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It’s cute. It’s orange. It’s got bunny ears. An update on the One Laptop Per Child project

Last Friday, I visited with my friends Walter Bender and Jim Gettys at the new headquarters of the One Laptop per Child Project – the past few days have been so busy that I’m just getting the chance to write up notes from our conversation now, almost a week later. I’m writing an article for the IEEE Spectrum on the project and had asked Walter if I could come by and grill him on the technical and conceptual details of the project. But that’s really just an excuse – I’m fascinated by the project, and am trying to offer what help I can to Nicholas Negroponte and his team in helping people understand what the project is and isn’t, offering my perspective on how the device might best be rolled out, supported and used in developing nations.

One of the most interesting phenomena surrounding the One Laptop Per Child project has been the amount of attention it’s garnered, not just from the development community, but from average users around the world. Interest in the project seems to focus on a basic and very compelling idea: a laptop that costs a hundred dollars or less. After writing a long blogpost on the project and an article at Worldchanging.com, I now average receive on average 20 emails per week asking to purchase the laptop, or recieve one as a gift. I now have a keyboard macro that gives a stock response: I’m not officially affiliated with the project, the laptop isn’t available yet, and when it is, it will be sold in lots of a million or more to governments and school systems.

Most of the people who write me are interested in owning a laptop they can afford. And that, it turns out, is not the goal of the One Laptop Per Child project. Their goal is to produce a laptop designed for use by children – students in grades K-12. And that requires radically different design decisions that what one would make in simply creating a low-cost laptop.


Getting across the distinction that this is a children’s laptop, not just a cheap laptop, is a surprisingly difficult task. When I last wrote about the laptop on Worldchanging, a number of commenters mentioned that they’d like one of the computers as a backup or travel computer – I suspect they might feel differently after playing with one of the current prototypes. They’re really small. This is a good thing – I wouldn’t want a kindergarden student carrying around my 12″ PowerBook – it’s too heavy and too fragile. The current prototype is little, orange, and very, very cute. It has a molded plastic handle and looks remarkably like a Speak and Spell.

It’s got bunny years – antennas for the 802.11s wireless radios, which are designed to self-assemble meshes with other laptops. The ears fold down to cover the USB, power and mic ports, an excellent design for the sorts of dusty environments I can imagine the device used in. The screen in the current prototype is a conventional LCD screen – the screen in the production devices will be roughly the same size, probably slightly larger than the 7.5″ screen in the prototype, but will be based around a technique that doesn’t require white fluorescent backlight. (Many of the questions I need to answer for the IEEE article concern the screen, as it’s one of the most expensive and power-hungry components of the machine.) The keyboard is about 60% of the size of a conventional keyboard and has calculator-style keys.

My favorite feature of the current prototype is the hinge that holds the machine together. Ever since Nicholas outlined the engineering challenges of building a good hinge, I’ve been fascinated by the different ways people attach screens to laptops. As promised, the laptop can be folded into an ebook, with the screen on top, used as a handheld game player, or have the screen turned around so the machine can be used as a video player. Walter tells me that Quanta, the company responsible for manufacturing the machine, insisted on the hinge used in the prototype because it’s the only one they trusted to stand up to the wear kids will put on the machine.

In other words, while I love it, I’m not trading my laptop in for one any time soon. I suspect that low-cost computers designed by AMD and others are likely more appropriate for most users than the laptop. Again, that’s okay – the goal isn’t to capture the bottom end of the laptop market – it’s to give kids learning tools. If the laptop did become popular on the low end of the market, it becomes a target for theft… which is one of the reasons the machine is a brilliant shade of orange.

Walter tells me that they’re thinking of versions of the laptop in terms of the color of their prototypes, rather than nifty codenames like “Longhorn” or “Panther”. The last iteration was “the green box”, and the current orange box may be superceded by the purple box. The whiteboard in his office is covered with color combinations, clustered by the emotions they evoke, helping designers decide whether the laptop should be “bold” and “vivid” or “calm” and “sober”.

(Enough color theory. It gets pretty geeky from here on out. There’s some more comprehensible stuff about ideas for software design in about ten paragraphs, for folks whose eyes glaze over when I start talking about technical specifications… Keep in mind, this post is really for me, as a way to transcribe my notes, not for you. :-)

The one feature missing from the prototype I saw – the crank. It’s been clear – even before Kofi Annan broke the crank off an early laptop prototype – that a power-generating crank attached to the machine, like cranks are incorporated into FreePlay radios, might not work. Jim, who has designed the motherboard of the machine and has been focused on power consumption helped me understand why.

