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MIT unveiled a $100 hand-cranked laptop computer to the UN technology summit in Tunisia, saying that it hopes to make millions of the devices to give to the poorest people in the world. The PCs run the open-source Linux operating system, despite an apparent offer from Apple to donate its OS to the project.

MIT Media Lab chairman Nicholas Negroponte gave some details:

The lime-green machines, which are about the size of a text book, will offer wireless connectivity via a mesh network of their own creation allowing peer-to-peer communication and operate in areas without a reliable electricity supply...

Governments or charitable donors will pay for the machines but children will own them, [Negroponte] said. "Ownership of the laptops is absolutely critical", he said. "Have you ever washed a rented car?"

Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria are candidates to receive the first wave of laptops starting in February or March, and each will buy at least 1 million units, he said.

The computers operate at 500 MHz, about half the processor speed of commercial laptops...The computer uses a screen from a portable DVD player, which can be switched from colour to black and white to make it easily viewable in bright sunlight, said Mary Lou Jepsen, the project's chief technical officer.

MIT plans to have units ready for shipment by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Manufacturing will begin when 5 to 10 million machines have been ordered and paid for in advance.