Mary Lou Jepsen was recently named one of the hundred most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in May 2008 for her work in creating Pixel Qi, and her previous work in creating One Laptop per Child where she was the founding chief technology officer and its first employee. Notably Mary Lou invented the laptop's sunlight-readable display technology and co-invented its ultra-low-power management system. Critically, she architected the XO laptop and transformed it into mass production. Mary Lou's earlier contributions have had world-wide adoptioin in successful HDTV, projector and head-mounted display products. In 1995 she co-founded the Microdisplay Corporation and served as its chief technology officer through 2003. Until the end of 2004, she was a group executive and the chief technology officer of the display division at Intel Corporation. Mary Lou holds a Ph.D. in Optical Sciences, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering (with honors) and a B.A. (req.) in Studio Art all from Brown University as well as a Master of Science in Holography from the MIT Media Lab.
Jepsen: Personal technology, well for me I had a brain tumor removed 13 years ago and so if I take a bunch of pills and shots and patches and a bunch of other stuff every 12 hours I die, so it’s always there. It’s always in the front and it’s medicine that has had the biggest impact on my life, but as a result of that every day I could die if I don’t get my pills and if they get sort of taken, because some of them are liquid, by the security at the airport it creates all sorts of problems. So I guess then you focus on what do you want to do with the time that you have because any day could be your last? And some days it’s really hard to get your meds so you’re more focused on that. And so I guess what I’m trying to do is just use the skills that I have and I fell in love with flashing colored lights when I was a kid and I really liked learning about them and I wasn’t thinking about poor children in Africa but now I figured out how my love for flashing colored lights can help poor children in Africa so that’s sort of all I do right now is try to lower the cost of computers so that more people can have access to them. I think it’s a step function. The world’s going online, just like right now half of all Africans will have cell phones in two years, half of all Africans. I mean right now there’s three billion cell phones deployed in the world and there’s only a billion people in the developed world, which shows that cell phones have kind of led what we’re going to do with computing. And so how do we get computers to the point where people in the developing world can have access to them because we know that if they can have access to them they can help raise themselves in steps out of poverty.