Negroponte Unveils String Generator Mock-Ups


Nicholas Negroponte appears to be on an all out marketing offensive at the moment having spoken at conferences in Nigeria , Israel and now the US in the space of a week.

With the exception of some rather far out claims - in Nigeria, comparing OLPC's work to that of the church, here announcing that the introduction of laptops into the classroom has eliminated truancy in Maine - little new information had been released about the laptop and even less about how it will reach it's market. That was until yesterday at the "AMD Global Vision Conference" in Pasedena, California.

String Power Generators

Here, Negroponte unleashed a CG mock-up of what looks like a pull string generator. Dan Farber over at ZDNet grabbed a photo of the presentation slide. Unfortuately, either Negroponte had little technical information available, or Dan didn't pick it up as there is no information given as to what sort of power the tool might produce. Another notable announcement is confirmation that western consumers will be able to buy a 2B1 laptop.

The surprise is that will offer them for sale on eBay. Unless there are as yet un-announced security features on board - which is entirely plausible - this does little to assuage current fears that laptops may not reach their target audience - poor children in developing countries.

More String Power Posts:

Related Entries


String Power? You mean YoYo Power! That looks just like a little yoyo.

How is that going to power laptops? And will this spawn a new generation of Smothers Brothers yoyo tricksters?

YoYo, using a hefty dose of conjecture, I'd venture that the carry strap would double as a "tie". Secure this thing to a tree or pole, then pull the green handle.

I'd also guess that the big green loop handle is linked to a spindle and that, housed in the wider parts on either side, there will be one or maybe two, flywheels. An output would probably need to be on one of the sides.

What I want to get is a sense of the things size. If that projection is to scale, it's going to need to be powered by horses... or maybe a couple of Negropontes.

Let's see... some quick calculations.

Assume you can pull with 20N of force, a distance of 0.5 meters in 2 seconds (1 second to pull, 1 second to return). That's 5 N-m/s, or 5 Watts of power.

The capacity of a battery for a ultraportable laptop today is about 3000 mAh at 10V, which is 30 W-hr. So, to fully charge your battery would take 6 hours (30/5) of pulling on the string, continuously. Doesn't sound like much fun.

Can someone check my math?


I think if you used David's horse you could power that laptop pretty effectivly. Then again, you could use solar or wind, both renewable, and save a bundle on oats. Not as good marketing though, and OLPC is all about marketing:

String power--that's no surprise. Anyone who follows physics knows that MIT is a leading center for string theory.

On a more serious note, how is the electricity going to get to the laptop? Is there some place on the "yo-yo" to plug in a power cable?

Craig, regarding power production and consumption, this is from

"With these special power savings features, average power consumption, is expected to be low enough (in the neighborhood of 1-1.5 watts in many usage scenarios) that if a child needs to generate power for their laptop, they will get a good ratio of "work" to "learn". A small child can generate at best 5-10 watts; a larger child somewhat more. In contrast, conventional laptops often consume 20 watts or more, even when idle."

Craig: The Laptop will use closer to 1-2 W, not 30 like "normal" laptops.

I am imagining that the user might attach the strap to the desk or chair, and the donut around their leg or foot and that it would be used like a treadle sewing machine, with minimal, but continuous effort.

Or one side of the donut might have a spring and the other a geared generator, and by pulling the string (like old style talking dolls), you are winding the spring, which then delivers the power to the generator at a relatively constant speed.

Freeplay radios and flashlights using a spring generator have a similar power consumption to the OMPC, and they have shown themselves to be both practical and robust in third world environs.

I have seen the 60 MINUTES of Mr. Negroponte twice I think it is a fabulous idea and concept. Not only that, but the ideal is being put into play.
I would like to apply for a job to help with distribution. In the interview, Negroponte spoke of his competition and the need to get more information and product out.
I have a great gift of gab and love to help others especially children. Although you receive offers every day for various, give me a chance.
I'd rather have a slow yes instead of a quick no.
Thank you for your time.