One Laptop Per AAAScientist


Stage: A ballroom in Boston, Godards “Alphaville” meets American Public Space Style ca. 1940s - the style with massive Walt-Disney coloured chandeliers, gold rounded corners (the original, not the Trump copies). Audience: some 2000 professors from all over the place. Acting salesman: Nicholas Negroponte.

… In 1982, Negroponte and his colleague Seymon Peppard had invited themselves to Africa, to see what difference computing power could make in developing countries. They brought some computers to Dakkar, given “a bunch of kids more computer power than the government had at the time”.

More than two decades later, Negroponte sent his son to Cambodia, into a village with no electricity, no proper road to get there. He brought over the first OLPC laptops (see more on this here and here), and the kids learnt “English”: Their first word being “google”. They learnt, too, that the laptops were the best (meaning: only) source of light in the rooms at night.

According to Negroponte, the biggest decision they had to make: doing it as a non-profit or not. Most people told him: “make it as a for profit, otherwise people won’t stay put, you won’t get credibility and so forth”. He decided against it and is still convinced that he’s right.

However, he now he gets into the 21 century stuff:

1. Reducing power intake, get 30-40watt down to 2 …and at the same time have the screen bright enough to be seen at equatorial sunlight (my mac would love that too, she says).

2. Getting a wifi meshed network worked out - laptops connecting to each other, thus 1. broadening the reach of the central classroom/school server - the one that is connected to the internet and 2. enabling all sorts of collaboration between the kids. All of this, of course, slimming down necessary resources. Another point against the 20th century SUV-mentality. I like.

3. Making it as rugged as the Panasonic toughbook - but charge 100 USD and not 5,000.

So that’s the points that matter. Don’t forget the Jackalope look — he calls it “the pretty cool design”…

They got 500k already produced, the bulk pictures from inside some factory look pretty impressive — 110k per months compares to the 5m sold laptops worldwide per months, he says — where does he have this figure from? Sounds tiny to me, with all guys I know upping their computer power at least every 18 months… Never mind.

What I like about OLPC: on one hand side it’s ’soooo much 20th century’ - all this talk about “Moore’s law” and “economies of scale”. Which actually sells well and makes it work. On the other hand, it reaches out to those 21st century thoughts such as slimming computer powers on to a lower level because no-one needs SUVs i.e. full-blown computing power in each ones laptop. And, of course and to quote Tim Robbins fromĀ Hudsuckers Proxy: “‘You know - for kids! - and you know - costing less!”

My question, though: If they so decidedly follow the law of economies of scale (which is in my opinion just another euphemism for “race to the bottom”), do they take care of a proper supply-chain management… resources such as Nickel, Cobalt as well as manufacturing doesn’t exactly come off the shelf?? And, what about the lifecycle management, i.e. recycling? Just asking.

Ah well, another nice thing he mentions: They’ve got some nifty ways for generating power, too - not the cranky cradle they had initially, rather a jojo, or an eggscrambler… Again: this would have helped a lot, as my battery is just saying “bye bye” just now. Well timed, my dear SUV.

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