Our technology


Revision as of 16:03, 14 April 2007 by Php5 (Talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search
  This page is monitored by the OLPC team.
  english | 한국어 HowTo [ID# 33625]  +/-  


Design Decisions

Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?

One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to "own" something—like a football, doll, or book—not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care.

Nevertheless, the OLPCs do not stand alone. They communicate in an extended range wifi network. They can use USB devices which can be shared in a community access center. For instance a library of thousands of books can be cheaply distributed on a few CDs. These can reside in a community access center along with a few USB CD readers for the kids to download. The OLPC is not as limited by its storage capacity as it first seems.

Why not a desktop computer, or—even better—a recycled desktop machine?

Desktops have a lower capital cost but operating costs are higher. We are taking great care to not only keep the initial capital costs low, but also to minimize the causes of failure that lead to costly maintenance. And the OLPCs are low power devices which will consume less electricity than desktop computers.

Also we feel that mobility is important, especially with regard to taking the computer home at night. Also, half of the kids in the world don't have electricity at home - this is real barrier to use for a desktop. Kids in the developing world need the newest technology, especially really rugged hardware and innovative software. Recent work with schools in Maine has shown the huge value of using a laptop across all of one's studies, as well as for play. Bringing the laptop home engages the family. In one Cambodian village where we have been working, there is no electricity, thus the laptop is, among other things, the brightest light source in the home.

This is based on a quote from Nicholas Negroponte as reported in Wired magazine.

Finally, regarding recycled machines: if we estimate 100 million available used desktops, and each one requires only one hour of human attention to refurbish, reload, and handle, that is forty-five thousand work years. Thus, while we definitely encourage the recycling of used computers, it is not the solution for One Laptop per Child.

Why not just give children cell phones?

While cell phones are inexpensive and there is growing convergence between the technologies of telephony and computing, there are some differences that make the distribution of cell phones the wrong path to follow. Remember, this is not just a connectivity project; it is a learning project. The display is tiny. Even if the information is beamed to a TV set, there are still two major problems: (1) half of the children in the world don't have electricity at home (and thus no TV); and (2) standard TV resolution is too low for reading books or looking at webpages for an extended period of time. It's possible with HDTV, but HD has very limited presence in the Third World and it is too expensive.

Cell phones are very limited in terms of their ability to foster a wide range of expression, and, unlike computing culture, which is as much about creating as consuming, phone culture is service oriented: you use a phone, you do not transform it. It is not a “thing to think with.”

What about technical support? Would the children's ownership of them lead to sufficiently greater care that technical support becomes unnecessary?

Ownership is key but not everything. We anticipate that there will be local support industries growing up around the project. It cannot and will not be done centrally. However, great care is being taken to minimize the possibility of breakdowns. We have many years of experience with laptops and know where the weak points are. Our OLPC design eliminates or minimizes these weak points.

First Generation Project

When do you anticipate these laptops reaching the market?

Our preliminary schedule is to have units ready for shipment by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Manufacturing will begin when 5-to-10-million machines have been ordered and paid for in advance.

What do you see as the biggest hurdles?

The biggest hurdle will be manufacturing 100 million of anything. This is not just a supply-chain problem, but also a design problem. The scale is daunting, but I find myself amazed at what some companies are proposing to us. It feels as though at least half the problems are being solved by mere resolve.


For more information see the Hardware page.

How is it possible to get the cost so low?

First, by dramatically lowering the cost of the display. The first-generation machine will have a novel, dual-mode display. These displays can be used in either high-resolution black and white in bright sunlight, or in a lower resolution color mode indoors - where the color is created by an LED-based backlight. By rethinking the LCD display: through the removal of color filters, change of the pixel layout, improvements in the optics of the backlight and liquid crystal mode, and in the drive circuitry for the display: We have lowered the typical display cost in a laptop down from $150 to approximately $35. Perhaps more importantly, we have designed a display that is more readable than today's LCDs: a 200dpi, ~20% reflective, sunlight readable display, with huge power savings. This is critical because half of the world's children do not have electricity at home, and need to be able to charge up the laptop batteries themselves with some type of human powered device like the Freecharge portable charger.

Second, we will get the fat out of the systems. Today's laptops have become obese. Two-thirds of their software is used to manage the other third, which mostly does the same functions nine different ways. Third, we will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks.

Considering the millions to be built, will it be recyclable?

We are being diligent about our choice of materials so as to make it as environmentally friendly as we can; we are also working hard to reduce the power required to operate the laptop during its lifetime of use. We anticipate it using an order-of-magnitude less power than the typical laptop, thus reducing the burden on the environment due to power generation. We are also conducting a "cradle-to-grave" analysis, to help us determine any weak points in our environmental program.

How many amps will be needed to run this machine?

While the final specs haven't been determined, thinking in terms of milliamps is closest to the design goal.

What are the plans for the battery?

