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One Laptop Per Child's $100 Laptop Was Going To Change the World -- Then it All Went Wrong (theverge.com) 269

Adi Robertson, reporting for The Verge: In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte's new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), dubbed "the green machine" or simply "the $100 laptop." And it was like nothing that Negroponte's audience -- at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe -- had ever seen. After UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered a glowing introduction, Negroponte explained exactly why. The $100 laptop would have all the features of an ordinary computer but require so little electricity that a child could power it with a hand crank.

[...] But OLPC's overwhelming focus on high-tech hardware worried some skeptics, including participants in the Tunis summit. One attendee said she'd rather have "clean water and real schools" than laptops, and another saw OLPC as an American marketing ploy. "Under the guise of non-profitability, hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments," he complained. In the tech world, people were skeptical of the laptop's design, too. Intel chairman Craig Barrett scathingly dubbed OLPC's toy-like prototype "the $100 gadget," and Bill Gates hated the screen in particular. "Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text," he told reporters.

[...] After announcing "the $100 Laptop," OLPC had one job to do: make a laptop that cost $100. As the team developed the XO-1, they slowly realized that this wasn't going to happen. According to Bender, OLPC pushed the laptop's cost to a low of $130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Its price rose to around $180, and even then, the design had major tradeoffs. [...]

One Laptop Per Child's $100 Laptop Was Going To Change the World -- Then it All Went Wrong

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  • I mean why not just get an android tablet with keyboard case and call it a day. There are numerous sub $100 android tablets.

    • by JackieBrown ( 987087 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @12:53PM (#56452909)

      This was in 2005 when it kicked off. Android tablets weren't a viable option back then

      • Beat me to it.

      • Android tablets weren't a viable option back then.

        It's hard to be a viable option when it doesn't even exist.

        Android Operating system
        Initial release date: September 23, 2008

      • hell even windows tablets have fallen to that price point, they use like no power so a small solar panel could charge them forever.
      • by Alwin Barni ( 5107629 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @02:24PM (#56453687)

        This was in 2005 when it kicked off. Android tablets weren't a viable option back then

        They still aren't. The OLPC is unique and not meant primarily for "western" countries:
        - it can run on very little power
        - can create mesh network with other OLPCs
        - can be used in direct sunlight (special display)
        - it can be powered with a hand generator
        - it is actually very inexpensive (the online price includes second laptop for a child in developing countries)
        - it's OS is designed for learning, sources in python are available easily for any OS component (Linux with Sugar as far as I remember)

        I keep seeing major misconception about the OLPC as just another cheap notebook - it is much more then that.

        I hope good times will come for the OLPC project.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        OLPC inspired the wave of netbooks, which inspired the wave of tablets and smartphones. The OLPC itself didn't succeed very well but it made a major contribution to the computer industry, by catalyzing projects for smaller computers and demand for them. The smartphones and wireless Internet now widely available in developing countries are an indirect descendant of OLPC.

      • In 2005 Around $500 was the starting price for a low end Computer. A starting Laptop would be closer to around $700. (Sans service deals like you have to buy 3 years of MSM internet)
        These were crappy system.
        A $100 system with an LCD Screen is nearly impossible.
        Palm Pilots cost more then $100 and they wouldn't be considered worthy of being called a computer due to its limitation.

        Today we can get such options, because of Moors Law, and our actual personal computing usage didn't catch up to it. So we can have

        • Palm Pilots cost more then $100 and they wouldn't be considered worthy of being called a computer due to its limitation.

          Huh? I had a lot of Palm Pilots and they were quite capable machines, especially for the price. It was a computer. You could program it. One of them had wireless built in. I had two different camera attachments, so it could even take pictures.

          But back in 2005 you needed some CPU Power to render web pages,

          Have you looked at what it takes to render modern pages? It takes a lot more CPU today that it did in 2005. The CPUs are faster so it doesn't look like it takes more power, but it sure does.

          The failure of OLPC was their BOGO that never could deliver. Vaporware. The de

          • by slew ( 2918 )

            Palm Pilots cost more then $100 and they wouldn't be considered worthy of being called a computer due to its limitation.

