A laptop for the masses

Ransom Riggs

It may look like a green iMac, but it will cost less than 1/10th of what its trendier cousin retails for. And, oh yeah, it's powered by a wind-up crank. Cheap and robust, the MIT-engineered laptops are meant to close the "technology gap" for kids in developing countries; they will function as wirelessly-enabled computers, televisions, book-viewers and handheld game consoles. (Poor kids need video games too!)

What's more, they'll be sold directly to governments in quantities of no less than one million, which its makers -- the non-profit org One Laptop per Child -- hope will keep them from being sold on black markets; their ubiquity will keep their value down. Thailand and Brazil have been clamoring to place an order (they won't be able to until February), but the group plans to hawk their philanthropic wares in Asia, India and Sub-Saharan Africa too.

(But wait, what's the big deal? According to most internet pop-up ads, laptops are free! ... Anyone ever tried to redeem one of these? We'd love to hear about how they gave you the run-around. Or, less plausibly, a laptop. [No lying.])