At an event put on to honor the top technology innovations from Massachusetts companies, a technology designed for users far from the halls of MIT and Harvard stole all the thunder.
At the MITX (Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange) Whats Next Forum and Technology Awards June 7 in Boston, Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, was inducted into the MITX Innovation Hall of Fame.
But Negroponte used his time at the podium to talk about his current job as chairman of the One Laptop per Child association and its goal of putting what is commonly referred to as the $100 laptop into the hands of children in developing countries.
Negroponte didnt just talk about the association and its goals; he also brought the first working model of the $100 laptop.
This working model sported many differences from the early prototypes that were seen previously. The biggest change is that the laptop no long features a directly attached crank for powering the laptop in areas without electricity—the crank has now been moved to the power supply.
Attendees were able to boot the $100 laptop, left on the podium after Negropontes speech, with a slimmed-down version of Fedora Linux, and give the system a quick trial run.
During his talk Negroponte discussed some of the core requirements of the $100 laptop, such as that it run at very low power (around 2 watts), be readable in bright light, and be rugged enough to work in inhospitable areas.
One of the most interesting points was regarding the wireless mesh capabilities of the laptop. Negroponte pointed out that the point of most distributions will be to make sure that the villages have some form of internet connectivity in a central location, such as a school.
Each laptop will then use wireless mesh technology to spread wireless networking across the entire village. When the laptop is shut down, it will continue to work as part of the wireless network.
However, as Negroponte put it in his address, One Laptop per Child isnt all about the laptops. The main goal is to tap into the ability of every child to toss away a manual and figure out how to make gadgets work on their own, thus helping children help themselves to learn.
While Negroponte and the $100 laptop were the main attraction at the awards show, the MITX Technology Awards honored several Massachusetts companies for their products and technologies.
Among the winners were BBN Technologies for best communications/collaboration application, Enigma for best customer relationship application, Signiant for best digital service delivery platform, HighRoads for best human resources application, m-Qube for best mobile application, Pegasystems for best operations application, Aspen Technology for best performance management and analytics, Bit9 for best security application and PodZinger for best Web 2.0 application.