MIT to develop $100 laptops

Members of MIT’s Media Lab have prototyped a $100 computer. The computer comes equipped with a color lcd screen, 500 MHz processor, and 1 gigabyte of memory (on flash memory, no less). It also has Wi-Fi capacity. To further reduce costs, the computer runs Linux. The goal in creating a $100 computer is to provide every single child in the world, especially in the poorest countries, a laptop computer.

To render the computer durable for poorer regions of the world, it will be enclosed in a tight rubber casing so it can be made water- and dust-resistant. One interesting feature is a hand crank that will allow children in areas lacking reliable energy to generate power.

The initial plans are to produce 150 million computers for poor children in the world. Negroponte, head of MIT’s Media Lab boasts that “these humble $100 notebooks would surpass the world’s existing annual production of laptops”. This is great news, providing laptops to children as a way to connect them to the advantages that we almost take for granted in the developed world. But before we uncritically salute this development, has anyone considered the environmental impacts of all of these new computers? At present, some 50 million computers are made obsolete every single year. That’s 50 million computers that need to be disposed of, which is millions of kilograms of cadmium, lead and mercury as well as flame retardants and other organics that are carcinogenic. Has anyone thought of that?

More information can be found at MIT’s Media Lab

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