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Design Decisions

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Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?

One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools with which to think, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to “own” something—like a football, doll, or book—not the least of which is that these belongings will be well-maintained with love and care.

Nevertheless, the OLPCs do not stand alone. They communicate in an extended range wifi network. They can use USB devices that can be shared in a community access center. For instance a library of thousands of books can be cheaply distributed on a few CDs. These can reside in a community access center along with a few USB CD readers for the kids to download. The OLPC is not as limited by its storage capacity as it first seems.

With a laptop, learning can be in vivo, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and accessible to families and the entire community—this is tremendous leverage.

Why not a desktop computer, or—even better—a recycled desktop machine?

Desktops have a lower capital cost but higher operating costs. We are taking great care to keep the initial capital costs low, and to also minimize the computer failures that lead to costly maintenance. The OLPC laptops are low-power devices that consume less electricity than desktop computers.

Also, we feel that mobility is important, especially with regard to taking the computer home at night. Half the kids in the world don't have electricity at home - this is a real barrier for desktop computer use. Kids in the developing world need the newest technology, especially really rugged hardware and innovative software. Recent work with schools in Maine shows the huge value of laptop use across all of one's studies, as well as for play. Bringing the laptop home engages the family. In one Cambodian village where we have been working, there is no electricity, thus the laptop is, among other things, the brightest light source in the home.

Finally, regarding recycled machines: if we estimate 100-million available used desktops, and even if each one requires only one hour of human attention to refurbish, reload, and handle, that is forty-five thousand work years. (This time could be better spent working on software, content, mentoring, etc.) Thus, while we definitely encourage recycling used computers, this is not the solution for One Laptop per Child.

Why not just give children cell phones?

While cell phones are inexpensive—and there is growing convergence between the technologies of telephony and computing—there are some differences that make the distribution of cell phones the wrong path to follow. Our project is not just a connectivity project, but also a learning project. The cellphone display is small. Even if the information is beamed from the cell phone to a television set, two major problems still exist: (1) half of the children in the world don't have electricity at home (and thus no television); and (2) standard television resolution is too low to read books or view webpages for an extended period of time. It's possible with HDTV, but HD has very limited presence in the Third World and is too expensive.

Cell phones are very limited in terms of their ability to foster a wide range of expression, and, unlike computing culture, which is as much about creating as consuming, phone culture is service oriented: you use a phone, you do not transform it. It is not a “thing to think with.”

Other Software questions

problems in selecting path

i am the stuedent of mscs. i am going to research. and i select olpc so what are the shortcoming in this mesh network.

What will you do to emulate others that e-mail is a good and environment-friendly technology?

First-generation Project

Add to the discussion...

When do you anticipate these laptops reaching the market?

Mass production is scheduled for the end of 2007.

What do you see as the biggest hurdles?

The biggest hurdle will be manufacturing 100 million of anything. This is not just a supply-chain problem, but also a design problem. The scale is daunting, but I find myself amazed at what some companies are proposing to us. It feels as though at least half the problems are being solved by mere resolve.

How much do they cost to make?

The cost is always the same as the price. As we reach volume, we expect the cost (and price) to come down.

How you can make sure the price will be under $100?

The first machines (Oct/Nov 2007) will cost in the neighborhood of $180, due in part to hardware modifications and the recent fall of the dollar. $100 is a reference point—one we hope to reach within a few years of the start of mass production—but it is not the ultimate goal of the project, which is to create a low-cost, capable, uniform platform for education.

How is it possible to get the cost so low?

OLPC can provide a lower-cost machine than for-profit organizations because it delivers in bulk, doesn't have to worry about advertising, and, of course, doesn't need to make a profit on the machines.

  1. We have dramatically lowered the cost of the display.
  2. We will get the fat out of the systems. Today's laptops have become obese. Two-thirds of their software is used to manage the other third, which mostly does the same functions nine different ways.
  3. We will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks.

What can a $1000 laptop do that the $100 version cannot?

