One Laptop Per Child

It’s here, the ideal gift for early adopters.

We’ve been hearing about the $100 Laptop for months now. It seemed like a pipe dream. A laptop for children in third world countries? It would have to be an engineering marvel. The kids often live in houses with dirt floors. They often don’t have electricity. Internet infrastructure – or even telephone service – is non-existent in rural towns. They’ve probably never seen a computer before. They’ll have to learn the OS and the software without the a priori assumptions of a Westerner. Getting computer teachers trained has to be a logistical nightmare! How can this possibly work?

The answer is one that wouldn’t occur to most of us… Cooperation on a global scale!

It’s the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. This program attempted to design, build and distribute laptops for under $100 to children in third world countries.

In December OLPC had a promotion where if you donated a laptop you could buy a second laptop. PLUS you get a year of free Sprint wifi access at places like Barnes & Noble, St*rbucks, etc. that you can also use with any other wifi devices you may own – laptops and PDAs. The Sprint access alone is worth the price of the laptop.

The XO has totally new hardware with VERY low power consumption. The XO has a very cool GUI called “Sugar” that’s usuable even by kids who can’t read yet, much less read English. Sugar is based on a trimmed down Linux OS with programs written just for it. Programs like a music synthesizer, Turtle Graphics, word processing, a web browser and that’s just the START of it!

Since The XO is intended for third world countries, it has wifi – no ethernet infrastructure is necessary. They’ll automatically connect at power up to other XOs that they find. This enables the kids to work on collaborative projects. Not just chatrooms, but writing music together in the music workspace! Collaboration is the key to the future.

The XO has two antennas and uses them to triangulate and display a 2D map of surrounding XOs and wireless access points. It took a while and I had to change some of my router settings, but I was able to connect to the Internet with my XO.

There is an available hand crank to charge the XO if you don’t have electricity in your village. I think they said there’s a solar battery charger available too. They also have wireless teacher access points that enable the kids to get on the Internet and see what’s going on in the rest of the world. This is a really ambitious project. I did what I could.

I’ll post an update if the Give One – Get One program runs again. Your donation is partly tax deductible. And you’re doing something good for less fortunate kids. It’s a win-win game.

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