Make your own $100 laptop…?

Computers & Mobile
Make your own 0 laptop…?

Tn-Laptop-CrankThe $100 laptop is a project from MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte to bring a low-cost open source, windup-powered laptop to the world, targeted at children in developing nations. I really admire what they’re doing, this could be the most amazing thing ever. I am about to leave for a quick trip, but I wanted to post this up before the weekend – is it possible to cobble together “something” like that, using eBay and hunting around for stuff – while trying to stay under the $100 limit? Maybe – so, here it is so far, my version using an old Apple eMate. It’s not practical or scalable, or open source, but it’s going to be under $100 and best of all, it’s green too…Here’s the one they’re showing around, it looks really cool..

The MIT Media Lab has launched a new research initiative to develop a $100 laptop—a technology that could revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. To achieve this goal, a new, non-profit association, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been created. The initiative was first announced by Nicholas Negroponte, Lab chairman and co-founder, at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005.

More images here.

The version I am working will likely cost about $50 through eBay auctions, Craigslist, Freecycle and it’s not practical for kids. The funny part about my version, it’s likely to cost more in shipping (I just won an auction for an Apple eMate and the shipping was the same as the final cost).

I need to find a laptop like device that had great battery life, tons of free apps, the ability to use Wifi and would work with a hand crank to charge it.

It might not work out, but here is what I have so far.

The Apple eMate is a great little system from 1996.

Here is the original info about it:
The Apple® eMate(tm) 300 is the first of a new class of affordable mobile computer that works as a companion to Mac® OS- and Windows software-based computers in a Distributed Learning Environment. Developed in collaboration with educators to meet the specific needs of education, the eMate 300’s unique industrial design is rugged enough to withstand the rigors of being carried, shared, and used in a variety of environments. The eMate 300 is easily portable for even the youngest students-it weighs only 4 pounds and is small enough to fit in a backpack. And it lets users enter data by keyboard, or with a stylus, so students can work the way that’s best for them. The eMate 300 features the powerful and easy-to-use Newton® 2.1 operating system. It comes with built-in software applications that are important for learning-including word processing, drawing, spreadsheet, a graphing calculator, address book, calendar functions, and more.

Built-in applications:
* Word processor, drawing program, spreadsheet, graphing calculator, address book, calendar functions and more

Power and speed:
* 25-MHz ARM 710a RISC processor
* High-speed infrared (IrDA) port for transferring data wirelessly at up to 115 kilobits per second within 3.3 feet (1 meter)

Memory and storage:
* 3MB of RAM (1MB of DRAM and 2MB of flash memory); 8MB of ROM

* 480- by 320-pixel gray-scale LCD with back- lighting; displays up to 16 shades of gray

More here.

I just won an auction on eBay for one for $9.98!! The shipping costs more than the unit!

I have a hand crank charger, but will likely build a better one – I need to work out the costs, but I don’t think it will be more than $20 or

The eMate doesn’t have wireless built in, but there are a lot of hacks to get it working with a WaveLAN bronze. There’s also a huge Newton community (what the eMate is based on) so there are thousands of free apps for everything.

The WaveLAN bronze card can also be scooped from eBay or other places for $10.

I have a flexible solar panel, but that of course would most certainly bump the budget outside of $100.

That’s it so far, I have testing to do and heading out for a quick trip. I am hoping this may get other Makers out there thinking about low cost computers, recycling gear and watching the progress of the real version from MIT.

18 thoughts on “Make your own $100 laptop…?

  1. dagobert_THE_REAL_ONE_!P says:

    This sort of thing can be a nice hack,but seems hardly a real-world solution:the remaining emates will never fulfill the needs of developing countries.But it’s true that there are plenties of hardware (mainly PCs,but “exotic” platforms as well,like the emate) which would be ok for the job (remember what you did with your “old” Pentium 100 Mhz,32 meg,1 gig hd ? ;).
    Moreover,those old PCs are usually wasted in our nonsense and consumerist countries … so why not trying to make a general framework to integrate the discarded pieces (motherboard,cpu,ram,lcd screen,…)?
    It would be the chassis of our VC (Versatile Computer ;) :a general framework to have a common ground,and even with any piece available,the only cleverness needed would be to know enough the framework and the computer in general to make fixing (screwing) and wiring. :)
    The total costs would be:
    -the material and manufacturing of the framework (plastic or steel or …?)
    -the lcd screen (=>reversing of the connection probably not easy;depends of:standard or mostly proprietary?)
    -the electronic interface,the (cheap!) heart of the framework,which glues all the rest together:
    -made-up keyboard/mousePS/2 (or COM) motherboard port
    -USB key or memory card IDE port
    -VGA LCD and perhaps TV (LCD can remain an option:think CHEAP! (and adapted) ;)
    -power interface: AT connection (batteries) hand crank charger,solar/water/wind electricity,(place local method of electricity production here)
    -optional components:mass storage (USB key,…),batteries,touchpad,(whatever peripheral)…

    -The power interface should be VERY robust:if the electricity is locally produced,I doubt there will be a local engineer too to verify the voltage is always at the same (good) level…The first sign will be the components burning. :/
    -The framework should integrate the space for future or probable devices: 3 1/2 and 2/13 hard drives,usb key, cd reader/burner,…
    -As I think of:PCI adapters to have one (or two) PCI cards horizontally (the more I think,the more I fear it’s going to end with a mammothian Altair-like laptop!)
    -The LCD should be formated in a plank shape,which would be inserted in the guides of the framework (forming a closing lid).
    -The electronic interface,the LCD and the memory storage (HD,CD,usb/flash) (and the hand crank charger?) should form a moving bloc;in fact,the framework is an open box,with the motherboard on its ground;the moving bloc should move along rails,digged into the walls of the box.Having the things that way will allow to adapt to the position of the cpu and its fan ;) on the motherboard;next,we only have to place/inlay/crush the keyboard (and batteries?And hand crank charger?).

    Mhmh…Seems like there’s enough for a post on ;)

    -sorry for the LOOONG post! ;P (Inspiration does’nt wait for.)
    -zorry voor bath inglese!!

  2. dagobert_THE_REAL_ONE_!P says:
  3. dagobert_THE_REAL_ONE_!P says:
  4. burndup says:

    How about a link to some software that’ll get us browsing the net with that wavelan? Or at least able to ssh with it? Bueller?

    On a similar subject, any possibility of doing the same with a NEC MobilePro 400, or should I use that for skeet shooting?


    1. BARBARA says:

      Hi, we found a NEC MobilePro 400 at a second hand store and bought it thinking maybe we could use it to check our emails and send emails while away from our home desktop computer. Is this possible ? Can we use the lil MobilePro 400 to connect to the internet ?? Don’t know a thing about it at the present.

  5. burndup says:

    I found an archive of Newton software:

  6. micgolub says:

    How does one make their own hand crank battery charger?

  7. says:

    hello, is there any other as interesting project as this on the net.give me some url.I have a compaq contura 430 cx can I do something on her, do you know how can I make battery pack for her??.How much is that laptop up there, I would like to buy it but I am from Serbia so I can’t visit e-bay.

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