Contrary to what you learned in The Matrix, human beings are lousy at generating electric power. Small children are capable of generating between five and ten watts, for short periods of time. Since conventional laptops draw about 6 to 8 watts with their screens turned on, that’s a real problem for a child-powered laptop. The laptop needs to get much less power-hungry, and power generation needs to maximize the output a child is capable of. This means being ergonomically smart – use large muscle groups, and use human-generated motion efficiently. A crank attached to a laptop fails on both fronts – to crank a box, you fight the tendency of the laptop to move in the opposite direction of the crank. This means you either hold the laptop in one hand and crank with the other – and do work with both arms – or put the laptop on a table and run the good chance of it falling off a table. And cranks use small muscle groups – the triceps, hand and wrist muscles.

The solution is to make power generation an external add-on. The team is working on microgenerators that produce power using really big cranks – ones you might anchor with a hole in a table, and crank using your whole upper body. (Think Oompa Loompas in Wonka’s chocolate factory opening valves.) Other microgenerators use a pullcord, the sort I use to start my lawnmower, or pedal power. And other power sources, including solar panels, could plug into the input jack of the machine. The current prototype accepts voltage from -23 to +23v, which lets power hackers be very creative – and more than a little sloppy – in providing power to the device. Got a power block for a laptop? If you can make the connector fit, it will power the laptop.

The prototype I saw didn’t have a battery installed, but the team has decided to use nickel metal hydride batteries rather than lithium ion. The rationale? Lithium is not very tolerant of voltage spikes – you need to regulate the power that enters the battery to prevent damage to it. Human-generated power is neccesarily spiky, so regulating that voltage means losing generated power. NiMH is less efficient than Li-Ion in terms of power transfer, but the ability to capture spiky power is worth the tradeoff… and MnH batteries are somewhat easier to dispose of in an environmentally conscious manner than Li-Ion.

The machine still needs to be miserly with power to be usable as a human-charged device. And this is where the team have worked some serious magic. When the machine is not in active use, it can act as a mesh node, helping maintain a connectivity cloud over a village or school while drawing only 0.5 watts – the wireless subsystem (a Marvell chip with 100kb of RAM) operates independently of the main processor and can forward packets with the CPU shut down. The machine draws a similar amount of power in ebook mode, using a black and white display. The display IC has a substantial frame buffer – this means it can store a black and white image and display it without any assistance from the CPU, again allowing the CPU to shut down and save power.

With the processor and color screen in action, the laptop draws 2 to 2.5 watts. To get the power consumption so low, Jim and the team chose an older AMD chip – the Geode GX2 – rather than the newer chips, which burn more power. He could have cut power further with an ARM chip, but this requires a major software compromise – much of the software the team wants to run on the laptop requires an FPU, which the ARM chips lack. Using the GX2 chip and the version of Fedora Red Hat has been developing for the machine, many Linux packages run on the laptop with almost no porting effort.

The board itself is designed to encourage hardware hacking – the 500 prototype boards currently built come with a VGA jack soldered on… but production models will leave the jack leads etched on the board, though unpopulated. Want to turn a laptop into a device that can drive an external monitor? Solder one on. Also on the board but unpopulated will be connectors for additional RAM and flash memory, as well as a mini-PCI slot. A goal for the next iteration is a board with a wider pitch, which makes it easier to repair the board or to hand-solder additional connections. The case is designed to be easy to open and access the innards – this makes it easier to make Frankenmachines from dead machines, and also makes it easier to mass produce lots of these devices quickly. (Those Torx nuts on my Mac? As much work to install them as it is to uninstall them.)

The storage capacity of the machine is decidedly modest – 128MB of RAM, 512MB of flash memory instead of a hard drive. That 512MB has to hold the operating system and applications, as well as any documents. No one’s going to be loading a complete copy of Wikipedia onto this any time soon… That said, Walter showed me an early prototype of another orange box – a wire/wireless interface. Basically, it’s a wireless base station, designed to connect some of the laptop mesh nodes to an ethernet cable (presumably attached to a VSAT or some other device.) The box acts as a peer on the network, not a server, but has a larger storage capacity, so could serve as a document server as well as a web cacheing server. And you just might load Wikipedia – or an edited, educational version of Wikipedia onto these boxes before distributing them.

