The MIT Media Laboratory expects to launch a prototype of its $100 (about £57) notebook in November, according to Nicholas Negroponte, the lab's chairman and co-founder. The facility has been working with industry partners to develop a notebook computer for use by children in primary and secondary education around the world, particularly in developing countries. The laptops should start appearing in volume in late 2006.

"In emerging nations, the issue isn't connectivity," Negroponte said at the Emerging Technologies Conference on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Cambridge campus on Wednesday. "That's not solved, but lots of people are working on it in Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, etc. For education, the roadblock is laptops."

Negroponte and his colleagues believe that equipping all children in the world with their own laptop will greatly improve the level of education and help stimulate children to learn outside of school as well as in the classroom.

The lab expects to unveil a prototype of the PC at the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) 17 November, according to Negroponte.

The 500MHz laptop will run a "skinny version" of the open-source Linux operating system. It will have a two-mode screen, so it can be viewed in colour and then, by pushing a button or activating software, switch to a black-and-white display, which can be viewed in bright sunlight at four times normal resolution, according to Negroponte.

The laptop can be powered either with an AC adapter or via a wind-up crank, which is stored in the housing of the notebook where the hinge is located. The laptops will have a 10:1 crank rate, so that a child will crank the handle for one minute to get 10 minutes of power and use.

When closed, the hinge forms a handle and the AC cord can function as a carrying strap, according to Negroponte. The laptops will probably be made of rubber, he said. They will have four USB ports, be
Wi-Fi- and mobile phone-enabled and come with 1GB of memory.

The laptop can be used in a variety of ways as a computer, an electronic book, a television and writing or drawing tablet, according to Negroponte.