Ask OLPC a Question about Design Decisions
- 1 Design Decisions
- 1.1 FAQ
- 1.2 Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?
- 1.3 Why not a desktop computer, or—even better—a recycled desktop machine?
- 1.4 Why not just give children cell phones?
- 1.5 Other Software questions
- 1.6 What about technical support?
- 1.7 How will children "personalize" their machine to make it distinctive?
- 1.8 How come it doesn't include a built-in hardrive?
- 1.9 What does XO stand for?
- 1.10 Why doesn't the laptop have a bag or simple small case which could optimize its lifespan?
- 1.11 Who will own the patents to the technology that is used within the laptop?
- 1.12 Will developing countries be able to manufacture their own eventually?
- 1.13 Will the patents be placed into a trust so that indigenous clones can be created?
This page deals with issues related to Design Decisions
Return to Ask OLPC a Question.
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
What about technical support?
Would the children's ownership of them lead to sufficiently greater care that technical support becomes unnecessary?
Ownership is key but not everything. We anticipate that there will be local support industries growing up around the project. It cannot and will not be done centrally. However, great care is being taken to minimize the possibility of breakdowns. We have many years of experience with laptops and know where the weak points are. Our OLPC design eliminates or minimizes these weak points. We have also designed a laptop that is amenable to field repair by the children themselves: a 9-year-old child can replace the motherboard.
See Support pages.
How will children "personalize" their machine to make it distinctive?
Are there any provisions on the laptop to help personalize it?
There are 400 different color combinations of XOs on the laptops.
How come it doesn't include a built-in hardrive?
The XO laptop is designed without a mechanical hard drive in an effort to minimize the number of moving parts, to make the laptop more rugged. By some estimations, the mechanical hard drive in a typical laptop is its most fragile part; it can fail after being bumped or dropped, especially if it is reading or writing data at the time. Instead, the XO laptops use an internal flash drive for storage—flash memory is nigh-invulnerable to bumps and falls, and it consumes less power, too. (see also Hardware uniqueness.) —Joe 16:23, 15 August 2007 (EDT)
What does XO stand for?
One interpretation is "hugs and kisses." It a shorthand reference to the shape of the icon that is used to represent a user of the mesh network. The icon represents a person with arms outstretched, jumping for joy. It looks like an O stacked above an X.
When the O is over the X it looks like a child!!!
Why doesn't the laptop have a bag or simple small case which could optimize its lifespan?
The handle is designed to accommodate a strap; but we hope and expect it will be something that is done locally, not by us.
Who will own the patents to the technology that is used within the laptop?
OLPC owns some IP. Other IP belongs to our various suppliers.
Will developing countries be able to manufacture their own eventually?
Yes, but until volume is to sufficient scale, it is not efficient to do local manufacturing.
Will the patents be placed into a trust so that indigenous clones can be created?
Yes, for the IP that OLPC owns. We cannot speak on behalf of our suppliers.