Wednesday, March 7, 2007

One Laptop per Child Foundation hands out first laptops

This week the One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC) realized its mission. The foundation handed out about one hundred laptops to the children of Nigeria.

To put this milestone into perspective those are one hundred out of several million that will be delivered over the life of the project. Amazing though it may be it still taps only a small fraction of the awe-factor of the project.

These are no ordinary laptops. They are engineered to a staggering sophistication with the soul mission of educating the world's poorest children.

How do they do that? Every laptop is a terminal and a router. This allows for adhoc mesh networks to allow for interactivity between users and to relay a single Internet connection to an entire community. How cool is that?

The screen can fold like a normal laptop but it can also swivel so that it can be better used for gaming and reading. It has two lighting modes-one for indoors and one for out doors-so it can be used in the sunlight. The keyboard is rubberized and sealed. All of the memory is flash so there is no hard drive to crash. The antennae double as covers for the USB ports. They use about one-tenth the power of regular laptops and can be recharged by hand. They have a built-in directional pad, camera, speakers, microphone. And the kicker... they cost just over $100!

I want one too, but too bad for us. They are being distributed exclusively through national governments and education ministries millions at a time. Fortunately all of the technology is open source so it is possible (and even encouraged by OLPC) that some company may market a commercial version. Until then we will simply have to cheer the OLPC on.

OLPC homepage
OLPC chairman Nicholas Negroponte discussing OLPC at TED
Children's Machine - Wikipedia

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