One Laptop per Child

A friend and reader writes…

I was wondering what you think about the 60 Minutes report in case you missed it

This story has been circulating in the geek press for over a year now. It goes something like this:

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is developing a rugged and inexpensive laptop to be distributed to schools around the world, and their goal is to bring the machines’ cost down to 100 dollars apiece. Here is the Wikipedia entry on it. Mainstream America was introduced to the program by a 60 Minutes segment last weekend.

This project is Really Cool for a lot or reasons that weren’t discussed in this report. In a way, it resembles the “put a man on the Moon” project in its stimulation of innovation.

I like the way they’re getting power from hand-cranked generators. I like the use of Open Source software (Imagine if Micro$oft were writing the software for this: it would be expensive and impossible to understand). I like the networking scheme, where the computers all communicate with each other directly, rather than thru a router or a hub.

I worry about what will happen to all of these machines once they get old and worn out. Will they be refurbished or recyled? Or will they end up in dumps, adding to the burden of toxic e-waste? I hope this team is thinking about that.

It can be amazing what people can build, create, or invent once they are provided with adequate tools. That’s why food aid groups hand out things like shovels as well as food. There will be many surprising benefits to come from the spread of these tools of communication, education and invention.

One thought on “One Laptop per Child

  1. The biggest issue with OLPC isn’t necessarily the software, but the hardware. Specifically, what sort of hardware is going to be on the laptops? Will there be a hidden, silent transmitter of some sort on it, so people can keep track of the location of the laptop (and therefore the child)? You might want to read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. And the funny thing is, as far as that story is concerned, that’s going to be the reaction by the higher-ups when kids figure out hacks around the controlling software and hardware. They’ll freak out and try to charge them with crimes.

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