(We’re moving, more or less, from low-level hardware up to software. It takes a while – there’s a lot of details I’m trying to remember. And I’m beginning to wonder how – after getting the 97 questions I currently have queued up for the team answered – I’m ever going to explain this to people in 3000 words…)

One of the challenges in using flash RAM as a long-term storage device is that flash suffers wear from being written to much more quickly than hard drives do. A standard Linux installation creates a “swap” partition, making it possible for memory-hungry applications to use a piece of hard drive as slightly slow virtual memory. This isn’t such a good idea on a Flash-based system – all the writing to flash degrades the memory pretty quickly. To avoid these issues, the laptop is using a filesystem optimized for flash – jffs2 – which attempts to spread the wear around the entirity of the flash. And, borrowing techniques used in porting Linux to HP handheld devices, much of the code running on the machine will be highly compressed, saving precious storage space.

The prototype running at the OLPC offices was running GNOME on top of Fedora, and looked very much like one expects a Linux desktop to look. This is not what most children will see when they turn on the machine, but it’s important to the designers that the machine be designed in layers, like an onion. (Or a parfait. Software designers like parfait.) For expert users who want to develop on the system, the laptop will ship with gcc, gtk, and the other stuff you need to build and distribute software. In addition, the software will include three development environments: Python, Javascript and Logowiki.

Given Alan Kay’s involvement with the software design, I was shocked to hear that the laptop wouldn’t be a Squeak/Smalltalk machine. Walter tells me that Alan is finding things to like in both Python and Javascript. The importance of Javascript to the machine reflects the idea that many users will be interacting with the machine primarily through a web browser – Javascript is a particularly rewarding language to learn when you’re focused on the browser.

Logowiki, from what I’ve seen of it, is amazingly cool. It starts from a collection of wiki pages, like Wikipedia, and treats pages as computational objects. This means that the Wikipedia page on Logo would run Logo, letting you try out functions and move the turtle around. This opens up some amazing possibilities – wiki pages about physics that include programmable models that help you understand acceleration or momentum, for instance. And, indeed, you can come onto logowiki and play with little programs that build spirals or calculate Pi.

Wikis are important to the architecture of the software for another reason – they’re part of the subversive strategy behind the machine. The OLPC team won’t have control over what content is loaded onto the laptop in different countries – that’s the decision of individual education ministries. But by using wikis as a content management system – rather than, say, a PDF viewer – the team manages to sneak in the idea of user-generated content into schools. Perhaps most textbook pages will be protected in a wiki structure – wiki features like discussion pages will still exist, opening new possibilities for how kids interact with schoolbooks.

Walter explains that the fundamental design goals for the software of the project are to give students and teachers tools that leverage their ability to learn, their ability to be expressive and their ability to be social. A simple interface – more for discussion than a rough draft of any actual interface – shows some of these ideas. It’s a tabbed interface, like a web browser, which holds applications like a word processor in some of the windows. Another window holds a graphical chat program, designed to let a student type or draw messages to another student – the chat is aware of what other students are logged on and proximate to the machine. The goal is not to isolate students from one another, having them stare into their machines, but to encourage them to communicate through the machines.

Students are encouraged to create as well. The color screen and large trackpad, which can be used with a stylus, make the tool a likely medium for artistic expression. And a microphone jack and recording software encourage kids to explore musically. (Not coincidentally, the microphone can double as an input to a virtual osciliscope, opening an interesting series of scientific experiments.)

Hearing the ambitions for arming students with powerful, programmable learning devices, my skepticism comes to the surface. Not because I think the machine is not up to the task – instead, I suspect schools are likely to fall short. In much of the world – and, unfortunately, too often in the US as well – schools favor discipline, control and rote learning over creativity, self-directed learning and collaboration. No matter how you slice it, the laptop is a deeply subversive creature, likely to undercut the authority of teachers who don’t figure out how to master the device as quickly as their students. Like everyone else who’s worked in IT and international development, I’ve got nightmare stories about computers locked in rooms so no one will break them. It’s too easy for me to imagine teachers threatened by the laptop ordering students to put them away and watch the blackboard.

Walter and crew aren’t unaware of these issues. He points out that the machine is a laptop precisely so students can take it home and learn with it in spite of their teachers. To encourage teachers to experiment and get comfortable with the devices, it will be easy to undo changes to system configuration, and to reset the machine to a stable distribution.

