The Charity is called ‘One Laptop Per Child‘ — check out the website at www.laptop.org/
The non-profit organisation was founded by faculty members of ‘MIT Media Lab’, part of ‘The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’ near Boston USA with Mr.Nicholas Negroponte as Chairman of OLPC and as Chairman Emeritus of ‘The MIT Media Lab’.
Thanks to ‘MIT’ and Mr.Negroponte’s clout, investment was secured from companies like ‘News Corporation‘, ‘Google‘ and ‘eBay‘. ‘Fuseproject‘ agreed to design the hardware, and ‘Pentagram‘ the software. They rejected attempts to use old recycled laptops in favour of designing one from scratch — using new and unusual design methods…
The design brief:
- It had to be able to be powered up by hand-crank;
- It had to have multiple uses — so it works as a TV set, as a light and as an electronic book. The screen can be colored for computing or monochrome for reading;
- The screen needed to be visible in strong sunlight, and the entire machine to be dustproof, sandproof, waterproof and not just child-proof but extremely sturdy to cope with a variety of environmental conditions.
The laptop has flash memory, but no hard drive, which breaks easily. With a low data-storage capacity, processing power and energy use are reduced;
- It had to be able to create networks of up to 1 000 kids all sharing a single Internet connection, forming learning communities with microphones and cameras — so it has been fitted out with very powerful Wi-Fi antennae — which double-up as covers for connections and as latches for the lid;
- It should be “cool” looking and fun to use;
- The software should be fun but also very useful and educational — and completely free, so the Linux Open Source operating system is installed.
The swivel screen turns the laptop into a tablet pc one way, and when closed with the screen inwards, it is like a cool-looking ‘iPod’.
The design of this product is pioneering in that it involved — and indeed encouraged — input from anyone and everyone through a web site called a ‘wiki blog’, where comments were read and taken into account — even a child’s suggestion that the ‘Caps Lock’ key feature be removed as it is more commonly hit by mistake.
A breakthrough user interface (Sugar UI), developed jointly between ‘Red Hat Linux’ and ‘Pentagram’, is the first to have been purpose-built as an educational environment. The design supports the learning experiences of school children in poor remote regions by encouranging collaborative learning through child-to-child and child-to-teacher sharing.
The realities that OLPC’s XO laptops will be used by children of a wide range of ages, nationalities, and who have little or no previous computer experience, were critical for the UI design brief. Consequently ‘Sugar’ is simple and intuitive but doesn’t cap the complexity of ideas that children may explore or express.
‘The desktop metaphor familiar to most laptop users today may make sense in business settings — but it’s not geared for children collaborating with each other and their teachers,’ said Mr.Walter Bender, OLPC’s president of software and content.
‘With “Sugar”, we’ve created something wholly new and suited to the way children understand and describe their world and relationships.
‘Most importantly, “Sugar” is easy for children to learn to use, yet it’s also rich and capable of fostering unbounded discovery, learning, and exploration.’
It went into production in Shanghai at the beginning of November 2006 and is currently being tested in extreme third world environments like South America, Africa and Thailand. The initial unit cost is 150 USD, but it is hoped that this will fall over time and with production, and that the target of 100 USD will be reached by 2008. The first production run properly is for the summer of 2007.