Technicalities on the $100 laptop PC

EDUCATIONAL BASIC. The '$100 laptop' will go on sale for two weeks in November, at a price of $200. Actually, if you want to buy one, it will cost you $400. But it's all for a good cause. One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit group started by Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of MIT's Media Laboratory, developed the inexpensive laptop PC, called the XO, to promote education for poor children in developing countries. From Nov. 12-26, people in this country can buy two for $399 ' they get to keep one, with the other going to a needy student. OLPC leaders hope the sale will draw both public support for the program and encourage open-source software developers to write programs for the XO. The laptop uses components of Red Hat's Fedora Core 6 version of the Linux operating system and supports Python, JavaScript, Csound, Squeak and Logo programming environments.
The laptop might not satisfy power users or avid gamers, but it seems to have a lot going for it. It has a convertible design, is water-, dirt- and shock-resistant, and has no rotating hard drive, instead using flash ROM and a 1024 MiB SLC NAND flash controller. It has a 433 MHz x86-compatible CPU with 256M of dynamic RAM and a 1,200-x-900 resolution 7.5-inch dual-mode TFT display. It has a built-in camera and music and graphics software, in addition to a word processor and browser, and weighs either 3.2 pounds or 3.5 pounds, depending on which battery is inside. The XO uses about one-tenth the power of a typical laptop and can be powered by battery, solar power or a hand crank. Not bad for $200. And like most computer products, the price will likely come down over time: OLPC expects to hit the $100 mark by 2009.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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