Crank It Up!

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Sometime back, some folks at MIT decided that what the Third World needed was a good $100 laptop.

Well, it looks like they’re going to be able to deliver in about a year. The first prototype will be demonstrated next month at a UN meeting, with production scheduled for a year after that.

As you might expect, it won’t be a powerhouse. It will use a 500MHz CPU from AMD, use 1Gb of flash memory rather than a hard drive, and it doesn’t come with Windows, but what do you want for $100?

For more specifics, go here and here.

No, you can’t buy one, now or later. Minimum order, one million units.

What’s the most intriguing thing about the device, though, is its most retro feature: a crank. Yes, if AC isn’t around and your batteries are dead/non-existent, you can crank the machine to life.

How much crank for how much time? On this (admittedly very low-powered machine), ten minutes computing time for each minute of cranking.

Maybe I’m crazy, but this seems to be an awfully good option for some in the developed world.

Obviously this would be ludicrous for playing Doom III on a DTR notebook, but it seems to be an awfully good feature in case of emergencies, especially if a few years from now, we end up in a wireless Internet world.

For instance, what do you do when you’re on the road, your batteries are dead, and you HAVE to send an email or look at a file?

More importantly, what do you do with a laptop when a natural/manmade disaster strikes, and there is no electricity coming out of the wall? Literally cranking up a laptop may seem silly, but silly can sometimes save lives.

Yes, in both instances, the wireless network would have to stay powered, but doesn’t that tell us what we really need in future wireless networks?

I grant you, it’s probably not too practical for today’s notebooks using DRAM and hard drives, but it may not be so ridiculous for tomorrow’s, which probably will use a lot less power than today’s machines.

And if we end up with PC phones, it might even make more sense.

If you think emergency features are silly, well, cell phones got an awfully big boost early on from people who only meant to use them for emergencies.

I think this feature (which obviously can’t cost too much if it’s part of a $100 machine) would be more popular than you might think.



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