One revolutionary thin laptop: unboxed

Now that I have my hands on it, I must agree: it is truly a revolutionary computer. It's about 0.76" thin at its thinnest point. It has state-of-the-art wireless (mesh networks anyone?). It has a built-in webcam (of course) and uses fancy LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) for the screen - giving it a highly read-able screen for e-books and the like - even in daylight (I hear: I didn't unbox my until the sun was down). Enough! Let's have some pictures. A few more pictures here, here, and here. Sorry, did you think I meant "that other" thin laptop from Apple? Nonsense - I don't want that (not until it can swivel and be a tablet). The XO-1 Laptop is the current physical output of the One Laptop Per Child foundation (OLPC). What really jazzes me My favorite thing about this laptop is that it is programmable. In a kid-friendly way. It has a version of " Logo" which is a basic programming language. You tell a turtle to move around the screen and draw things. If you get fancy you can make it animate, in a way. At least, that was the logo I grew up with on the Apple IIs of the 1980s. I'm psyched that they are making it easy for kids to use: there are fun samples and you can visually see how it is programmed. That's how I learned to program: I looked at working examples and poked and broke them and re-built them. It has another application (or "activity" in XO-1 speak) called "pippy" which is another programming language interface. It's Python. There are again a bundle of samples and it's easy to see what's going on. I may even learn python out of this (if I hadn't just cracked open the wide world of Lisp recently - maybe Python next? maybe in parallel?). "So what?" you ask, "I mean, I know you're a nerd and you like programming - but so we're breeding more nerds by having these things?" Cash Money We're not just breeding more nerds. We're giving these kids marketable skills (and we're raising nerds - the breeding has already occurred). Don't believe me? Check out this search for Python: it comes back with over 1200 hits for jobs regarding Python (and not 1 python wrangler at a zoo!). The OLPC also has a JavaScript tool which is a more marketable skill. And Smalltalk (via "Squeak") and XUL (used by Mozilla Firefox). This is serious programming with serious potential. After I started the laptop the first time and found these things, I immediately commented to my wife: "It'll be interesting to see what programs the kids write - and how they share from Brasil over to Africa or wherever." And they might start with Python or Smalltalk: but this whole thing is built on a version Linux (called "Sugar"). There is no reason that they couldn't graduate to Ruby, Lisp, or even programming the OS itself. And in 3, 5, 10 years we'll see the kids who learned to program on the XO-1 (or future OLPC laptops) hit colleges and workforces. This little thing will change the world for some people out there. I've got to create a project for myself that helps this bigger project. Stay tuned. Other News Updates on the project: the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the OLPC recently just left to start her own venture and Intel backed-out or got kicked out of the partnership with the OLPC for playing dirty sales tricks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: education, innovation, learning, linux, olpc, poverty, programming, sugaros