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11/21/2005 Archived Entry: "The $100 muffin stump --er, laptop"

Hat tip to The Inquirer for more discussion, and links, about MIT's "$100 laptop." Michael Robertson's comparison to "muffin stumps" is on the mark.

I finally saw a mockup of the MIT laptop on TV, and was amused to see a handcrank on the side. I don't know how many of you own a handcrank-powered radio/flashlight, but we own one, and I can tell you (a) it's a lot of work to turn a crank by hand, and (b) you don't get much light from a lot of cranking. Perhaps someone should buy the MIT team a few of these.

I find myself largely in agreement with Lee Felsenstein, who seems to have some more sensible ideas about how to bring computers to developing countries. He also understands about human power generation: he has suggested a foot pedal system instead of a hand crank. (And as a backup, mind you: he leaves the option open for solar or other forms of power.)

But practical engineering solutions don't get news coverage (or funding) like flashy balsa-wood mockups and arbitrary price points. "The press likes a nice round number."  —brad

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