The XO laptop is a computer built for learning and designed specifically with children in mind. Because of this, the features deemed most valuable for its purposes are as good (and in many cases, better) than comparable features on a $1000 laptop. For instance, the XO’s screen can be viewed as clearly as a newspaper in broad daylight, and the wireless range of the XO is several times longer than your average laptop. It’s also more rugged, resilient and power efficient than any other laptop on the market. Many other features, such as power and speed, cannot compare to a $1000 machine, but are excellent for the XO’s $200 price point.

Who is the original design manufacturer (ODM) of the $100 laptop?

Quanta Computer Inc. of Taiwan is the original design manufacturer (ODM) for the $100 laptop project. The decision was made after the board reviewed bids from several possible manufacturing companies.

Quanta Computer Inc. was founded in 1988 in Taiwan. With over US $10 billion in sales, Quanta is the world's largest manufacturer of laptop PCs; the company also manufactures mobile phones, LCD TVs, and servers and storage products. In addition, Quanta recently opened a new US $200 million R&D center, Quanta R&D Complex (QRDC), in Taiwan. The facility, which opened in Q3 of 2005, has 2.2-million square feet of floor space, and a capacity to house up to 7,000 engineers.


Add to the discussion... For more information see the Software page.

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Regular laptops as OLPC clones?

I think the OLPC OS and all the software should be made to run on regular x86 laptops and distributed freely. One benefit of making the OS and software opensource and multiplatform compatible will be that the kids will be able to run it on donated used laptops until there are enough OLPCs for every child :-)

The software being developed looks like it will run reasonably well on a conventional laptop, through emulation. My laptop doesn't have a camera, mic, or wifi, and it's behind a firewall, so I only have some peripherals. OLPC software is distributed freely (I think it's GNU V2), just search the emulation pages. That's how I got my copy of the software.

Relaunching software as freeware

We are reviving ChipWits - an award-winning iconic programming game - and would like to encourage a freeware version to be developed for the OLPC. Is there a forum to discuss it?

There are several mailing lists (note the link in the 'about olpc' box at the top-left of the page. Also, there's a section on how to get around Sharing your content with OLPC.
BTW, the OLPC is committed to Open Source, so 'free' would probably not be enough, methinks.--Xavi 16:43, 13 January 2007 (EST)
ChipWits will be open source. Thanks for the pointer to the mailing list.

What is the operating system?



Add to the discussion... For more information see the Hardware specification page.

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Will it really have a crank for powering?

What will the keyboard be like?

What about size & weight??

If you don't find the answer in the hardware specifications you can check other questions and answer about hardware.

Considering the millions to be built, will it be recyclable?

We are being diligent about our choice of materials so as to make it as environmentally friendly as we can; we are also working hard to reduce the power required to operate the laptop during its lifetime of use. We anticipate it using an order-of-magnitude less power than the typical laptop, thus reducing the burden on the environment due to power generation. We are also conducting a "cradle-to-grave" analysis, to help us determine any weak points in our environmental program.

Product Life-cycle

Besides quality assurance, there are issues about maintenance and/or the disposal at the end-of-life. Look here for those Q&A.

Environmental End-of-life considerations

The environmental impacts and economic costs of disposing of obsolete/broken ICT hardware are well-known. The energy-efficiency of the laptop helps minimize its impact during operational life. Can some details be given on steps that have or will be taken in the manufacturing and "ultimate disposal" stages of the hardware life cycle to minimize environmental costs? I'm thinking here of embedded energy in manufacture, and disposal costs. Will recycling costs/incentives be built into the purchase cost? Will a recovery program be up to the individual government, or part of the agreement between OLPC and clients?

At some point this products will be obsolete. What about then? Will they be recycled? How is this going to be managed? Can they be refurbished? In third world countries there are no regulations about e-waste management. Will OLPC take care of recollecting the laptops when they are no longer in use?

Yes. We are working with partners on recovery programs.

