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Unwrapping the One Laptop Per Child Machine
Alex Steffen, 25 Nov 06
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The One Laptop Per Child machine, the cute, kid-sized and rugged laptop designed to revolutionize access to educational resources in the Global South has arrived.

We've published several sneak peeks at earlier models, but now you can see the real thing. Last week, the first of the new machines arrived at the OLPC offices. Here you can view some fun unboxing pix

It may well prove that other approaches to creating cheap laptops and providing distant places with connectivity will prove more effective than the OLPC campaign, or that a mobile phone-based approach would prove wiser. And we've written a lot before about both the controversy around OLPC's approach, and the difficulties of leapfrogging daily life.

But for now, let us just congratulate the OLPC for their success. If nothing else (and I personally expect we'll see a lot of other successes here), OLPC has raised the bar for providing tech to developing communities (ICT4D). That's non-trivial. And dang those things are cute...

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It would probably been more useful to supply African schoolchildren with other great, versatile, robust and useful innovations: books, paper and pencils.

Posted by: Lars Smith on 25 Nov 06

OLPC is a wonderful idea for children all over the world. Growing up in the US in a low-income family, my parents couldn't afford to buy a computer until I was 14. In those days, Linux was still in its infancy, GNU software tools weren't well known and were difficult to obtain, and the most well-known computer programming tools (for IBM-compatible machines, at least) were still very expensive. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I had access to a Linux-based system with Free programming tools at the age of 9 or 10.

One of the most frequent arguments I have seen against the OLPC Program is that money would be better spent on things like food, and medicine, and books and papers and pencils. While there are many places in the world where these things are much needed, there are also many schools throughout the world that have no problem affording these basic tools for learning but still haven't been able to afford computers for their schoolchildren. This laptop is specifically designed to fill that need.

Posted by: Harlan Brown on 25 Nov 06

Here is a letter from OpenBSD leader Theo de Raadt who foresees serious problems with the OLPC project because of its choice of hardware with only restricted drivers which make it a pro big-business project as usual and not something for all children.

Posted by: Han on 25 Nov 06

If you're interested in the OLPC's Sugar UI, check out the emulation review, video, and instructions to emulate Sugar yourself here:

And give a cheer for Argentina and Brazil, they received their first OLPC XO's last week.

Posted by: wayan on 25 Nov 06

The computer comes in a box filled with styrofoam!

20 million bundles of styrofoam! And where will these developing countries put all that mess?

We hope it'll go to the landfill.

Of course it might end up in the ocean.

Eaten by a little bird.

Who then dies from malnutrition because his belly is full of the stuff.

And then gets eaten by another little bird.

Or a fish.

and so on... and so forth....

Seems like humans, even with best intentions, just can't seem to do right.

Posted by: Matt on 25 Nov 06

I can think of nothing more empowering than taking at least some steps to give children the opportunity to connect to the body of knowledge available to the 1,000,000,000 people connected to the world wide web.

OLPC affords children the capacity to produce instead of consume, produce knowledge products that can be shared with the whole of the planet, make a contribution beyond their family, their village, their impoverished state.

This has the potential to vastly surpass the educational impact of other wireless devices such as OPPC (One Pencil Per Child).

Posted by: Tim on 25 Nov 06

The idea of such an affordable laptop sounds interesting not only for 3rd world and small children. However, the problem i see is more of practical nature. The SugarUI this machine uses is not very user-friendly and creativity-favouring UI. There is a reason why most UI's use a window manager and the ability to have nice buttons for every window to manage things. If you now argue, that small children are not able to do so, you are extremely wrong... adults are much slower in learning such things. Also having a chat-programme that is only able to use 4 colours and no real buddy-management is very "outdated". Such a project aims to bring the populations that were skipped by the recent developement of technolgy back on track,.... very good, but we have to make sure not to cripple this approach by taking away features that make any linux user so much creative. I'm not speaking about a console and the source code but the features that made it to GNOME or KDE that people wrote for themselves to be more productive. crippling abiword, firefox and other apps just to make it "simpler" to be used is the wrong approach. Making a better "kiosk-mode" for available window managers and simplifying the file-management is the right way. a child does not care about if this file is now saved under /home or /wherever and what extension or format it has... this will come later in learning... this are the "features" that should be restricted, but not the ability to limit abiword features.
overall, i would say for this project: right direction, keep going and developing!

Posted by: Damir Perisa on 25 Nov 06

"The purpose of this wiki is to both share information about the project and to solicit ideas and feedback. The articles and discussion vary from technical to epistemological. We invite comments on every page (please use the "discussion" tab at the top of each page)(...)"

Posted by: andreas buechel on 25 Nov 06

I would say this is for sure one of the top 10 things we can do to create a better world. Seriously right up there with curing AIDS, feeding the hungry and creating universal literacy. Oh wait, this can help all of those things. Connecting people to the internet can educate about AIDS and other diseases, help even out the food distribution problem, and if you really need me to explain how educational computers help literacy..I will. Along with the the children learning on them, adults will too, especially as the children grow, because literacy is one of those things that spreads. When those children grow and all open businesses with signs on them instead of pictures, other adults will have to read the signs. And the children will take their lesson of reading back to thier parents as well

Posted by: Martin Walsh on 27 Nov 06

Let it be known that the idea of paper and pencil as the only tools for learning (educating) has gone. Obviously, that era of civilization has brought us to this point and no going back. You and I have to relaize that the whole system of "beign" is going "Micro" or say "Nano".

Please, send me information on how I will lay my hands on thie wonderful development and bring it closer to the needy to connect tothe world.


Posted by: Allan Ige on 6 Dec 06

For Mr. Allan Ige

"He said a program would be created to enable those in the developed world to underwrite a laptop for a child in a designated country and to correspond with the recipient by e-mail as a sort of “glorified pen-pal program.� (NYT.COM)

Posted by: Katherine on 6 Dec 06

For Mr. Allan Ige

"He said a program would be created to enable those in the developed world to underwrite a laptop for a child in a designated country and to correspond with the recipient by e-mail as a sort of “glorified pen-pal program.� (NYT.COM)

Posted by: Katherine on 6 Dec 06

Where DO YOU GET THEM!!!!!

Posted by: anonymous on 15 Dec 06



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