olpc

I’ve started to tidy up my stuff in readiness for moving back to rob while we have builders in. In the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet I find my old electronics:

  • original powerbook
  • mbp
  • mba
  • original sony ereader
  • kindle fire
  • OLPC

One of those is not like the others.

I’ve used every single one of those, almost all to the end of their lives. Except the OLPC, which is new and still in its packaging.

olpc

I got it when it first came out, paid USD199 or something like that. Pay for two, get one and the other one goes to a child in a developing country. That was their sell anyway. I’m not sure if it ever reached its intended destination; after a lot of buzz the whole project seems to have died out. There’s an article in The Verge that tried to explain why everything went wrong.

The idea was noble. Keep cost of laptop to under $100 and send it to children all over the world so they can use it to learn and be connected. It would be powered by solar energy or by hand-cranking, like one of the torches I have. It runs Linux, every techie’s dream. But from the moment at the demo when the crank handle fell off, things went downhill. It’s typical of:

tech industry hubris, a one-size-fits-all American solution to complex global problems

which doesn’t work. It also didn’t help that costs escalated to beyond the $100 mark, so its biggest selling point was lost. Other manufacturers soon started making small netbooks that were $200-400 but ran windows, I remember the Eee and I myself bought an MSI netbook too.

When talking about computers in classrooms, we get an image of tablets–cheap android tablets or even ipads. I’m surprised OLPC is still around and making laptops. Small markets in Latin America sustains its business. Nowadays. it looks so outdated. I’m also surprised to read that most OLPCs still work, may be I should try cranking mine up and see what it does.