Shock damage

Do you have specific shock requirements for each component? I see there is a general operating/non operating value in the hardware environment. I am interested in the vulnerability of the whole package - do you require a 'bag' to protect in normal transport? If so, how would you specify that? --regards Mike Hinds

I don't know that we have things broken out by component; since the components are all solid state, for the most part, it would be connectors and the like that would be the most likely points of failure (I can try to find data on the display). We do use a bag in packaging from the factory, but do not require one for normal use.

Rugged Laptops

There is a huge market for basic rugged laptops for use "in the field" in a number of industries. These would be cases that don't need the full functionality of e.g. a Panasonic Toughbook, and where basic will do and cost is critical. Develop a suite of work-related applications and/or provide certification for applications developed by others, and sell those on CD at reasonable cost, to bring in more money for free laptops for kids.

The basic arrangement would be: Companies buy laptops at e.g. $200 per unit plus a required $200 per unit tax-deductible donation to the nonprofit foundation. Thus the effective cost is $400 per unit, but half of it is a tax deduction. If you do this, companies will buy these things in huge numbers and thereby pay for equivalent numbers of machines to be given away to kids.

'Huge' is relative, you can measure it in number of units or monetary value. And given that the market is a niche, it implies a small volume and high monetary value—the opposite of what the OLPC target market is (afaik). I see your point in 'overpricing' this 'commercial rugged laptops', but that would only create incentives to divert machines to the black/grey market. --Xavi 15:10, 13 January 2007 (EST)

How many amps will be needed to run this machine?

While the final specs haven't been determined, thinking in terms of milliamps is closest to the design goal.

Power Issues

Now that the laptop is in use does it get hot slightly, hot or pretty hot? How long would you say it takes to get hot; like an hour of use or longer? This is question for the people testing the laptop it self. It has also been noted cord connections in photos. Can the laptop be connected to electricity? 7/27/07

Yes it can be connected to electricity quote "The laptop is capable of taking a DC input ranging from 5 volts to 25 volts to charge the 5-cell NiMH battery inside" http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Battery_and_power. The heat question is better answered by others but I can tell you that the laptop has been designed to be very power efficient so it shouldn't expel much heat. They were experimenting with a new battery type which is a lot safer and cooler but I'm not sure if it's been included in all the mass production units. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_iron_phosphate_battery Crazybus 08:25, 27 July 2007 (EDT)

What are the plans for the battery?

They will use a either a NiMH or LiFoP battery pack that is robust under variable charging conditions and has no environmentally dangerous components. Anyone with basic technical skills could replace the battery pack.

Battery life will be much longer than with traditional laptop batteries (2000 cycles vs. the usual 500). We are paying a lot of attention to reducing power consumption. The AMD GEODE CPU is low power. The screen can be used in a special ultra-low power monochrome mode. The wifi operates in a special low-power, extended range configuration that uses less power than traditional wifi and can reach much further. We plan to do some lifecycle testing to determine the number of recharge cycles in a battery pack.

Charging the Battery

Hi all, I an a Software Tester browsing on the BBC Web Site when I came across an article about your laptop. I see that to charge the laptop you need to pull a rip cord. I was wondering why solar cells where not used on the top of the laptop (other side of the screen) So it could be charged when closed? Or even a Solar-powered tray that slides out from the bottom so it could charge while being used.

I ask out of pure curiosity. Good work with the Project, I think you are on the right track. A Laptop with Books stored on it for education and internet access is a lot better than books on there own.

Lee Clifford Senior Technical Tester lee.clifford@virginmobile.com

We will have a solar-power option for the laptop, but it will be tethered, not attached. This gives the children more flexibility in terms of how they position themselves relative to the sun.


