One of my colleagues out in San Francisco recently told me me about the One Laptop Per Child organization’s program Give 1, Get 1, in which North Americans can donate $399 to the cause. This donation will pay for one XO Laptop–what used to be known as the $100 laptop–for a child in a developing country. Additionally, you will also receive your own XO. $200 of your donation is tax-deductible. You have until November 26 to participate!
I saw the laptop at SXSW earlier this year, and at the time I thought it was cool, but didn’t know all that much about it. I’m not sure if this is a production model or not (I saw it at the “Is The Book Dead?” panel). The official specs look awesome from the design and software philosophy side of things. It’s small. It’s rugged. It’s cheap. The software is open source, and it’s designed for mesh-networking in both the technological and social sense. It’s a fresh piece of design, one that really appeals to me in that it puts computing in the hands of people outside of the office. It reminds me also of one of my favorite books ever, The Diamond Age, a story about a disadvantaged girl that uses a “Primer” (essentially, a very powerful interactive computer in the form of a book) to become Awesome Individuals. The OLPC is, in my world view, one of the first steps toward creating a hardware platform that can accomplish something along these lines. Oh, the machine is “underpowered” by even 5-year old benchmarks, but what it lacks in raw CPU is portability, durability, extremely low power, and outdoor usability even in bright sunlight. That’s where the money went, which is eminently more useful give its intended application. This is a machine that, I hope, that can be used more like tool in the hand. By contrast, most of our creative computer-based tasking is related to correlating, compiling, and assembling bits of data into a finished product; we are not really using the computer as a tool as much as the computer is using us to steer the creative process. We shall see what happens. I would like to try using one of these for a few months to see how it changes my working relationship with data and communication.
You can read more about the OLPC and XO on the official website. Check it out!