            Huh? I had a lot of Palm Pilots and they were quite capable machines, especially for the price. It was a computer. You could program it. One of them had wireless built in. I had two different camera attachments, so it could even take pictures.

            But back in 2005 you needed some CPU Power to render web pages,

            Have you looked at what it takes to render modern pages? It takes a lot more CPU today that it did in 2005. The CPUs are faster so it doesn't look like it takes more power, but it sure does.

            The failure of OLPC was their BOGO that never could deliver. Vaporware. The delivery of "my" OLPC kept getting pushed back AFTER they had pulled the money from my credit card, but they were crowing about how well production was going. It got to the point where the time limit for contesting the charge was about to run out and I cancelled. That's three months for my credit card, so yeah, they promised delivery over and over for almost three months and could never quite pull it off. But they kept telling me all about all the other people who were getting theirs as if that should make me happy.

            In 2018, OLPC2018 could be a kickstarter, or other crowdfunding project... Probably with the same result. They were ahead of their time in many ways...

            But in reality, OLPC was mostly a scheme to extract money from well heeled charitable foundations and deposit the money in the hands of some well-connected local electronics assembly companies.

            This kind of scheme has been going on as long as charitable foundations have existed... Remember, your donation to a charity generally isn't really directly going t

        • The Walmart $300, $500, $800 price point system has been around for a long time. I'm sure it existed when I was employed with them back in 2006. Of course no savvy tech would even consider what the $300 price point offered. 1 hour battery, previous gen processor, smallest still manufactured hard drive, insufficient RAM, 13"-14" cheap LCD. Back then it was most likely a bottom of the barrel Acer. Though, Vista may have created that $300 price point by causing manufacturers to dump low end hardware with Vista
      • That's probably why his subject line is "With Tablets is this even relevant anymore?" instead of "Why didn't they use Android tablets back in 2005?"

    • The sub-$100 android tablets aren't ruggedized. That seems to be important. I also imagine a different linux distro would be better if you wanted to convert a tablet to a cheap laptop.

    • And the crank?

    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      Tablets flat out didn't exist back when the OLPC launched (outside of some business PCs that cost like $2000). The iPad came three years later. Netbooks didn't yet exist either, the OLPC hype pretty much created that branch of the market.

      • Tablet certainly did exist since the early 90s. Look into IBM's ThinkPad 700T, AT&T's EO, and Apple's Newton.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      The PC Manufacturers we all know already make a school laptop that costs under $200-300. For any large school system, the issue with the machines is ongoing costs, not the costs of the machine. Tablets have an advantage in terms of durability, the sub $300 machines are fragile, but in most cases the management tools are not there,

      Everyone always questions why prioritize computers, mostly because educators are scared of computers, but unless one is in. country where water and electricity truly is scarce,

    • Chromebooks are big in edumacations.

      * Cheap (especially in volume, wholesale prices negotiated between school district and selected manufacturer)
      * Choice of manufacturer, price, features, size, memory, storage, cpu, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: style, color
      * Fairly durable
      * Can be managed in fleets. (eg, school maintains complete control of device)
      * Verified boot via TPM helps ensure that software, updates and management of device can be trusted
      * Device can be remote-wiped if lost, stolen, or eaten.
      * Sin
    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      To a certain degree, OLPC is why we have sub-$100 Android tablets these days. They inspired the whole idea of cheap mobile devices, back when laptops still cost a grand for something with less computing power than the average wrist watch has today.

    • It's a retrospective. That whole "Learning from history" thing so maybe we don't do it again. As a reminder 2005 was 13 years ago. It's also a bit of a hit-piece, as while the OLPC didn't wholly deliver a world-up-heaving revolution... they did ship a lot of laptops to a bunch of poor kids.

  • by klingens ( 147173 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @12:56PM (#56452941)

    As a reaction to the OLPC we got netbooks as an answer from conventional manufacturers. Yes netbooks were crappy but they still put a constant pressure on OEMs to make cheaper notebooks and lowered all prices for consumer mobile computers.
    The OLPC project itself failed in its goals, but it helped bring us the low cost computing things like Raspberry type SBCs, chromebooks, sub 100$ tablets and phones we have today.

