A month ago, Hummer announced it’d sell a branded laptop computer that would be nearly indestructible. Able to survive being dropped, getting doused in a rainstorm, and having coffee spilled on it (these things happen when off-roading between Starbucks and home), the computers should appeal to an “aspirational and exclusive” target market, one that would happily afford a pricetag of between $2988 and $3329. In delightful contrast, the MIT Media Lab, led by visionary Nicholas Negroponte, has announced its plan for a nearly indestructible computer to be distributed to needy kids around the world–a $100 laptop running an open-source Linux operating system, with a crank that allows its user to generate power when no electricity is available. The machine will be WiFi ready, have an AC power cord that’ll double as a carrying strap, a screen that’ll switch from color to glare-resistant black-and-white for outdoor uses, and a rubber casing that’ll snap shut to keep out dust or moisture.
Negroponte says that within a year his nonprofit One Laptop Per Child will produce between 5 and 15 million machines, which he plans to begin shipping to children in Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa. Othe specs include a 500 mhz processor, flash memory (instead of a hard drive), and four USB drives. A huge salute to MIT for envisioning a humbler, more human laptop that targets a market drawn to the “inspirational and inclusive.”