Them's Fitin' Words, Craig

When I first heard about the $100 laptop project, I didn’t get it. Sure, I saw the value in having one laptop per child worldwide – I’m not stupid or mean – but I didn’t see why it wouldn’t just happen on its own. Prices are falling all the time. To make this project happen, it didn’t require a world-class engineering team, it required a team of world-class shoppers, I thought. My mother-in-law should run this project. I even argued with Alan Kay about it, to the point where folks had to come take him away before I was able to understand why so much effort needed to be poured into this right now.

I was wrong, and Alan was absolutely right. (Big surprise, no?) I have been convinced by these dismissive remarks by Intel Chairman Craig Barret.

More links: UN, tech and good discussion, historical background, interview.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. A few years ago I would have wondered what the point was. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer living in a mud hut on the edge of the Sahara I could think of a whole bunch of things that the children (and adults!) of Fanaye Dieri needed more than instantaneous communication with E! Entertainment.

    I worried then, and I worry now, about what happens when you destroy a traditional, functioning culture and replace it with “gadgets”.

    However, as we go into 2006 it’s pretty clear that the age of the proverbial “global village” is here, and the children of the world need and deserve an entry to it.

  2. Having tried to make this happen at Xerox, Atari and HP without results, Alan is right to be skeptical about market forces bringing this about naturally. At least within our lifetimes!

    One negative point about this project is that if the information about the AMD Geode 533GX processor is correct (though Mary Lou’s comments in the interview about “a special 0.25W processor from AMD” would indicate that it isn’t) then OpenCroquet won’t be practical on this machine. It seems a bit cruel to bring all these new people to the current level of internet experience while leaving them out of the future. At the high volumes we are talking about it would make sense to fix this by including a little extra hardware to the chipset.

  3. Jecel, I’m not convinced the hardware will preclude participating in CroquetSpace.

    True, the 3D visualizations won’t work.

    But rethinking the interface can be done while maintaining the framework.

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