But really taking advantage of the potential of the laptop requires changing the entire ecosystem of education in the developing world, a process that’s going to require more time than the year or two after laptops are distributed… and the efforts of people other than very bright MIT professors. The scale and scope of this project means that a large portion of the questions I most want to ask – how will this be used in the classroom? will teachers accept it? how will kids cope if machines break or get stolen? what happens when people use machines to do decidedly antisocial things? or creative and entrepreneurial things? – are really hard to answer until the machine is out in the field. I wonder out loud if it would make sense to do a small pilot before the project goes further – Jim points out that the current plan to distribute five million laptops in five nations next year is a pilot – when you’re talking about building and distributing more than two billion devices, a few million is just a toe dipped into the water.

I’ll be putting questions to the team working on the laptop over the next few weeks, hoping to clarify strategic and technical questions for the article I’m writing. If you have questions you think I should ask, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll try to get them into the queue.

I find that many folks have questions that are really suggestions – you can send those to me, but you’ll have much greater success using the wiki the team is using to plan the project. There are also mailing lists set up around many of the key topics concerning the project – if you post a good idea on the wiki, you may be able to get yourself added to one or more of those lists. Pitching suggestions to me as a way of pitching the team is a decidedly poor idea – I’m documenting the project and trying to raise some skeptical questions, not acting as a member of the design team.

This specific post, unlike the rest of my work, which is Creative Commons Attribution 2.5, is released under Creative Commons Non-Commercial 2.5. You’re very welcome to quote from it, but I’d prefer you contact me before reproducing it in its entirety.

35 thoughts on “It’s cute. It’s orange. It’s got bunny ears. An update on the One Laptop Per Child project”

  1. One mistake that I believe technology advocates often make is to provide school technology to the children, without bringing the teachers along. Until a teacher has their own computer and is in an environment in which an electronic workflow is the norm, they aren’t likely to change how they teach. So I always cringe when I see the teachers in my children’s elementary school — who have a couple of student computers in each room, but don’t have their own computer — being expected to teach with computers effectively. Until the school itself switches to using electronic communication, record-keeping, document development, etc, and brings its teachers along, we aren’t likely to see more effective use of technology in the classroom.

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  4. I’m with you, Steven – getting the teachers comfortable is critical. The plan is to give laptops to teachers as well. But I suspect that the kids will “get” the laptop faster than the teachers do, and that there will be real tension within some classrooms as people figure out how best to use these things…

  5. Of course the teachers get their own system: it is just
    that “One Laptop per child and teacher and principle and school staff membber” isn’t something that reaches out and grabs you…
    – Jim

  6. I’m interested to hear about how they are testing the device — they surely must already have test groups of children who are invited to play with the device. What are the experiences with that? How _do_ kids currently interact with the device? And how are these test groups formed? (Are these American kids who already know computers, or do they have more diverse test groups, e.g. kids with no computer knowledge, and/or from non-English speaking countries?)

  7. “…probably slightly larger than the 7.5″ screen in the prototype” The prototype has a 7″ screen. The production machine will have a 7.5″ machine.

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  9. I think Dr. Druin, International Children’s Digital Library Director, herself a former Media Lab’r with Nicholas and Walter, says it best: “We have a chance to change technology, but more importantly we have a chance to change the life of a child. Every time a new technology enables a child to do something they never dreamed of, there are new possibilities for the future.” Walter’s vision, like Allison’s, promotes “disruptive technology” at its best. It seeks more to ignite learning than to teach. Over time and with any luck, it will mature into a tool teachers will embrace and make their own. I think we will see more of this as the OLPC and its scribes moves the discussion beyond the hardware to talk more about the software and content.

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  13. The real question is never answered with any clarity: how will these limited devices be used in a classroom setting?

    Negroponte keeps promising wonderful vague things – a sure sign of a total lack of substance. This project will eventually fail because the premise is fundamentally flawed; the good news is that it will become a text-book example of how the right connections and enough money for heavy PR can create something out of nothing…at least in the minds of those easily impressed by big names.

  14. Granted, Negroponte has been guilty of some utopian flights of fancy (I enjoy them) and there are some fuzzy parts to this vision. But it would be easy to see how this technology could facilitate electronic distribution of classroom materials via the wireless mesh.

    Text book shortage solved. Its like sharing a text book in class, but evreybody gets to read. Download a chapter to study at home.

    No copier to make dupes of a study sheet? Download it.

    And then the “subversive” creative part. People are social & adaptive by nature. The product in the hands of kids opens up a lot of serendipity. So who knows what will be produced. Lots of dross like everywhere else, but I have no doubt that some gems will be created too.

