Alumnus hopes to create $100 laptop for kids

Alan Kay wants $100 laptops in the hands of millions, but he doesn’t want to get a penny out of it.

As one of 10 members of a non-profit organization, Kay said he is devoted to getting developing nations’ children their own personal computers.

Speaking last Thursday as part of both Founders Day and the Organick memorial lecture series, Kay said laptop prototypes would be available this summer.

Kay said he hopes to drive the cost beneath $100 by using flash drives, sunlight-powered screens, plastic casing and wind-up cranks.

His only concern is what will happen after the laptops are distributed to the children.

“We are lacking nothing in the way of technology but are lacking in mentors,” he said.

Kay hopes to find American consumers interested in purchasing the laptops for $200 to be pen pal mentors with the children receiving the laptops.

However, his idea received some concerns from members of the audience.

Carlos Scheidegger, a graduate student in computer science, asked how the laptop computers would affect the countries.

Kay responded by saying he did not know. He compared the situation to the rabbit explosion Australia had in the 1800s.

“When a new creature is introduced to an environment, the repercussions are unchangeable,” he said. “Introducing computers to a culture that has never had them before will have irreversible effects. It is our job to make sure the effects are positive.”

Another concern was how ensure the laptops remain in the possession of students.

But despite both concerns, the audience felt positive about Kay’s plan.

“I think it is a wonderful idea; as an instrument of change, this is fantastic. It could be something big,” Scheidegger said.

“It is a great idea; this will help the process of change and evolution of these cultures,” said Jeff Unreh of the Utah Science Center.

Kay also gave a lecture titled “Are ‘Computer Science’ and ‘Software Engineering’ Oxymorons?” on Thursday to end the week’s Founders Day celebrations.