Friday, June 02, 2006

Ethan Zuckerman on the OLPC

Ethan Zuckerman has been very kind to post links to my blog every now and then, and I thought I'd return the favor by pointing out his detailed update on the One Laptop per Child project. His story covers a lot of the technical details of the OLPC, now nearing its final prototype.

I particularly like the little anecdote about why the power crank, one of the early features of the OLPC laptop, was ultimately left out.
The one feature missing from the prototype I saw - the crank. It’s been clear - even before Kofi Annan broke the crank off an early laptop prototype - that a power-generating crank attached to the machine, like cranks are incorporated into FreePlay radios, might not work. Jim, who has designed the motherboard of the machine and has been focused on power consumption helped me understand why.

Contrary to what you learned in The Matrix, human beings are lousy at generating electric power. Small children are capable of generating between five and ten watts, for short periods of time. Since conventional laptops draw about 6 to 8 watts with their screens turned on, that’s a real problem for a child-powered laptop. The laptop needs to get much less power-hungry, and power generation needs to maximize the output a child is capable of.

Anyway, a Slashdot-worthy article.


  1. I think Slashdot killed Ethan Zuckerman's site. At least currently.

    Some kind of pedal controlled accessory or maybe a bicycle addon accesory for the OLPC might be a good idea, but I if it's anything like a car's atlernator, it will probably be expensive.

  2. Oh, dear, I hope Ethan has a good sense of humor.