    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:06PM (#56453037) Homepage Journal

      Yes netbooks were crappy but they still put a constant pressure on OEMs to make cheaper notebooks and lowered all prices for consumer mobile computers.

      And for a few glorious years, one could buy subnotebook-sized PCs at entry-level prices. They had an Atom CPU that could run full desktop operating systems at roughly Pentium 4 speeds, not the fastest but still usable. Thus one could use them to work on hobby programming projects while riding transit to and from a day job. Then Apple released the iPad and MacBook Air, and laptop makers dropped the entry-level subnotebook segment [slashdot.org] in favor of tablets and Ultrabook laptops with a higher profit margin.

      • They've never stopped selling that kind of computer...there's hp's stream 11, for instance. $200, including a year of Microsoft Office. They're located in the far corner of the store. Totally usable.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:27PM (#56453233)

      As a reaction to the OLPC we got netbooks as an answer from conventional manufacturers. Yes netbooks were crappy but they still put a constant pressure on OEMs to make cheaper notebooks and lowered all prices for consumer mobile computers.
      The OLPC project itself failed in its goals, but it helped bring us the low cost computing things like Raspberry type SBCs, chromebooks, sub 100$ tablets and phones we have today.

      In the history of computing OLPC was a bit like how xerox palo alto research center (PARC) pushed the envelope of user interface design and inspired the first Apple Computer Macintosh and changed the world even though PARC didn't itself come out with those products.

      I wouldn't diminish the ball that OLPC got rolling even if it failed to gain significant traction as its own enterprise. Schools and school children all over the world are increasingly getting access to usable sub $200 laptops and connected tablets that are giving them unprecedented access to knowledge like never before in the history of the world.

      There is certainly still work to do to make sure that more people all over the world can freely share in knowledge.

    • by kyrsjo ( 2420192 )

      OLPC kind of tried to do all of those in one - the learnability of a raspberry pi together with the classroom-convenience of a chromebook, at a similar price point (cheap) as both of them.

  • My wife knows it's hard to get kids to sing when they are hungry, or don't know where they are sleeping tonight.

    Equally difficult if kids are trying to use some newfangled laptop thing when they don't have clean water, or enough food.

    Drill a well first. Engage one of the available nutrition providers. Then put a roof on the school. Then you can teach.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      My wife knows it's hard to get kids to sing when they are hungry, or don't know where they are sleeping tonight.

      What kind of monster parents are you guys, anyway?!

      • She was a music teacher. Ask her kids what sort of monster parents they had.

    • A lamp (LED based, crank, and/or solar charge) and reading material changes everything! The biggest innovation came when books were mass produced and the ability to read them at night (affordably) became possible. Otherwise, daylight is reserved for farming and thus a society is stuck in an agrarian stand-still.

      Once a civilization becomes informed and enlightened, decision will be made to elect representatives that reflect their values. Otherwise, despots and dictators will fill the vacuum left in the wake

      • Speaking of shit holes, plumbing, specifically, the toilet, is a major quality of life improvement due to improvements in sanitary conditions.

        It's hard to get people to start using a toilet (amazingly enough.) It's far easier to get them using smartphones/computers.

        • It's hard to get people to start using a toilet (amazingly enough.)

          Depends on whether you pay attention to what works. India's having problems with it. Bangladesh, of all places, is having considerably more success despite being poorer.

    • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:20PM (#56453169) Homepage

      Right, all education in the world must stop until clean water and nutrition are fully addressed everywhere. What are you, a Taliban activist?

      • Hardly. Food, water, and shelter impact everything for these kids. But spending $1300 to school 10 kids in a village might not be as productive as drilling a well, putting a roof and walls on the existing school space, even sending livestock if carefully chosen. Books come cheap and can be shared.

        Laptops in advance seem not so productive, but of course if everything else is solved then sure, go for it.

        • for these kids.