They will use a standard five-cell NiMH battery pack that is robust under variable charging conditions and has no environmentally dangerous components. Anyone with basic technical skills could replace the battery pack.

Battery life will be much longer than with traditional laptops because we are paying a lot of attention to reducing power consumption. The AMD GEODE CPU is low power. The screen can be used in a special ultra-low power monochrome mode. The wifi is being operated in a special low-power and extended range configuration that will use less power than traditional wifi and reach much further. We will eventually do some lifecycle testing to determine the number of recharge cycles we can get out of a battery pack.

What about connectivity? Aren't telecommunications services expensive in the developing world?

When these machines pop out of the box, they will make a mesh ether network of their own, peer-to-peer. This is something initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab. Connectivity to the Internet will be from the mesh through gateways at the schools. (We are working with the local governments and the private sector regarding how to reduce the cost of Internet access. The Motoman project is an example of how you can make a little connectivity go a very long way.)

What can a $1000 laptop do that the $100 version can't?

Not much. The plan is for the $100 Laptop to do almost everything. What it will not do is store a massive amount of data. What it will have is a level of robustness found on very few laptops of any price; a display that works indoors and out; an order of magnitude improvement in power consumption; and an exceptional wifi antenna design.

Who is the original design manufacturer (ODM) of the $100 laptop?

Quanta Computer Inc. of Taiwan has been chosen as the original design manufacturer (ODM) for the $100 laptop project. The decision was made after the board reviewed bids from several possible manufacturing companies.

Quanta Computer Inc. was founded in 1988 in Taiwan. With over US $10 billion in sales, Quanta is the world's largest manufacturer of laptop PCs; the company also manufactures mobile phones, LCD TVs, and servers and storage products. In addition, Quanta recently opened a new US $200 million R&D center, Quanta R&D Complex (QRDC), in Taiwan. The facility, which opened in Q3 of 2005, has 2.2-million square feet of floor space, and a capacity to house up to 7,000 engineers.

Will the laptop owner be able to upgrade any aspect of it (e.g., replace the 512M flash with 1Gb flash)?

In general, no. All internal parts are soldered in, except the battery, which can be replaced. One can add external (low-power or self-powered) devices on the three external USB2 ports, e.g., a USB thumb drive could easily be added. We are not anticipating internal upgrades (although we may provide clearance for machine-soldering of additional flash); some countries may ask for additional features added at the time of manufacture.

Will the USB port have enough power to run a USB CD reader?

It should.

How bright will the display be?

This will be user controllable. The screen will also function in a reflective monochrome mode that is ultra-low power consumption. Brightness of screens is not an absolute measurement but is dependent on ambient light. If the light is too bright, the color display will be harder to see, however the monochrome mode will function better.

Will the case be made of food-grade plastic?


When will we see a reasonably final case design?

As of the end of May 2006, the industrial design (ID) close to being finalized; there are some outstanding issues regarding an increase in the size of the display that are being taking into consideration, as well as some materials and surface treatments related to robustness that are being investigated. We'll keep pictures posted on the download page (and in this wiki) as the ID continues to be refined.

Under what range of temperatures is the laptop expected to operate?

Somewhere in between typical laptop requirements and Mil spec; exact values have not been settled.

Will the laptop have a fan?

Fortunately, no. ;-)

What design features will keep dust out of the laptop?

Lack of a fan ;-)

What design features will keep moisture out of the laptop?

No fan ;-) There are few openings—just power, USB, mic in and speakers out, and venting. These have interior sealing and are only exposed when the laptop is open and the wifi antennae are up. The laptop has a slight lip that seals it when it is closed. We are exploring latches, which will make the seal very tight.

Will each laptop have a unique serial number?

They will have a unique MAC address. There may be additional measures taken to identify a machine as being an OLPC machine. While the availability of a unique serial number would assist with field tests and repair tracking, we are cognizant of the need to consider both security and privacy.

Will the laptop have the capability to have extra compact flash or SD memory added inside the case?

We are working out different schemes for internal upgrades of the machine. Exactly what we do is to be determined.

Will the case have any external grooves or slots?

There are three external USB slots and we are exploring the possibility of adding an SD slot.

Will the machine be available with different keyboard layouts?

There will be country-specific (and language-specific) keyboards available.

I don't see the hand crank on the latest designs, is it not part of the laptop's design anymore?

The hand crank is still there, it just moved to the AC adapter. It didn't make ergonomic sense to have it on the laptop, and it put mechanical stress on the laptop itself. A discussion of a candidate system can be found in this Technology Review article. It also means that power generation is entirely independent of the laptop which invites other charging mechanisms to be used such as Freecharge portable charger, car batteries, bullock-driven generators, etc.

What OS will they use, and what will be the flash capacity?

Initially Linux will be used, as well as a 512 MB (note this probably should be mebibyte, or MiB) flash.

Personal tools
  • Log in
  • Login with OpenID
About OLPC
About the laptop
About the tablet
OLPC wiki