reliable one hundred dollar PC

AMD estimates that, as of 2005-09, about 3.8 billion people in the world currently can't afford a standard personal computer. Even civil authorities in many countries can't afford a bare-bones machine that is simple, reliable and durable.

A reliable one hundred dollar PC was the target announced by Microsoft President Steve Ballmer, and met in late 2005 by the One Laptop Per Child foundation started by Nicholas Negroponte. This is the preferred name for that project, to emphasize the educational purpose of that project. See below.

Chinese $100 laptop

According to The Register in August 2005, a hundred dollar laptop was originally proposed by Nicholas Negroponte to have "a rear projection screen or a type of electronic ink invented at the MIT Media Lab; and it will store one gigabyte of files in flash memory." An LED display was eventually chosen for low power.

"Once turned on, HDLs will automatically connect to one another using a mesh network initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab – a spontaneous, carrierless method of broadband access that is also being worked on by Microsoft and Intel, both eager to see their core technologies being pushed out to the world’s entire population."

"In Negroponte’s mesh, each HDL will act as the household email, telephone (using Skype or other free software) and internet access device. For communities without electricity, HDLs may be powered by either a crank or ‘parasitic power’ (typing). He claims that he has been talking to Chinese manufacturers that could build the HDL for under $100 providing there were committed orders of at least six million in the first year. Chinese authorities themselves have said they would be interested in buying two million machines and Brazil 1m, said Negroponte."

However, the closest any Chinese manufacturer has achieved so far is the US$150 YellowSheepRiver desktop PC, which doesn't have its own screen, relying instead on power-sucking VGA and TV.

Negroponte writes: "Education: one laptop per child. Whatever big problem you can imagine, from world peace to the environment to hunger to poverty, the solution always includes education. We need to depend more on peer-to-peer and self-driven learning. The laptop is one important means of doing that."

His One Laptop Per Child group, formed, to sell the laptops to developing nation governments, released their "green machine" (named for its ugly lime green colour) at a UN conference in November 2005, according to the BBC:

"Studies have shown that kids take up computers much more easily in the comfort of warm, well-lit rich country living rooms, but also in the slums and remote areas all around the developing world." Negroponte asked "the most enthusiastic countries, Thailand and Brazil, not to give written commitments to buy the machines until they had seen the working model, likely to be produced in February" 2006. Manufacturers were expressing strong interest but there were as yet not commitments.

durable 500MHz PCs with flash, USB

"The laptops will be encased in rubber to make them durable and their AC adaptors will act as carrying straps." They are powered by a wind-up crank. See wind-up crank.

"They have a 500MHz processor, with flash memory instead of a hard drive which has more delicate moving parts, and four USB ports. They link up and share a net connection through "mesh networking"."

ambitious expansion

"We are launching with six countries initially, then six months later, as many countries as possible." Those include countries in the Arab world, two Asian, one sub-Saharan, and South American nations, said the BBC.

"It will rely on open source software so that support for local content and languages can easily be built."

To participate, "goverments commit to buying a million machines for around $100 each". They will later also be available commercially.

Kofi Annan "urged leaders and stakeholders at the summit to do their utmost in ensuring that the initiative was fully incorporated into efforts to build an inclusive information society," reported the BBC:

Negroponte "added that it was critical that children actually owned, instead of loaned, the machines." He proposed to overcome the pressure to reselling them by making them very ubiquitous and cheap and for community pressure to keep it out of any secondary market. Also "the machine is disabled if not connected to the network after a few days," he added.

efficient networking, free programming

"One computer with a wi-fi or 3G net modem" could share its connection with all others.

The BBC reported that "the vision is for children to interact while doing homework, and even share homework tips on a local community scale." More ambitiously, children were claimed to be able to develop their own software:


"Every single problem you can think of, poverty, peace, the environment, is solved with education or including education," said Professor Negroponte.

"So when we make this available, it is an education project, not a laptop project. The digital divide is a learning divide - digital is the means through which children learn leaning. This is, we believe, the way to do it."

Negroponte seemed to mirror the views of other technocentric projects like Wikimedia Foundation, which claims that its Wikipedia is a sufficient technology to let people write encyclopedias in their own native language. - BBC:Open media connects communities

Unfortunately, such projects tend to run quickly into snags, some of them social. The Simple English Wikipedia, for instance, never served its primary purpose as a base for translation of the most necessary articles into other languages, leaving each to build its own base of necessary materials. Also efforts to actually create a curriculum useful to developed nations' mothers and children, were quickly squashed by zealots and bigots who believed Wikipedia had to be written by the exact people who read the articles. Such necessary frameworks as vocabulary decisions were simply never made, leaving a large number of articles simply unreadable to beginners in English, thus useless for translation.

next tier

Though many of the communities to which Negroponte refers are close to starvation, the concept could still be workable very quickly for people in the next economic tier, those earning more than $1/day but less than $5/day, provided there was sufficient government or international funding to bear the costs of internet access and backhaul.

This might be one object of the struggle to replace ICANN with a new Internet governance body.

used machines

There are other projects that recycle used computers to make them available to poorer users:

As of 2005-11, at least 15,000 desktop machines used by the City of Toronto from 1998 to 2005 were available for under the US$100 price point. These had 1GHz Intel processors, and 20 to 80 GB drives - and were quite capable of running a web browser though they came without any software whatsoever.

Loading Linux and Firefox on them is not at all difficult.

new machines presently $300-$400

As of 2005-09, the capabilities required cost about US$300-400, though YellowSheepRiver and others had cut that nearly in half as of 2006-05.

AMD's best offering, the AMD Personal Internet Communicator, relying on the limited Windows CE, was in fall 2005 still about three times pricier than this target, though it is sold in many G20 nations or leased with phone service - and also in Radio Shack. Critics point out that Dell's lowest end desktops are under US$400, that Fry's sells PCs for US$180 that work, and that in the UK, a quality bare-bone box with graphics, sound and PSU can be had for £50; adding a Sempron CPU + RAM + HD + CD + Keyoard + Mouse
+ Monitor makes this no more than £200. In Canada, C$419 plus tax buys a good CD-based unit, and upgrading to DVD, a multi-card reader and speakers costs only about another $120 (total under US$400). Overall price trends for single board computers seem to suggest that the one hundred dollar PC is no more than a couple of years away, or at least the one hundred Euro PC.

complements higher end central systems

The hundred dollar PC will not be used in developed nations public sector: Most higher end users in developed nations will need HDTV office capabilities especially for serious emergency response situations where experts may only be available at a central location and may need to review video of the situation in the field. But reliable one hundred dollar PCs and especially first responder suits that include wearable PCs will be among the most important ways to gather and relay field situations to centers where they can be seen and triaged.

This is possible as of 2005-09 with a reliable one thousand dollar PC. When HDDVD and PCI-E SLI-ready parts become standard, the last PC will likely emerge, being a device that simply is pointless to replace with any future personal computer.

why isn't it cheaper?

The Microsoft OS plus Microsoft Office software is the biggest expense and highest profit margin item in any new PC. No doubt this is one reason Ballmer is concerned with the price of hardware.

Overcoming this with use of Open Office and Linux is one of the more popular suggestions for how to achieve the reliable one hundred dollar PC. This is in fact what the Linux Municator does


Factoring in the cost of e-waste is another problem. So-called green computers, though not green systems in the exact sense, have been slow to evolve and need expensive parts like LCD monitors.