          For WHAT kids? You're making presumptions and it's turning you into an ass. I'm so sorry that your pretend target audience is suffering with more serious issues, but there are plenty of kids out there that got a laptop and it was hella useful and made their life better.

          if everything else is solved then sure, go for it.

          Utter fucking bullshit.

    • Alternate perspective - my inlaws we're hungry growing up. They were raised by widows in the 3rd world. They did their homework by candlelight. Education is what allowed them to pull themselves (and eventually their parents) out of poverty. I'm not saying that clean water and food aren't important, but it's certainly possible to work on education without negatively impacting efforts to improve access to food and water. And education can be used to improve one's income, which can then be used to buy food and

    • Deploying renewable energy with battery storage in the developing should be the priority because local electricity generation allows:

      1. Reading at night using LED lamps - allows children to educate themselves using books and laptops, their parents can help as they are not working at night
      2. Pumping of water via electric pumps so less time and effort is needed to get water
      3. Pumped water can irrigate crops so food yields improve
      4. Communication devices can be deployed - allows people to become aware of the w

      • Unfortunately a lot of water in the world is defacto fossil. Pumping ground water for agriculture is a dangerous habit if you don't have the money, technology and cultural sophistication to change course when you should. Look how it worked in Saudi Arabia, from desert to green back to desert, but now with fucked water tables. They got oil, so it's okay for now ... but otherwise they'd be fucked.

      • Foot pumps are more practical. Electricity? Not where you think it is.

    • by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @02:08PM (#56453597)

      There's only so much you can do to uplift people without just running things and reshaping their entire culture (colonization).

      Give them components they can't build themselves, information how to construct the well (internet) and don't brain drain the people who can construct wells with liberal migration policies. Don't just drill a well for them, it creates dependency and laziness.

      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for the night. Light him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      Drill a well first. Engage one of the available nutrition providers. Then put a roof on the school. Then you can teach.

      It's not sexy, but one of the most ignored issues in developing countries isn't obtaining clean water (there are plenty of charities that will drill wells), it's dealing with the other end of the process. Clean water only helps so much when you don't have a safe/sanitary way to poop and otherwise relieve yourself. Adequate outhouses and other forms of sanitation are a critical need.

    • those of us that pointed this out back when OLPC was promising the world were called luddites on here, or idiots that just didn't understand as the OLPC would provide them all of those things through opportunities to do business and we simply lacked vision. The supporters would trump out the old adage of don't feed a man, teach a man to fish. The reality is nothing is that simple and if teaching him to fish means he dies of starvation while learning you are not going to achieve your goal.
    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

      While the RPi is an amazing little device, it's not really an analogue to the idea of OLPC. OLPC wan't really about teaching how computers work / programming, it was about giving kids a portal to information. It was a teaching computer in the sense that it gave access to information, not that it taught about computers.

      Plus, once you add a screen, battery, input source, and rugged case to an RPi I'm not sure you're going to it the $100 price point either.

      Of course, this all is moot, because kids in third wor

      • They need nutrition, and sanitation, and a clean water supply.

        They also need education, or they will be as dependent on nutrition, sanitation, and water charities as they are.

      • Re:It's a Shame... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:36PM (#56453331)

        probably don't need a computer of any type. They need nutrition, and sanitation, and a clean water supply.

        Oh, don't be so selfish. There are many kids in 3rd world countries who could benefit from the enhanced opportunities that computers could bring them to learn and communicate. The countries are 3rd world because of less economic development, and show me the children of a country, and I'll show you the future of a country's economy, business, science, and industry.

        Many of the kids in 3rd world countries don't necessarily lack the necessary nutrition, sanitation, or clean water for survival, And the internet could help provide them empowering information or support needed to help more people in those countries become more effective, more intellectually capable to do science and tackle problems, more industrious, or better their community in other ways.

      • ...

        While the RPi is an amazing little device, it's not really an analogue to the idea of OLPC. OLPC wan't really about teaching how computers work / programming, it was about giving kids a portal to information. It was a teaching computer in the sense that it gave access to information, not that it taught about computers.

        ...

