The $100 laptop, Orange Version

Cute and functional.  I hope they get into the right peoples’ hands.

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  1. Good question, Jeys. Here’s Ethan Zuckerman:

    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. This means being ergonomically smart – use large muscle groups, and use human-generated motion efficiently. A crank attached to a laptop fails on both fronts – to crank a box, you fight the tendency of the laptop to move in the opposite direction of the crank. This means you either hold the laptop in one hand and crank with the other – and do work with both arms – or put the laptop on a table and run the good chance of it falling off a table. And cranks use small muscle groups – the triceps, hand and wrist muscles.

    The solution is to make power generation an external add-on. The team is working on microgenerators that produce power using really big cranks – ones you might anchor with a hole in a table, and crank using your whole upper body. (Think Oompa Loompas in Wonka’s chocolate factory opening valves.) Other microgenerators use a pullcord, the sort I use to start my lawnmower, or pedal power. And other power sources, including solar panels, could plug into the input jack of the machine. The current prototype accepts voltage from -23 to +23v, which lets power hackers be very creative – and more than a little sloppy – in providing power to the device. Got a power block for a laptop? If you can make the connector fit, it will power the laptop.

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