I notice that Marvell is the provider of the wireless solution, but there's no hyperlink to the company. Is this the same company? Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. 5488 Marvell Lane Santa Clara, CA 95054 Phone: Fax: A search on their website: http://www.marvell.com/products/wireless/index.jsp Does not show a "Libertas" product, which is what is mentioned on the hardware page: Wireless: Marvell Libertas 88W8388+88W8015, 802.11b/g compatible; dual adjustable, rotating coaxial antennas; supports diversity reception

The reason for the question is if this wireless product draws such low power, it seems like a good fit for other applications? Just wondering...

It would seem so. Particularly noting that the drivers mentioned in the wireless page link to that site, and other info in the Libertas page. I'm guessing, but 802.11s (mesh) is still fuzzy, so it probably hasn't made it to the 'product' level yet. See also Category:Network. --Xavi 15:48, 8 February 2007 (EST)

What about connectivity? Aren't telecommunications services expensive in the developing world?

When these machines pop out of the box, they will make a mesh ether network of their own, peer-to-peer. This is something initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab. Connectivity to the Internet will be from the mesh through gateways at the schools. (We are working with the local governments and the private sector regarding how to reduce the cost of Internet access. The Motoman project is an example of how you can make a little connectivity go a very long way.)

Display Technology

Is there in-depth information available on the display technology, including any associated patents?

In addition to reading the Display page, you might try reading the publications of Mary Lou Jepsen, who, as I understand it, is responsible for many of the display's innovations. —Joe 16:51, 15 August 2007 (EDT)

How bright will the display be?

This is user controllable. The screen will also function in a reflective monochrome mode that is ultra-low power consumption. Brightness of screens is not an absolute measurement but is dependent on ambient light. If the light is too bright, the color display will be harder to see, however the monochrome mode will function better.

OLPC and eyes

What about OLPC screen? Doesn't it damage eyes of a child? Especially if it is used as textbook's substitution and children will have to spend many hours reading from the screen

Why would you assert that it is harmful? In ebook mode it is non-emissive and rivals the resolution of paper.

Maximum Altitude Spec

According to the Hardware specification the Maximum altitude: -15m to 3048m (14.7 to 10.1 psia) (operating), -15m to 12192m (14.7 to 4.4 psia) (non-operating... would it be possible to operate (safely) above that altitude? After all, in the Andes (and I'll assume the Himalayas) many people live higher... El Alto 4150m, Potosi 3967m, etc... --Xavi 12:47, 30 November 2006 (EST)

Will the case be made of food-grade plastic?


USB boot? SD boot? SD expansion?

Yes; yes; yes;

Will it have an option (either in BIOS or automatically) to be bootable off of USB or SD for either use of other operating systems, diagnostic work, or system backups/restores?


In today's market, SD cards can reach up to 64–128 gigabytes. Will this OS recognize these sizes?

Yes. SDHC works. 8-gigabyte cards have been tested. As larger cards are created, they will also be tested. -gnu
This came up on IRC, so I'll add additional details from there. XO uses a custom microchip for SD card access, Camera and Flash Enabler, or CaFE. CaFE includes SDHC support. SDHC is compatible at a hardware level with SD. Pierre Ossman wrote the Linux driver support for SDHC. SD cards up to something like 256 GB should be supported. Existing sizes have been tested on OLPC and work. MitchellNCharity 22:02, 14 November 2007 (EST)

Will the case have any external expansion slots?

There are three external USB slots and one SD slot.

Is there some way to expand/upgrade the OLPC?

No. All internal parts are soldered in, except the battery, which can be replaced. One can add external (low-power or self-powered) devices on the three external USB2 ports, e.g., a USB thumb drive could easily be added. We do not anticipate internal upgrades (although we may provide clearance for machine-soldering of additional flash); some countries may ask for additional features added at the time of manufacture.

If you can get past the DRM misfeatures, then replacing the operating system is possible. An early experiment along these lines is Installing Debian as an upgrade, though it doesn't actually replace the original OS. The Fedora Linux that the XO comes with is no less "high powered" than Debian, Ubuntu or Gentoo in general, though it lags behind in a few key areas such as online package management, and has a deliberately incompatible experimental GUI called Sugar. --gnu

Will the USB port have enough power to run a USB CD reader?

