A day or so after my post on "Problems with the $100 laptop" an interesting event happened. I'm posting from the World Summit on Information Technology, where OLPC is introducing the laptop. They have a balsa model with a keyboard and an LCD with a thick cable attached to a box under the counter, and Mary Lou Jeppsen, the LCD designer and the chief engineer right now, makes no bones about it not being ready yet. They seem to have added a crank about 6 inches long, made of flat balsa wood pieces.
I have been told that they now claim that the crank will have a 3:1 (instead of 100:1) ratio of crank time to running time. That's much more reasonable from a power calculation standpoint, but not appetizing for users who plan to leave their laptops on 24hrs/day (for mesh networking support). So I went searching for the original statement to show a friend. No dice. The only place you'll find it is in the post in this blog. In fact, there's no mention on the Media Lab web page http://laptop.media.mit.edu of power generation at all!
Now, I know I've seen it in printed articles, so they can't deny they said it. But they did a pretty good job of erasing their tracks on the web (somewhere it has to be in a cache, but caches get updated). I consider this a vindication. But it's also a validation of another point I want to make in better detail.
At a technical conference just before leaving for Tunis, I was on the panel of a session talking about the laptop. There I heard for the first time that the intended use of the laptop was to replace school textbooks. Since textbooks were said to cost up to $20, just 5 uses would break even! I made the point that having a continuously alterable textbook was not something from which I want to have schoolchildren studying. Especially when Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is one of the funders.
Can you say "propaganda"?