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One Laptop Per Child Achieves Display Technology Milestone
Aug 21, 2006
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The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization achieved a milestone in its technology development this month with a working prototype of its dual-mode thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD display.

OLPC is a Delaware, U.S.-based, non-profit organization created by faculty members from the MIT Media Lab, where much of the early development of the Internet occurred. The organization's goal is to design, manufacture and distribute laptops that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education

The proposed $100 laptop will be a Linux-based machine with a 500 MHz processor, 128 MB of DRAM, 500 MB of Flash memory instead of a hard drive, and four USB ports. The laptops will be equipped with wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network - each laptop will be able to communicate with its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc local area network (LAN). The laptops will use innovative power sources (including wind-up) and will be able to perform most common personal computer functions except store large amounts of data.

A key to the success of the laptop is the display. "The first-generation machine will have a novel, dual-mode display that represents improvements to the LCD displays commonly found in inexpensive DVD players," said Nicholas Negroponte, an Internet pioneer and the founder and chairman of the MIT Media Lab. "These displays can be used in high-resolution black and white in bright sunlight - all at a cost of approximately $35."

Negroponte said the display is more readable than today's LCDs: "It will be a 200-dpi, ~20-percent reflective, sunlight-readable display, with huge power savings. This is critical because half of the world's children do not have electricity at home, and need to be able to charge up the laptop batteries themselves with some type of human powered device like the Freecharge portable charger."

Cost-reduction comes from economies of scale, according to Negroponte. "We will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks."

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