$100 laptop ready for children early 2007

By Control Engineering Staff August 17, 2006

A laptop for the cost of $100 will be ready to ship in spring 2007 to children around the world thanks to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization. The laptop, full of features unavailable on far more expensive machines, was a vision of Mary Lou Jepson’s brought to reality after over a year of travel, design, and struggle. It required those who were willing to reinvent the concept and architecture of a laptop, as suggested in “ Control Engineering ‘s Information Control Monthly for August 10, 2006.”

$100 is the price tag goal for the One Laptop Per Child organization.

Quanta Computer, one of the largest makers of laptops in the world, is the manufacturer of the Linux-based machine. The laptop features instant on, 500MB of flash memory and four USB ports instead of a hard disk, massive mesh networking with other computers in the area via WiFi, 3-4 times the range of a typical WiFi antennae, and an e-book mode so that the computer can be folded and read like a book. It was designed to withstand harsh environments in case of dropping and can seal with resist water and dust when closed. The user can use a wind-up device for more battery power and the batteries are meant to last up to five years.

With a 7.5-in. diagonal, 1,200 x 1,900 pixel display and 200 dpi, it has higher resolution than 95% of laptops on the market today, says the organization. It is has modes for reading in sunlight and room light in black and white, and can be color when the backlight is turned on. The display consumes 1W with the backlight on and even less without it, and at $40, it contributes to the low price.

Jepson believes traveling around the world to gain support and choosing to be a non-profit organization were two of her best decisions for success. She and her colleagues met with ministers of education in many countries to convince them the laptop could be a reality and the not-for-profit status of the organization allowed more countries to order from them at a high volume.

By the end of last year, more than half the countries of the world expressed strong interest at the head of state or minister of education level in getting laptops in mass quantities to the children of their countries. The president of Brazil immediately wanted a million units, as did Thailand, Argentina, and Nigeria because the low price would be well below the cost of textbooks they would have to replace after five years, and it would offer access to a huge amount of information.

The team at OLPC is working on connecting the laptops to the Internet at a low cost. The laptop is currently in the prototype stage. For updates on project status, click here .

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For more information go to www.laptop.org .

— Lisa Sutor , Control Engineering contributing editor