  15. Pingback: Media @ LSE Group Weblog » Blog Archive » The much-promised MIT $100 educational laptop

  16. I disagree with your notions that the laptops would be too underpowered for consumers to have interest in them.

    I work for a newspaper that used to equip reporters with a TRS80 Model 100 – one of Radio Shack’s best selling models. It was horribly underpowered, but old-timers today yearn for the days of that laptop as opposed to their Powerbooks and Dells.

    Why? It was dead simple, ran off generic batteries and did everything they needed. They could type up a few documents and dial up to send them in.

    This is really all you need for most computer users. The average Joe is not the greatest typist, so he doesn’t really care about the keyboard. And most of them just want to browse the web somewhere and occasionally type a letter.

    I hope a decision is made to release a version of this in a more nondescript color – I think it would sell like hotcakes.

  17. Nice “mental notes”, Ethan, thx!

    I’d like to know what kind of impact this little machine could have on ALL children of the world – not only those from Central Africa, SouthAmerica or poor SouthAsian countries. In other words: a real pilot project to me would be to equally distribute these machines to different countries with different backgrounds and then see how it could be implemented in each educational process locally. Hence, also to the USA and parts of Europe.

    I completly agree that it will greatly depent on the recipient’s government side & how they’ll be able to manage a distribution locally + training the teachers + raising some awareness among the guys running the educational ministries.
    I understand that sneaking in some unauthoritative technologies that are different to the traditional learn+repeat way of learning is the key element of the OLPC initiative and it is exactly this part that triggers my interest. For me the OLPC is a great tool to promote the children’s creativity (and not the creation of a US-$ 100 solution).

  18. Pingback: Helge Städtler » Blog Archive » One Laptop per Child Project

  19. 100-Dollar Laptop: UN Secretary General’s Office shouldn’t be used for exploiting the poor

