Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Labs, unveiled designs for a sub-$100 PC.
The laptop will be tough and foldable in different ways, with a hand crank for when there is no power supply.
Professor Negroponte came up with the idea for a cheap computer for all after visiting a Cambodian village.
His non-profit One Laptop Per Child group plans to have up to 15 million machines in production within a year.
A prototype of the machine should be ready in November at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia.
Children in Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa will be among the first to get the under-$100 (Ј57) computer, said Professor Negroponte at the Emerging Technologies conference at MIT.
The following year, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney plans to start buying them for all 500,000 middle and high school pupils in the state.
Professor Negroponte predicts there could be 100 million to 150 million shipped every year by 2007, reports BBC.
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 color, which can be viewed in bright sunlight at four times normal resolution, according to Negroponte. He estimates the display will cost around $35.
The laptop can be powered either with an AC adapter or via a wind-up crank, which is stored in the housing of the laptop where the hinge is located. The laptops will have a 10 to 1 crank rate, so that a child will crank the handle for one minute to get 10 minutes of power and use.
The laptops will be ruggedized and probably made of rubber, he said. They will have four USB ports, be Wi-Fi- and cell phone enabled and come with 1GB of memory.
Each laptop will act as a node in a mesh peer-to-peer ad hoc network, Negroponte said, meaning that if one laptop is directly accessing the Internet, when other machines power on, they can share that single online connection.
The lab will initially target Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa and Thailand, according to Negroponte, as well as Massachusetts, which has just committed to equipping every schoolchild with a laptop. Negroponte hopes to start mass production of some 5 million to 15 million laptops for those markets towards the end of 2006. Come December 2007, he estimated production of the laptops at between 100 million and 150 million, three times the number of annual shipments of commercial laptops, informs Tech World.