It's been dubbed "the Green Machine," and since it was first conceived five years ago, the low-cost laptop has been ridiculed as a gadget and a toy. But American computer makers aren't laughing anymore.
For two weeks in November, the so-called $100 laptop is coming to America, and supporters say the nonprofit organization that makes it — called One Laptop Per Child — could become one of the largest laptop players in the United States in the next few years.
Some U.S. students have already reaped the benefits of the program. First- and second-graders at King Open School in Cambridge, Mass., are using the computers for a year as part of a pilot program.
"It's so light, and I can pick it up," one little boy said.
"You can use it for your homework," a little girl added.
According to One Laptop Per Child executive Walter Bender, who runs focus groups on the laptop with American children, some kids say it's cooler than a Thinkpad.
"Their daddy's Thinkpad can't be used outdoors in bright sunlight. It can't be dropped. It can't be charged with a solar panel, or a crank on a bicycle," said Bender. "Kids love it."
But the coolest thing about the computer may be something the kids in America don't see. Every time an American orders a laptop, during a two-week period from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26, a kid in a developing country will get one for free — it's called the Give 1, Get 1 program.
The total cost to the consumer: $400 for both laptops — a portion of which is tax deductible.
"You sign up, and, basically, donate a laptop to a child in another country," Nicholas Negroponte told ABC News. Negroponte, co-founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory, created the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child in 2005.
The Give 1 Get 1 program, announced today on "Good Morning America," is the culmination of a dream for Negroponte. Since 2005, when he first came up with the idea, he has criss-crossed the globe, trying to convince government leaders to buy the low-cost laptops for their countries' children.
Many countries, like Brazil, Uruguay, Libya, Rwanda, and Thailand, have embraced the program, but poorer countries haven't been able to buy enough laptops to make it economically feasible to manufacture them.
With the Give 1 Get 1 program, Negroponte is counting on the generosity of Americans to help kick-start the program. By buying their own kids a cool new laptop, parents in the United States can help kids in a developing country, thousands of miles away, get a laptop, too.
Negroponte's goal is to design, manufacture and distribute laptop computers that are so affordable, that every child in the world will have access to one. His vision is for kids to take the computers home — particularly, if their home is a thatched hut — and share their newfound knowledge with their entire families.
Each laptop is programmed in the country's language with 1,000 books and other educational software. Pilot programs in countries ranging from Nigeria to Brazil to Uruguay have been successful, according to One Laptop Per Child executives.
Yet, critics argue that the laptop is a luxury, and not an essential need when dealing with the extreme poverty found in many Third World countries.
"If you think of it as a laptop, then it is a luxury," Negroponte said. "But, if you think of it as education, it's not a luxury."