    My eyes were stuck to the news that the UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan, while launching a 100-Dollar Laptop, on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, Tunisia, said “the invention is an impressive technical achievement. The project promises to provide flexible technology that can be used in any place, even in the desert without energy supply”. It is also reported that the U.N. is backing the project even with financial support thinking that it could help to promote education in the Third World. A professor and his team mates of MIT (USA) have claimed the credit for the project and the invention (!).
    At the very outset, let me state certain hard facts, which I believe will largely explain the title of today’s write-up. Long 31 years ago, in 1975, I invented the Free-play Radio technology and demonstrated a working model in a jam-packed press conference on 23 July 1975 in Dhaka. The news came out in almost all the news papers in the country in addition to an editorial the following day. Raymond Lee Organization, Inc.(USA) wanted to take initiatives for patenting the invention and marketing the product (Receipt No.71001, dated 13 February 76 ) when I contacted them from the then West Germany. On the request of Bangladesh Science Museum, a working model was presented to them in 1978. The invention, although apparently a simple (addition of storage facility to a hand generator) one, was never conceived and publicly demonstrated by anyone on this earth before 23 July1975. It opened the gate for free playing and playing low-powered electrical gadgets and equipments in remote and yet vast electricity-less areas of the world.. Thus the technology is especially handy for mass communication, mass literacy, emergency weather forecasting or as a life-saving communications tool following a natural disaster ( be it in the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal or New Orleans city), mass-scale low-powered emergency medical equipments etc. However, to reduce the price of a product with free-play facility and bring its price closer to the product without that facility, mass-scale production was a necessity, for which the desire to do so by the wealthy and powerful people who rule and control the world economy was also essential. But it appears that the world leaders were not keen to give the green signal unless and until the very free-play technology could be hijacked, first by the British and then by the Americans.
    In 1989, I sent a brief on my inventions and research works (including the free-play radio) to ITDG (UK) in the hope of mutual cooperation. In reply, they informed me that they would be establishing an office in Dhaka soon and re-contact me after that. But they never contacted me again, although they opened their office in Dhaka alright. One fine morning, on 28 August 1996 to be precise, through a British High Commission press release in a local daily, a company named Bay-Gen proclaimed itself to be the inventor (!) of the Free-play radio, which was reported to be developed under British technical and financial assistance under the ODA program. Immediately after the British press release, a wave of protests flooded the news papers and periodicals in terms of editorials, post-editorials, features, letters etc. in the country. Bangladesh Patent Office gave me recognition as the inventor of the Free-play radio and congratulated me for the invention and wished all success. The Bangladesh Govt. and I contacted the British High Commission, Bay-Gen company and the British Patent Office, but no to-the-point replies were received. Understandably so, since the UK Patent Office awarded a patent to a British named Trevor Bayliss in the 90’s on a technology which was in display in the Bangladesh Science Museum since 1978 and which was publicly demonstrated even before, i.e. in 1975, which is not only unethical but also highly illegal. The illegal invention of Bay-Gen received BBC product design award 1996 also. When the matter was raised to the BBC, they replied “development of the Bay-Gen is not a BBC matter”. A question was asked on the conscience of the BBC “Had it been the other way round i.e. a British invention in 1975, could you still have given a BBC product design award to a Bangladeshi company in 1996 and a reply to the British inventor “…..not a BBC matter” ? But no reply was received. According to a report titled “Launch set to go like clockwork” published in a foreign news paper, Bay-Gen received a multi-million pound cash boost from the GEC(USA) and planned to produce devices like free-play radio (originally planned for use in African bush fighting aids, with the blessing of the President Nelson Mandela, would go on sale throughout the world for about 50 pounds), mobile-phone charger, torch light, even TV sets etc. in its plan to launch a billion-pound business. During the recent war with Iraq the BBC talked about (and showed the product) using 5000 free-play radios by the allied forces. The 100-dollar laptop authorities must have acquired the hand-cranking free-play technology’s manufacturing right from the illegal patent holder as already mentioned above. A hand-cranking mobile-charger is recently being flooded in the local market @ USD 2, and appears to be a Chinese/Taiwanese product although no manufacturer’s name is printed, without caring for any patent rights. The President of a Japanese company appears to be right. He came to Dhaka towards the end of December’04 to discuss with me the modalities of acquiring the manufacturing rights of my new invention of free-electricity (2002) and commented on my new invention “the Americans will not care for your patent on such technologies, some Japanese companies may care but not every company will and the Chinese wouldn’t take more than seven days to reach your home with a manufactured product if they get a prototype”. He further added “some people told me that you did not elaborate in certain places in your patent paper”. I replied “75% answer of your question have just been replied by you yourself. Besides, there is hardly any time left to complete the patent formalities for the invention. I am not sitting idle, I am trying to develop a better process, and also to make a prototype with that”. At that time, I also discussed with him about my hand-cranking mobile-charger technology which he appreciated and now I can see the manufactured product in the market.
    My new invention of Free-electricity has already been registered with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) with a filing No. PCT/IB03/03366 dated 04 August 2003. The 44-page story with diagrams and a very favorable search report from the American Patent Office (USPTO) acting as the International Searching Authority (ISA), has also been published by the WIPO in the form of a booklet and is also in the display of WIPO website since 04 March 2004, under publication No. WO 2004/019476 dated 04 March 2004 (revised on 22 April 2004 for correction and again on 22 July 2004 to accommodate the ISA report). Actually, the ISA report dated 21 April 2004 from the USPTO was delayed by about 5 months. When the legal section of WIPO was contacted, they replied “there may be special circumstances where time is needed to resolve matters arising in connection with important workload in certain technical areas etc. As to your particular case, I would suggest that you contact the USPTO directly. You may also inquire about any refunds in such a case.” Accordingly, I contacted the USPTO, but I did not get a proper reply.

    On 04 July 2004, the patent paper of my new invention was sent to many notable eastern/western universities of the world for their evaluation and comments. Although the “Innovation” magazine of Singapore National University opined it to be a “too high level research work”, the aforesaid MIT (USA) refused to give any comment on it. People started saying that the MIT was busy in building a mobile laptop using Bangladeshi technology and therefore it refused to talk at that time. Energy Technology Innovation Project of Harvard University (another university of USA) replied “we (the project of Harvard) do not do any original research either of science or of technology”. Most of the Universities of the Western world replied “this is not our project, we do not want to be involved”. My answer to all the universities was “I certainly honor your decision if it is honest and non-racial. But the way my free-play technology was hijacked, how can I be sure”? I did not get any further reply. A journal of the Physics faculty of a notable university of Canada was almost ready to publish the paper. But they asked me for my postal address on the plea of “addressing me properly”. As soon as they found out that I am from the Third World, they did not correspond with me any more. A New York born President of the Conserve Energy Engg. Inc. wrote to me while reading my paper “I am impressed with the parts that I have read. The dangers in bringing forth a low cost or free energy source, dangers that you must be aware of by now, the “powers to be” or most certainly in the USA, Corporate America and also the worldwide Oil Mafia, will do just about anything to protect their interests”. Not a single university however could point out any fault in my paper and I strongly believe that my pressure-motion equivalence theory is correct and there is no scientific basis behind Newton’s third law of motion.

