The $100 laptop

This morning’s Observer column

There is something about Professor Nicholas Negroponte which reminds me of the Old Testament. Genesis, 27:11 to be precise: ‘And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold Esau my brother is an hairy man, and I am an smooth man’.

Negroponte is indeed an exceedingly smooth man. He circles the globe (Business class or better, naturally) consulting heads of governments and captains of industry. He is always impeccably dressed, a fluent and persuasive presenter, and invariably leaves his listeners with the impression that not only does he have an ace up his sleeve but that the almighty put it there.

Until recently, his main claim to fame was that he founded the MIT Media Lab, a legendary institution in which smart kids are paid to explore wacky ideas. His latest Big Idea is a cheap laptop that would be given to poor children in developing countries, thereby ending the digital divide…

Update: If you think I’m unduly sceptical, see here.

And there’s a pretty scathing critique by Lee Felsenstein here.

Some thoughtful comments here.