orders in the millions of units -- that handle distribution themselves; the "retail price", even without any extra money to donate to charity, in the developed world -- paying for all the handling and distribution costs, etc., associated with 1-by-1 sale -- would likely be quite a bit over $200.
    • Re:An idea (Score:4, Informative)

      by ahem (174666) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @07:19PM (#15498983) Homepage Journal
      Hm, buy one for three times the price and give away two... What a great idea! Go here [pledgebank.com] and promise to do just that.
  • 0=360 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:35PM (#15496392) Homepage Journal
    Wait, I thought the US computer makers said a $100 laptop was impossible. 8 months later, it's done.

    But then, IBM said it was impossible to keep its HD and PC businesses before selling them to Hitachi and Lenovo. Those companies are making big profits continuing the business.

    Making money and new products when you're positioned at the top of the computer business is now so easy that it's looped all the way around from "impossible" to "inevitable".
  • by nizo (81281) * on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:35PM (#15496395) Homepage Journal
    I know schools here in the US who can't even put a computer on the desk of any of the kids; many share 5 crummy machines between two (or more) classes. There are many places here that could use these things; I don't understand why there is no interest in marketing them right here. It seems like having electronic books would be cheaper/easier too?
    • by israel_zayas (206156) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @02:24PM (#15496853)
      [quote]I know schools here in the US who can't even put a computer on the desk of any of the kids; many share 5 crummy machines between two (or more) classes. There are many places here that could use these things; I don't understand why there is no interest in marketing them right here. It seems like having electronic books would be cheaper/easier too [/quote]

      Forgive me for saying this, but:
      b/c those same kids have PSP's, Ipods and cell phones... If their parents wont buy them a computer why should the public give them one for free.
  • If they let kids access the shell and hack away... I fully support the laptop initiative. If the idea is that kids will run board-approved educational software... this is a complete waste of time.

    The suppliers of educational material are inept. My kid doesn't want a toy cell phone, he wants to play with a real one. He doesn't want a heavily restricted laptop, he wants a real one... not that Leap educational laptop-shaped abomination.

    If these units are regular Linux laptops, a bit light on the hardware specs
  • by penguin_dance (536599) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:44PM (#15496490)
    Yay, now that Nigerian prince can email me directly!

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @01:50PM (#15496549) Homepage Journal
    Ethan Zuckerman visits the OLPC offices and checks out the prototypes:

    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004543.html [worldchanging.com]

    I found this bit fascinating:

    The board itself is designed to encourage hardware hacking - the 500 prototype boards currently built come with a VGA jack soldered on. But production models will leave the jack leads etched on the board, though unpopulated. Want to turn a laptop into a device that can drive an external monitor? Solder one on. Also on the board but unpopulated will be connectors for additional RAM and flash memory, as well as a mini-PCI slot. A goal for the next iteration is a board with a wider pitch, which makes it easier to repair the board or to hand-solder additional connections. The case is designed to be easy to open and access the innards - this makes it easier to make Frankenmachines from dead machines, and also makes it easier to mass produce lots of these devices quickly.
  • As always with laptops of any brand, the most important thing which also happens to be the one which is different in every model - the keyboard layout - is unknown, and it seems impossible to find a straight picture of it.

    What are you suposed to do with a laptop? Well, type on the keyboard, no? So the accessibility and position of cursor keys, Home/End, Page-Up/Down, Backspace/Delete etc. are important. I want to know where they are and make sure there are 8 cursor keys, not 4. Even if the laptop is only $1
  • Great! He's got one booting!

    Now what does it actually DO, besides impress Linux fans?

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @02:11PM (#15496731)
    There's already lots of education in Africa supplied by organizations like the Peace Corp and churches. Trouble is, it's targetted at the best and brightest children, who, after they do well in school, tend to leave and never come back. What 3rd world countries need is broad education that includes adults. The networking aspects of this machine could help with that. The children could be less likely to leave if they are in constant contact with their peers, learning from and teaching them and their parents. Imagine, distributed schools. Imagine a beowulf cluster of them. (:-)

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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