$100 Windup Laptops

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers want to get laptops into the hands of children everywhere and have proposed to give the children of the world $100 laptops.

The laptops have a 500-megahertz processor provided by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and flash memory instead of a hard drive with moving parts. They will, also, run on Linux instead of Windows in order to cut costs on software. The laptops will be WI-FI enabled and have 4 USB ports.

Now the big kicker is that a hand crank powers the laptops. One minute of cranking would enable the laptops to run for 10 minutes.


On my first assessment this seemed ludicrous. In order to run the laptop for 8 hours the child would have to spend 48 minutes cranking that little machine. I got to thinking about how work would be different for me if every 10 minutes I had to stop and crank my laptop for 1 minute. My HP Pavilion didn’t come with a crank, but if it did I think I would probably have some pretty big arms right now.

I remember when I was a small child and we would make homemade ice cream. Initially we had to hand crank the ice cream. My little arms would feverishly crank away on that old ice cream machine as I imagined how sweet tasting the first bite of ice cream would be. After it was finally done I would savor each bite.

Later we ended up getting an electric ice cream maker. There was just something unfulfilling about sitting on the couch while the machine quietly hummed away in the background. It might have been my imagination, but the ice cream never tasted as sweet.

I imagine if I had to stop and crank my laptop just to get it to work, everything I did on it would have a sweeter taste to it. Of course I’m so used to the way things are now that if I had to crank my laptop now I’m sure the taste would be bittersweet.

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