[iDC] One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Tue Jan 8 09:18:03 UTC 2008

Dear all,

it's been an interesting OLPC thread so far.

I have been following the http://www/olpcnews.com site on a daily basis 
since a long time and I have to say that the OLPC project is unique in 
that draws the (radical) critique of ICTs deep inside a technology 
management venture. This rarely happens, at least as visible as it is 
in this case. There have been so many interesting clashes over its 
design, the electricity and power supply question, the keyboard and 
screen, the software and OS (obvious) and indeed, the edu content. 
Controversies are always invisible and the PR-New Age strategies of 
most US-American IT firms, with their happy CEO guru cult, is most 
effective in keep debate away from the development stage, thereby 
downgrading criticism to the level of consumer-user-end luser level.

Since 2001 I have been involved in setting up lists and debates and 
even a conference of critical ICT for developments researchers and 
activists. If you are interested, please have a look at


I have copy-pasted a great posting of Steve Cisler to the Incommunicado 
list below. It is great to see that OLPC is now being discussed so 
widely, also outside of the ICT for Development community.

However, for those who have been around a bit longer, a lot that we 
hear, in particular in the mainstream media, is a repeat of earlier 

It is for instance good to remind ourselves of the earlier, much 
smaller attempt with the Indian Simputer, to design a cheap computer 
for educational purposes that would run on floss and would be outside 
of the control of Microsoft.

Greetings from Amsterdam.



        From: sacisler at yahoo.com
	Subject: 	<incom> XO thoughts
	Date: 	7 January 2008 8:47:15 PM
	To: 	  incom-l at incommunicado.info

People in US and Canada who wanted an XO  were offered the give one get 
one program in November and December of last year. For about $400 the 
donor received an XO and one was sent to a school in countries such as 
Haiti, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. Through this program 167,000 
machines were sold, with half going to donors.

I got one in mid-December. The Economist has a very negative review 
about the machine, but I am quite impressed with all they have stuffed 
into a 1+ Kg device costing less than $200. The keyboard is about right 
for an 8 year old, so I can't touch type. You can attach a USB keyboard 
as well as a mouse. The trackpad has some bugs which everyone 
assumes/hopes will be fixed in a short time.

I am most interested in the XO as an e-book reader. I was able to 
connect to both open and secure wifi networks without too much trouble. 
  I downloaded a 2.7 Mb UNCTAD report on least developed countries and 
was able to read it after adjusting the size of the pdf image. The XO 
screen can be rotated 90 degrees to be read in a flat mode, but you 
lose some of the width you have when reading it in the normal screen 
mode.  I did a short video on the Internet Archive which has put some 
of their scanned children's books on the XO, but there is no large 
library of these for the XO. I hope it will be developed country by 
country. One of the most important features is that in black/white 
screen mode you can read the text in sunlight. That's a real 

Bundled with the XO are many applications including several for playing 
and editing music. I need better documentation and that seems to be in 
development. There are programming tools, games, paint programs, write, 
and camera and mike for taking pictures and making short video clips. 
Because I am not near any other XO at this time, I have not tried any 
kind of networking.  In Yahoo mail I was not able to attach any file 
and mail it. Nor did the RSS reader work. According to the olpcnews.com 
forums only one other person has had any luck with the RSS reader. So 
there is quite a lot to correct and fill out.

I won't comment on the Intel-OLPC soap opera except to say that last 
year I did play with the Classmate. It will probably work okay in those 
schools where they have a regular supply of electricity. The price is 
higher, and it's being sold in a different way. It fits into the 
education bureaucracies more easily than the radical XO. I think people 
are reluctant to try something that different and they see the 
Classmate as a cheap Wintel machine for school kids--not too disruptive 
and no disruptive talk about constructivism.

Steve Cisler
Center for Science, Technology, and Society
Santa Clara University
incom-l mailing list
incom-l at incommunicado.info

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