It should.

Inbuilt Ruler on Case

Would it be possible to put a ruler on the front of the case embossed into the plastic?

15cm long with mm marks as well if possible (metric by default as 90% world metric, but could be imperial as required due to large numbers ordered per country)

I know you could do this in SW on the screen but this would encourage kids to measure up against the screen possibly scratching it and dropping dirt and water all over the keyboard.

This would be useful in teaching basic metrology as well as allowing the kids to make their own rulers out of whatever is available. i.e.: make a 1m rule from string by measuring 10 lengths of 10cm and using the string ruler to measure their house, progress of the maize crop, height of the goat as it grows etc etc...

Under what range of temperatures is the laptop expected to operate?

Somewhere in between typical laptop requirements and Mil spec; exact values have not been settled.

Will the laptop have a fan?

Fortunately, no. ;-)

What design features will keep dust out of the laptop?

Lack of a fan ;-)

What design features will keep moisture out of the laptop?

No fan ;-) There are few openings—just power, USB, microphone in and speakers out, and venting. These have interior sealing and are only exposed when the laptop is open and the wifi antennae are up. The laptop has a slight lip that seals it when it is closed.

We have also tested the laptop for condensation damage and under high heat and humidity conditions.

Will each laptop have a unique serial number?

Yes. They also have a MAC address, cryptographic keys, and UUIDs. For privacy reasons, not all of these are available to the activity software.

Will the machine be available with different keyboard layouts?

There will be country-specific (and language-specific) keyboards available.

Swedish keyboard?


I signed up for participating the 1 for 1 program, and look forward to obtaining one of the exciting XO laptops for myself.

I wonder what the keyboard options will be? I see that there are "international" layouts, so I guess I will be able to use our Swedish umlaut characters Å Ä Ö?


Those glyphs are available on the OLPC English Keyboard).

I don't see the hand crank on the latest designs, is it not part of the laptop's design anymore?

The hand crank is still there, it just moved to the AC adapter. It didn't make ergonomic sense to have it on the laptop, and it put mechanical stress on the laptop itself. A discussion of a candidate system can be found in this Technology Review article. It also means that power generation is entirely independent of the laptop which invites other charging mechanisms to be used such as hand cranks, solar panels, car batteries, bullock-driven generators, etc.

Request for direction to power generation discussion

I am having a hard time finding a discussion about the power generator for the XO. Can you please direct me to the appropriate person or place? I have noticed that while my wife computes, her knee often bounces. And I wonder if that natural movement might be harnessed to generate power for the XO.

I have calculated that such a movement of 2 to 5 cm twice a second under 100 to 200 Newtons of tension (or more naturally 1 to 2 cm at 4 Hz and 50 to 100 Newtons) could input 2 to 40 Watts depending on the level of conscious effort vs. habituated movement and the ability to harness both legs. This is an old concept that was employed for treadle sewing machines and pump organs. The only difference in the case of the XO is the challenge to build it extremely portable for a few dollars, using such things as nylon straps and plastic pieces.

Anyway, I would like the opportunity to follow the discussion of these concepts with the project team if possible if you would be so kind as to direct me. If it wouldn't be too much trouble, you could e-mail me using my gmail address and my first name dot last name.

Thanks. Tom Haws

Most of this is discussed on the Battery and power page. The OLPC laptop doesn't have a built-in power generator. Instead, it has a DC power input that will accept a wide range of voltage with protection against polarity reversal. This means that any number of alternate power sources can be used. We will be shipping a hand-powered generator with the initial devices but we are open to any new ideas, especially if they are backed up with prototypes and with some solid research showing how they are used by kids in the field. In addition, if a device can be built by the kids (with the help of their teachers) then it would be appropriate to provide detailled building instructions in one of the Ebook formats that we support. --Memracom 05:37, 13 January 2007 (EST)
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