One Laptop Per Child
If you haven’t heard of it yet, just google “one laptop per child“. Or better yet, visit their website: laptop.org. The “XO” laptop is definitely a unique machine – check out some specs on the hardware, software, and interface. The software approach is admirable:
XO is built from free and open-source software. Our commitment to software freedom gives children the opportunity to use their laptops on their own terms. While we do not expect every child to become a programmer, we do not want any ceiling imposed on those children who choose to modify their machines. We are using open-document formats for much the same reason: transparency is empowering. The children—and their teachers—will have the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their software, hardware, and content.
We are using components from Red Hat’s Fedora Core 6 version of the Linux operating system; we are tracking the main kernel fairly closely.
Applications will include a web browser built on Xulrunner, the run-time environment used by the Firefox browser; a simple document viewer based upon Evince; the AbiWord wordprocessor, an RSS reader, an email client, chat client, VOIP client; a journal; a multimedia authoring and playback environment; a music composition toolkit, graphics toolkits, games, a shell, and a debugger.
I’m impressed by the capabilities of the little green machine, but I’m skeptical as to how much of its capabilities a 3rd world student will actually make use of. But really it doesn’t matter. Getting this in the hands of impoverished children (and their families and parents!) will give them books, encyclopedias, a video camera, drawing pads, etc. Stuff that will both educate and inspire creativity. It’s already having a positive impact in Peru. Maybe a small percentage of them will delve deeper into the guts of the machine itself (you can pull up a linux shell 🙂 ), but that’s not the main intent.
Here’s the best news: you have until December 31st to buy one of these for an underprivileged child in another country with the Give One Get One program. And, as the name implies, you buy one for yourself also. We purchased one when the program started, and received it fairly quickly. We’re giving ours to some friends with small children who live in a poor part of Angola (Africa), so we were able to have both laptops used for a good cause (and we got to play with one before we sent it off 🙂 ).
But you (like most folk) will probably keep the one you get – and good for you! My daughter Hannah played with the XO nearly the entire time we had it out of the packaging, and I was amazed at how quickly she picked up using it, and how it captivated her attention so thoroughly. I wish we could’ve kept one. There’s already a growing body of enthusiasts here in the US. (Chat with them on your XO via Jabber.)
The XO (and more specifically the One Laptop Per Child program) got a 9-year old’s seal of approval, and it gets mine as well. Do a good thing and send one to someone who needs it today! Considering how relatively cheap it is to us compared to how valuable (and out of reach) it is to them, how can you not?