    Although I received a local patent on my new invention of Free-electricity (and a very favorable search report from the International Searching Authority), I could not manage patents in other countries for want of sky-high financial requirements. Since I am a member of the International Federation of Inventors’ Association (IFIA), Switzerland, and the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE),USA, and an invited scientist of many inventors’ associations like East West Euro Intellect, World Association of Inventors, SIMED etc., I had

    requested the inventors’ associations to try to make an arrangement to evaluate a WIPO published patent paper with a favorable search report , after the leading universities of the world had expressed reluctance to do so. An inventor cannot plead his case himself in the national phase of an international patent application. An attorney or at
    least an address of correspondence in that particular country is required, which is highly expensive and really impossible for an inventor of a Third World country. As it is, the basic fees for pursuing a patent is exorbitantly high too.
    Coming back to the comments of the UN Secretary General on the 100-Dollar Laptop, it is worth mentioning that there was again a wave of protests in the leading local dailies against the hijacking of the Bangladeshi technology of Free-play Radio by the100-Dollar project authorities. On the question of 100-Dollar Laptop’s technical achievement as opined by the UN Secretary General, I became tired and was unable to find any such thing. The Linux operating system, the flash memory instead of hard disks/CD-Rom drives, the LCD displays (the dual-mode display as claimed by the project was not operational in the WSIS prototype. The prototypes were shown with conventional transmission TFT LCD displays)etc. are pretty old technologies. Cheap components have been used in the 100-Dollar Laptop. But one who knows about the definition of “invention”, should understand that merely using cheap things to reduce the price does not constitute an invention. Use of “parasitic power” of typing, although not a totally new idea, could however be considered an achievement if it could be economically and reliably utilized. But I am afraid, this seems not to be the case so far. Using of low-cost, low-power and high-resolution eInk displays will be a good idea, but the project’s undisclosed technology appears to be not a novel one either and understandtably the project has no plans to patent their display innovations(!). As far I understand, the project authorities are not confident enough to bring such display innovations(!) in the market before the hardy Chinese (without any UN backing or multimillion pound cash boost from GEC,USA).
    At the UN conference in Tunisia, several African officials, most notably Marthe Dansokho of Cameroon and Mohammed Diop of Mali were suspicious of the motives of the project, and claimed that the project was using an overly American mindset that presented solutions not applicable to specifically African problems. Dansokho said the project demonstrated misplaced priorities. Diop specifically attacked the project as an attempt to exploit a new market under the guise of “non-profitability”. He further added “It is a very clever marketing tool. Under the guise of non-profitability hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments. That’s the only way of achieving the necessary economies of scale to get the price low. They’ve finally found a way of selling to a huge number of poor people. Even at a hundred dollars, as the well dressed Africans were pointing out last night, these things are absolutely not a bargain for an African child. Schooling for a year would make more sense. Better food would be nice. If it ever does make sense for Africa’s children all to have laptops, this will surely not be until the price of them goes down to something nearer to ten dollars than a hundred. My guess is they will all have mobiles long before. And we don’t need to give this one away. If somebody puts in the research to design the thing and really, really optimizes for cost, I’m sure there’s a Chinese factory somewhere you can build it for”. Mr. Bill Gates in his criticism said “The world’s poorest two billion people desperately need healthcare, not laptops”.
    Unfortunately, my “free-play” technology has been hijacked and incorporated in the 100-Dollar Laptop to reach a vast population of electricity-less poor people (without incorporating free-play technology this wouldn’t have been possible). Even a profit margin of barely USD 25 in the cleverly designed marketing plan of “one laptop per chid(OLPC)”suggests a profit of only(!) USD 50 billion, from the world’s poorest two billion people.What a Nobel-prize winning maketing plan indeed!
    The western world preaches for open-market economy, but this OLPC maketing plan (with a minimum market lot of 1-million) will be executed through the corrupt governments( the beneficiaries of so-called western assistance programs through World Bank,IMF etc. while the common people have to shoulder all the loans with cleverly designed effective heavy interests), so-called donors, absolutely loyal to their masters the NGOs, and other similar arrangements under the umbrella of UN. One Mr. Lee opined “The U.N. is backing the project
    because it can help promote education in the Third World”. But the question is, what is the per capita income of the vast targetted people? I am afraid, the figure may not be very much away from USD100, if the income of the western so-called assistance nourished so-called elite groups are not taken into account.Therefore, after being forced to buy a 100-Dollar Laptop, he wouln’t have anything to eat ,anything to live on or anything to wear (attire
