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Technology for poorer people

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Technology for poorer people

In the New Scientist from 12 february 2005 p 23 there is a small article titled “Technology guru seeks $100 laptop for world’s poor.” For the original article check their website or look for the printed version.

In the article it is written that the $100 price tag could be achieved by running a version of linux that is designed to use much less memory, so a bit stripped down compared to current Os’es and using display technology that hasn’t been used before in laptops.

That is a good and necessary iniative, as there are lots of people who cannot afford tradtional pc’s but for whom the internet and the possibilty of having a pc would be a great advantage. One question that occured to me while reading the article was:

What with upgrades and waste disposal ?

Firstly upgrades.
I thought about that when thinking about the french minitel system. It has been a while since I last saw it mentionned on television that information could be found on that adress or that minitel adress. The idea was good. It allowed a greater use of technology for a while.

As far as my information goes, when pc’s became cheaper and more powerful however the existing minitel network and the fact that people were used to using it, tempered for a time being the spread and usage of the internet.

But it is also good that minitel exists, as a kind of backup network, that can exist without interenet acess. This is a bit more elaborate than was the idea. The $100 laptop is a good idea. But it spread should not halt or temper the spread of more powerful machines.

Then there is waste disposal. In the article it is written that e.g. they could be sold by the millions to help agencies. That scale would mean that from e.g. a million laptops there could/might be those that will stop functioning before others. And rather than trowing them away, or only using parts of them again that issue should be thought of before they’re launched.

As I do find this a good iniative the above should rather be seen as positive feedback. Upgrades could be made easier, if somethings would be changed to the way laptops are built.

Instead of one plate, one motherboard that contains everything, and on which few things can be changed, why not go for a kind motherboard that consists out of several subboards that are connencted together. So that if one of the chips needs to be upgrade the subboard that contains that chip can be changed not the whole motherboard. This would also allow for use of parts of the laptop, when it is decomissioned or outdated.

This may sound like going back to the past, but it is so only partually. Subboards could be connected to each other, using connectors, so that there is little space lost between them.

Several chips on there subboards could be added to a modular cluster that could be used for research in all different kind of sciences.

In the event that millions of those laptops would be distributed, it would allow for enough time, to put a network in place that allows reuse of parts, to build clusters that could be used for research purposes, or that could be connected using grid software.

This would not be the initial phase of the laptop project however, but it should be thought about from the start. In that way most parts of the laptop could be reused, and have a longer live then they would normally be.

The novel display technology is also interesting for a different reason. It could be used to build/create cheap terminals wich could be used in a thin-client network or together with the cd-rom server as mentioned below, and in a different post [Old ideas that need still work]

If the idea of the lininspire cd-rom server technology would be feasible they would allow for a cheaper kind of intranet. If a cd-rom server would be adapted in such a way that it would have subboards (a drawing might explain in a clearer way what i am trying to explain and will be added if possible to a other post or on request) then it would be allowed to use for much longer.

This $100 laptop should be a starter, and as such a good start, and the above issues of upgrades, waste disposal, and the way its build should be thought about and worked out at the start.

So that it becomes a stepping stone on which can be built, not a end point to fast.

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About Florisv

  • Eric Olsen

    fascinating stuff Floris, of which you obviously know much – thanks and welcome all the way from Belgium!