Clockwork Laptop To Link Poorest Parts Of Third World To The Internet

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Note: This article gives additional details about the power source being integrated into MIT’s new laptop being designed for developing countries.

It combines sophisticated modern technology with one of the oldest mechanisms known to man. Researchers yesterday unveiled plans for the clockwork laptop, a new generation of computer that its West designers hope will bring the internet to even the most impoverished parts of the Third World.

The laptop, which will cost just 100 (?56) is being developed by experts
from Bristol University working with inventor Trevor Bayliss, the man behind the famous clockwork radio.

Mr Bayliss has been asked by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help build the laptop then distribute it to hundreds of thousands of

He will be enlisting the help of Duncan Grant, a reader from Bristol
University’s electronic engineering department, who helped with the original
radio project a decade ago.

He said: “It’s a very exciting project, one that I’ve been talking to Trevor
about a lot. It’s the fact that the rest of the world is becoming so computer
orientated if poorer countries don’t have that facility they will miss out.

“Trevor is keen that people should have access to information, it’s
important that we close the digital divide. If successful, this will go a long
way towards that.” The project, launched in January at the World Economic Forum, has won the backing of five countries – China, Brazil, Egypt, Thailand and South Africa – who have said they will each buy more than a million computers.

The laptop will be designed to work in the harshest conditions away from
modern civilisation, and as such is being designed to be almost indestructible.

It will be made to be durable, flexible and self-reliant, with a rubber case
for added protection. In size it is little bigger than a lunch box, and it will
be foldable like a traditional laptop.

The intense heat of some developing countries has also been taken into
consideration, and as a result the display will be capable of shifting from full
colour to glare resistant black and white.

A clockwork generator will be used to power the machine and that is where Mr Bayliss has been asked to supply his expertise.

The team at MIT Media Lab, which is led by Nicholas Negroponte, invited Mr Bayliss to America to see if he can convert the technology he used in the radio to a computer.

They want him to design a lightweight “hand crank” that can convert one
minute of winding into 10 minutes of computer time.

Mr Bayliss said: “It is a great privilege and honour to be asked. I would
say that it is possible. I don’t see why I cannot do it. I hope that I can also
involve the team at Bristol University in the project. It is great that there is
some British involvement in such a great scheme.”

Source: Bristol United Press