    is a must for the poor, although optional for the western people).However, the OLPC project will be first launched in countries like Nigeria, Egypt, India, China, Brazil , Argentina and Thailand. Between five million and 15 million units are expected to be provided to these countries.
    Actually, even the computers failed to calculate the wealth gathered by the powerful and leading arms- producing countries of the world each year. They invest the surplus wealth in a highly profitable business of so-called assistance programs(in terms of interest, supporting even the misdeeds of the so-called donors, listening to harmful dictations, serving as an assured market and accepting all kinds of garbage tools and so-called experts etc.) by channeling the money through the world Bank, IMF , loyal NGOs and similar tools. They create and spread conflict and corruption and demoralize the people in other countries in order to sell their arms and to arrest their progress with an ultimate view of keeping a vast assured market and less powerful nations to rule.
    In the WSIS, Mr. Kofi Annan also said “This is not just a matter of giving laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within-within each child, within each scientist, scholar or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day”, but the question is why should anyone be a scientist in the third world country? To give scope to the western world for hijacking their inventions or to helplessly tolerate USPTO delaying the search report by 5 months (on grounds of special circumstances where time is needed to resolve matters arising in connection with important workload in certain technical areas etc.) without giving compensations or to become a puppet to the whims of the rich people where “intellectual property” has been very cleverly and effectively been shaped as “rich people’s property” or to get no answers either from the governments or from patent offices on the question of alleged hijacking of inventions or to discover racism in leading western universities when they were reluctant/failed to evaluate a science paper or simply to be a victim of the West /oil Mafia in trying to do good to mankind?
    If the UN sincerely believes in the welfare of the third world, why shouldn’t it try at least a few following things :
    1. Close all the arms manufacturing plants in the world.
    2. Make “intellectual property” as an “intellectual property” in reality and not “rich people’s property” effectively : (a) Make arrangements so that an individual scientist of the Third World can get a patent for the whole world with a maximum expenditure of USD 100. He should be allowed to plead his case himself and perform all the necessary formalities from his own residence through correspondence with his own equivalent currency. (b) Fully assist in fighting the “hijacking of inventions” cases, including my one in the International Court of Justice. (c) Make arrangements to evaluate a WIPO published patent paper with a favorable search report.
    3. Monitor the ill-motivated so-called assistance programs through IMF, World Bank, loyal to their masters the NGOs and similar tools of the West.
    4. Do not be a party to the huge profit-making programs of the West by exploiting the poor in disguise of humanity, child care, education and God knows what not.
    5. Do not allow the West to escape competition from hardy nations under the umbrella of the UN by marketing any product forcibly (invisible) in huge numbers through corrupt governments, so-called donors, loyal NGOs and similar agencies. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Written by: Nazmul Huda , 38/10 Siddheswari Road, Dhaka-1217, Bangladesh. E-mail : nazinvbd@yahoo.com
    Copy forwarded for favor of Publication by : Nazmul Huda

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  21. Pingback: Details on One Laptop Per Child » jeffwinkler.net

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  26. Can the laptops be used as body armour to combat the blows rained down on children and nuns by Negroponte’s death squads?
    Will the mesh network act as a schoolyard early warning system of the approaching Contra mercenary murderers?
    Was Neproponte the only war criminal available to head the project?
    Will there be a ‘Kissinger’ version in blood red?

  27. Try to get your Negropontes straight, Not Sean Hannity. The gentlemen are brothers, not the same men. (And in offering this snarky comment, I don’t in any way endorse the analysis you’ve offered of John Negroponte. Merely pointing out your inability to tell two different men apart.)

  28. kwadwo danso twum-antwi

    i am a community leader in a rural area in Ghana and my citizen have no insight to computers. so i would like to find ways by which i can join this project

  29. Looks kool just wana know the size to see if it can cope with the asus eee they look bout same size but thats all iv got to go on

  30. I am just wondering if it is possible to buy these laptops? My neice and nephew would love it. Does it have a full wireless internet capability, like can you play online games and such on it?

  31. The laptop looks very cute and nice. I would like to get one for my son. Please let me know where to get this stuff and how much does it cost.

    Thank you

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