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Thursday, September 29, 2005
MIT to Launch $100 Laptop Prototype


The MIT Media Laboratory expects to launch a prototype of its US$100 laptop in November.

The facility has been working with industry partners to develop a notebook computer for use by children in primary and secondary education around the world, particularly in developing countries. The laptops should start appearing in volume in late 2006.

MIT researchers believa that by equipping all children in the world with their own laptop will greatly improve the level of education and help stimulate children to learn outside of school as well as in the classroom.

The lab expects to unveil a prototype of the $100 laptop at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on Nov. 17. The WSIS is due to be held in Tunis, Tunisia, from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18.

The 500MHz laptop will run a "light" version of the open-source Linux operating system. It will have a two-mode screen, so it can be viewed in color and then by pushing a button or activating software switch to a black-and-white display, which can be viewed in bright sunlight at four times normal resolution.

The laptop can be powered either with an AC adapter or via a wind-up crank, which is stored in the housing of the laptop where the hinge is located. The laptops will have a 10 to 1 crank rate, so that a child will crank the handle for one minute to get 10 minutes of power and use. When closed, the hinge forms a handle and the AC cord can function as a carrying strap. The laptops will be ruggedized and probably made of rubber. They will have four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, be Wi-Fi- and cell phone enabled and come with 1G byte of memory.

Each laptop will act as a node in a mesh peer-to-peer ad hoc network, meaning that if one laptop is directly accessing the Internet, when other machines power on, they can share that single online connection.

The lab will initially target Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa and Thailand, as well as the U.S. state of Massachusetts, which has just committed to equipping every schoolchild with a laptop. Mass production of some 5 million to 15 million laptops for those markets has been schedulled towards the end of 2006.


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