        Having actually owned I one I must disagree. Learning about computer hardware and Python program was the only thing the OLPC could be used for. It was so primitive in its software and OS that it could not be used to get useful access to information. Yes, it had a browser with it - but one that was severely hobbled and barely up to minimal web standards out of the box.

        It has been years now since the fairly brief period when I tried to wring some use out of the thing, so I can no longer quote chapter-and-ver

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:13PM (#56453095) Journal

    The "one laptop per child" demand was met instead largely by smartphones.

    While Negroponte was busily tilting at his particular windmill, Samsung and others built a more powerful, more legible, longer-service device that they could sell across the planet.

    Score another one for the free market, really.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @06:28PM (#56455135) Homepage Journal

      The "one laptop per child" demand was met instead largely by smartphones.

      Nothing has really met what I always thought was the coolest and most valuable goal of the OLPC project: Ultimate hackability. There was a "view source" button on the keyboard. For any program that happens to be running, you could press the "view source" button and get a window with the source code (everything was Python), which you could read and even modify at will. The system was designed to make this very safe, with easy restoration to a prior functional state and extremely strong sandboxing of all apps (the security model was very cool, actually) to limit the damage of malware.

      I was really jazzed by the idea of turning hundreds of millions of kids loose on such an environment. Sure, a high percentage of them would have no interest in coding, but if 1% of them got interested in it that would be millions of young programmers, and some percentage of them would be brilliant. I was excited by the what this might mean for software engineering... and for third world countries who just might be able to turn themselves into software powerhouses.

      But, it never happened. Instead, we have devices that in many ways have higher barriers to entry and are harder to program than traditional desktop OSes.

  • I mean, it sounds like a neat sum in the ears of someone from the US, but for everyone else it's 1,198.25ZAR, 410.017TRY, 840.600SEK, 1,799.81MXN, 10,693.16JPY or 80.9115EUR.

    And that even changes as time passes.

    What would have been wrong with demanding "a laptop way cheaper than what laptops are being sold at today"? Because nobody gives a shit about whether it's 130, 180 or 200 bucks as long as it's worth it. It's not a "pretty" sum in 99% of the world's currencies anyway.

    • It was a target and a notional goal, and with the inflation introduced to bail out the bankers, we *did* get $100 laptops, when accounting for inflation (real, not BLS BS numbers).

    • I think that the problem is that the $100 laptop basically became a $200 laptop, and even back then you could get a used laptop for that price that would run circles around the OLPC with a better software selection.

      But, hey... it helped to kickstart "netbooks", which were pretty bad but eventually evolved into small and light laptops that also cost around $250.

    • Well, who do you think they expected to pay for it? Charities (and contributors to charitable causes) in the first world, or people with no money?

  • Wrong target market (Score:5, Informative)

    by u19925 ( 613350 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:23PM (#56453189)

    The third wold is not as illiterate as many Americans think they are. The OLPC project could only benefit those where at least the teachers knew how to use computer. But the schools where teachers knew how to use computer were already in the upper class in most third world countries. How to you give computer to village teachers? My sister is a teacher in a school which received computers from govt as part of pilot program. Two years later the teachers were fighting for playing solitaire on it during the period breaks. Not a single student had touched the computer. She herself had just learned how to switch on and switch off and create a doc in Notepad. No printing, no communication, nothing. This was in 2006-2008. Throwing a bunch of PC at students doesn't help them. They will benefit more if you give them money to buy books, notebooks, pencils, pen, chalk, dusters, musical instruments and so on. Almost all school students that I know, they waste more time on electronics gadgets then they use them. I wish the school had zero requirements for any electronics and these students would have done much better.

    • This.

      There are parts of Africa where schools are available to the children, but only if they can provide the basics like paper and pencils themselves.

      Just donating paper, pencils and other basic supplies can result in many more children getting an education.

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @03:33PM (#56454125) Homepage

      This and more. The problem I see all the time is a bunch of technological elites coming in and thinking they know best. They think if they just throw a bunch of technology at the problem then it will go away. Africa is a big place. One solution will not solve all the problems. An throwing a bunch of technology at it won't solve it.

