One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Demonstration

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization has the noble goal of creating affordable computers for children in less-privileged countries.  The goal for the device is for it to cost around $100.  Original versions included a hand-crank for powering the device, but newer models support other options.  Here’s a less-than-perfect video of the OLPC XO Prototype.  Some notes on the technology and its features:

  • Mesh networking: Wireless network access is important for modern users, but it’s hard to come by in most areas of the developing world.  The OLPC devices can communicate with each other to access other networks.  The visual display also includes icons for showing other network devices that are located nearby.
  • Multiple Power Options:  The device can be powered through the us of a standard electrical connection, but there’s also the possibility of using mechanical power (for example via a footswitch) or by using solar cells.
  • Applications: The OLPC operating system includes a word processor, an image editing program, a web browser, and other essential software.  Apart from functionality, learning how to use these applications will tremendously help educate users.
  • Durability: As the device is targeted towards children, all of the components are designed with protection for ports, the screen, and other components.
  • Color and monochrome display options:  The screen supports a black-and-white option for offering better text readability.  For other applications, the color display can be enabled.
  • Swivel display:  The display can be swiveled so that the user can more easily read text and other content when they keyboard is not being used.  Traditional notebook computers that offer this feature generally cost over $1,000.
  • Built-in Camera: The device includes a built-in video/still camera and software for capturing content.  Few “complete” notebook computers support these features.

The devices are available to governments with a minimum order size of 1 million units.  Better yet, the technology could help manufacturers in developed countries create more efficient and more usable designs.  I’m amazed at how much useful technology has been included in the device. 

Personally, I find it refreshing and inspirational that individuals would focus on this effort.  In the United States, profit incentives seem to be the driving force beyond just about everything we do.  And, consumerism has led to a marketplace for $400+ music players.  Apple desktop and notebook computers, for example, cost far more than he average annual income for a family of four.

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