At The Risk Of Beating A Sacred Cow….

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There has been a lot of interest in the "$100 laptop" project led by Nicholas Negroponte, the former director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The goal is to provide a very cheap, flexible laptop that can actually be run by an electrical charge generated by a hand crank. Only the project has just announced that the $100 laptop will now cost $175. And it still isn't ready to go into production.

The founder of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, which aims to deliver $100 laptops to schoolchildren in the developing world, has said that the machine will now cost $175 and may not start production until October.

Nicholas Negroponte, the former director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab who heads the not-for-profit project, said that it was now "at the most critical stage of its life," but remained optimistic about its prospects, adding that new countries, including Peru and Russia, had inquired about taking part.

The rising cost of materials – in particular nickel – is responsible for the increased price of the machine, an OLPC spokesman told TimesOnline, while the roll-out had been pushed back because of changes in the design, which were "not unusual in technology development projects."

At least seven countries – Uruguay, Nigeria, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand, and Libya – have expressed interest in buying the green and white machines, which have a crank so that they can be wound up by hand, but the project requires orders for three million machines in order for manufacturing and distribution to begin.

Mr Negroponte said that the computer, which has indoor and outdoor reading modes, will now be able to run Windows in addition to its own open-source operating system, which was developed with the help of Red Hat, one of its sponsors.

I guess it's just the engineer in me coming out here. (One of the best bosses I ever had defined an engineer as someone who could figure out how to do something for $100 that any damned fool could do for $200). Why are they developing this at all? Why not buy the design (better yet, get the company to donate it) to an old, reliable tank of a laptop computer, update it with a hand crank charging system and run with it? Seriously. The old laptop I got for my son is simple and indestructible – and it does everything a basic computer needs to. With the costs of components plummeting as they are, I imagine one of those simple machines could be produced very cheaply these days – probably close to the new figure at least if not less. (Disclaimer – I am not a computer engineer, maybe I'm missing something, but this seems like at least worth looking into, doesn't it?)

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