      An that is exactly what I'm seeing in every post here. A once size fits all. Throw a bunch of books at them or throw a computers. Dig them a well then drop the internet on them. Africa's problems' are African problems. How about instead of assuming we know all the answer, we ask the Africans what they need?

    • by TheSync ( 5291 )

      They will benefit more if you give them money to buy books, notebooks, pencils, pen, chalk, dusters, musical instruments and so on.

      They will benefit EVEN MORE if poor country governments allowed enough economic freedom that the economies could effectively and productively employ educated children when they become adults.

      If there is no industry, and no skilled jobs, there is little reason to spend much time in school, thus children become only loosely attached to school (pulled out whenever harvest or other

  • To me the OLPC had three major points where it fell short:

    Lack of regular consumer availability. They only sold the thing to the government, not to regular consumers. The Give1Get1 program was time limited and overpriced, since you were buying two. Thus the EeePC stole the show, since it was hardware that you could actually buy instead of just read about. The OLPC might have fared much better if they had released an adult version, with a bigger keyboard, more RAM and better color scheme.

    Lack of self-hosting

    • Lack of self-hosting. While the idea of allowing people to write programs on the OLPC was there, that was never really all that practical. The software wasn't up to snuff and the documentation was lacking. Thus the OLPC ended up feeling much more like a consumer-only device, like a modern Android tablet, than a machine you could build stuff with yourself.

      Yet the inability to self-host* hasn't stopped the sales of iPad tablets and Chromebooks. Access to the GNU or LLVM development toolchain with the possibility for output through a GUI toolkit is the one thing I miss after the end of netbooks. Or are people desiring a subnotebook-sized device for writing programs expected to hoard used netbooks and learn to, say, replace individual lithium ion cells in their battery packs?

      * By which I mean self-host without self-destructing like a developer mode Chromebook [slashdot.org].

    • Underpowered hardware. 1GB Flash and 256MB RAM just wasn't enough, especially when it comes to Web browsing. It would fit the core OS barely, but it would drastically limit what you could do with the device. Double the storage and RAM would have increased the price, but it would also have lead to a much more useful device.

      I think the specs would have been ok, with a decent OS. Sugar GUI was all interpreted and ran dog slow. I felt they were trying to bite off too much at once with hardware design, plus "new revolutionary UI paradigm". They should have tried to design it around a more standard Linux distro. Damn Small Linux for example would run serviceable on that machine. A more standard Linux platform would make it easier for people to target content for it.

      At the time I had systems that were Pentium III with 256MB RAM. No

  • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @01:32PM (#56453293)

    Part of the give-one-get-one program, so I made a charitable contribution in the process (total cost $400). My daughter was a pre-teen at the time.

    The fundamental problem with the OLPC is that it did not have any software that a child, or anyone not into systems hacking perhaps, could or would want to use. Sure there was Python on it, and everything was written in Python and if you wanted just to learn Python it might have a use case. But that was it.

    It was more like a hardware demo prototype, than something was useful for anything.

    My daughter never used it.

    At the same time I bought an EEEPC with Linux on it. $375, roughly the same size. But it was about a million times more useful. My daughter loved it.

  • How hard can it be? Computers are magic right? We just sprinkle a little technology dust on it and bingo! $100 dollar laptop! What could possibly go wrong!

    (later)

    What! We should have investigated component costs, form factor prices, and production costs *before* we set the price?

    • actually it happened, now you can buy can get tablet with keyboard in a case for under $100 that does more than the OLPC can do

  • I found my old XO-1 in a storage basket yesterday. It kept rebooting itself, so I looked into applying patches. The latest release is version 13.2.9 , published December 2017. Not bad. In the release notes, [laptop.org] it warns me there's a memory leak in this version, and it recommends

    On the XO-1 we recommend that you restart Sugar every few hours, and especially after visiting the Background screen in My Settings. The leak is even more severe if the network view shows many icons.

    C'mon.

