Windup laptops aim to bridge digital divide


Late Wednesday, a text-book sized laptop boasting wireless network access and a hand-crank to provide electricity was unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman of MIT Media Lab.

The machines will sell for $100, making them accessible to millions of school-aged children worldwide, he said.

"These robust, versatile machines will enable children to become more active in their own learning," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters after the machine was unveiled.

Story continued at


While I think this is wonderful it is no panacea. WiFi is not ubiquitous and the use of a laptop is not an innate skill.

What will those in third world countries without a Starbucks do with these new fangled door stops?

I didn't read this article, but I saw something on this posted to Slashdot yesterday:1) The battery can be chared via an outlet-- or via a crank (one minuite cranking for ten minuites power)2) The laptops automatically set up an open peer-to-peer network with each other, so if one of them gets online, any others in the area will also be able to use the connnection automatically. Also, computers *do* have uses that don't require being online continuously.3) They will all be ruggadized, not fragile like most high-end laptops.4) The plan is to make them identifiable enough as part of this progam that it will make them less valuable on the black market, to help prevent thefts.Not a panacea, certainly, but many of the potential problems *have* beeen taken into consideration.

If you can't see how these would be beneficial you are not thinking very hard. I don't believe funds to buy these devises should be squandered. Make sure people have shelter, food, and water before you provide laptops.

Without $100 laptops even if you could provide a wireless hotspot people would not have a computer. Even if they did there would be the issue of power. This laptop seeks to address both those issues. Here someone has made a serious attempt to address the issue of the digital divide and people are pooh poohing it.
To start a market for these laptops I know one place where it would be great to have these laptops. In American schools. Why should schools pay $600 to $1000 for laptops when a $100 laptop is available? These $100 laptops are built to be durable. To be quite honest if these were available for sale in the U.S. I would purchase one. I would love to have a laptop that if I traveled with that would provide me the ability to wind it up if I was in a remote location.

I never said they wouldn't be useful, heck I'd buy one too. But, they are not first priority. Food, shelter and the like (ask Maslow), are first priority. I think we need to solve the basic problems before we move onto bringing WiFi to the third world.

If foundations and organizations want to spend their money on these laptops that is just dandy, after all it is their money to spend. However before they start asking for funds either donations or from the public trough the need for wind up laptops must be considered.

I don't think they are a priority, nice to have sure, but a priority over what $100 could buy for some subsistance farmer, no a laptop is not what they need right now.
I'm sure the schools in Brazil and Nigeria can use them, but I don't consider it a priority, feeding people I consider a priority.

Subscribe to Comments for " Windup laptops aim to bridge digital divide"