  • Looks like they could have saved a lot of time and effort, and I only checked 1 major vendor. I'm sure others have similar.
    7th Generation AMD E2-9000e Processor with Radeon R2 Graphics
    Windows 10 Home 64-bit English
    4GB, DDR4, 2400MHz; up to 16GB
    32GB eMMC

  • by kriston ( 7886 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @05:58PM (#56454981) Homepage Journal

    I ordered the first model OLPC XO-1 at 4:00 AM opening day.

    It was exciting, and the give-one-get-one idea made that $400 a reasonably altruistic purchase even though it was supposed to be a $100 computer.

    The dual mode (reflective/backlit) screen was great but for a few stuck pixels. I didn't want to burden the project with my nitpicking so I kept it.

    I really wanted to like it, and since I was a long-time Cyrix MediaGX processor user I thought that the evolved AMD Geode derivative should have been a performance boost.

    It wasn't a slow laptop but the designed-by-committee Sugar desktop software crippled its performance dramatically. It sought to solve a problem nobody had with a solution nobody wanted. I optimized it as much as I could and eventually gave up and put a more conventional X Windows desktop on it and lost interest.

    I still own it. The newer models didn't interest me once the Netbooks and Google Chromebooks came out.

  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @07:43PM (#56455509)

    I don't think the project failed at all.

    It was quite an interesting and ambitious project at the time - the concept that a full PC could be manufactured for less than $1000. Many of us, at the time, said things like, "Think of all the cool things we could do with a laptop that only costs $100"... And you know, this was back when a laptop typically cost around $1000 or more, and was a complex computer.

    Sure, it was ambitious, but it pushed the concept of a cheaper laptop for children far before anything in it's time, and first sub-$500 laptops came out.. Early small-screen devices with pretty good, if somewhat degraded performance.

    And pretty soon the market realized that this was possible, and there was a market for it - cheaper laptops for kids and people who wouldn't otherwise use a computer.

    So the market responded, and the capabilities that technology could bring changed. Smaller displays came out. Cheaper processors. Lower cost memory solutions. And people started buying these and pushing for embedded-able systems, and it happened.

    Sure, OLPC as a product was a complete failure - they were like a pre-kickstarter project gone wrong - but they were the spark that lit the fire that continued to grow in intensity and they did succeed in one simply object just by existing - they re-aligned the market.

    But, in a way, the vision they had wasn't lost. It was influenced, and it came to be... Just not with them.

    So the end result was achieved by a failed project - which then brings up the question as to whether the project was to bring low-cost computers to children in third-world countries so they could change the world, or whether it was to sell laptops.

    Because only one of those objectives wasn't achieved.

    Of course, the Raspberry Pi was probably the spiritual successor to this concept and came out much later without the same fanfare and backslapping, but it did manage to succeed and change the world.

    GrpA

  • by Cafe Alpha ( 891670 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2018 @09:45PM (#56455973) Journal

    that they spent YEARS trying to design and manufacture extremely low power displays with new (and admittedly more reliable than current stock) light source designs.

    Yes those displays were innovative. They were also extremely over-designed and unnecessarily sacrificed readability for power efficiency.

    But the big problem is that using current stock displays would have allowed machines on the market instantly and cheaply, while inventing a new technology required years of wasted time and limited manufacturing and source options.

    Over the years commodity stock displays overtook the OLPC screen technology in price and in some of the capabilities by extreme amounts anyway. The choice to create a new technology looks ever worse.

    To get an idea of how weird the OLPC display was, instead of using light colored by filters and led peak colors, they used prisms that spread light from a white power source. And instead of choosing to use the three narrow color bands that are optimized for the peaks of the human visual system and are the only way to get saturated colors, they instead chose to use 4 color bands and use all the light, not just the peaks. Sure that probably improved the light efficiency by a large factor, but the result was an entirely novel display technology that looked horrible and would have no market outside the OLPC.

    Similarly the fact that the display could also work in a reflective mode in black and white was innovative, but was all this worth adding 3 or 4 years to the development time and limiting manufacturing sources and driving up the price?

    The choice of LEDs as a light source also made the light source more reliable than what was in use at the time. But stock display technologies eventually caught up with that.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

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