Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Laptop Per Child

In city traffic the 1977 Oldsmobile screamed stay back by a show of size and how little we had to lose...Got respect precisely because it had no value. It also wore the status symbol du-jour: a fake pigtail mobile phone antenna glued to the windshield. Ironically old mobiles were more expensive than Oldsmobiles.

Phones got cheaper than the gas in a Cutlass tank, proving that status symbols do depreciate. Having nothing to lose is still valuable.

Laptops and smart devices also got cheaper and entered our lifestyle outside two groups. Those that cannot afford them, and those deliberately unreachable. No wireless umbilical cord to a job, a boss, a database.

For folks that cannot afford them, there is Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project. A good cause where internet connected laptops make a positive difference in children lives. A complex project, cheap hardware is just table stakes.

China makes lots of laptops and lots of children. A cynic may note that the One Laptop Per Child project is already at work in China, it is called the One Child China Policy. Just grab a Diet Coke and wait until the numbers of laptops and children cross over.

Don't like Diet Coke or can't wait, then start with less children, may be in Uruguay. Four hundred thousand laptops were deployed there for the largest OLPC experiment. Experts are interpreting the lessons learned, and hopefully come up with less than 400.000 distinct lessons.

Now the One Laptop per Child mantra could apply to the mainstream, re-branded as the Only One Laptop per Child please. Not a simple project, it takes house to house combat, and the arsenal is limited to garage sales and sledge-hammers. Maybe gadgets should come with expiration dates, or somebody finally make the thin client that ends all clients. If it happens I have a pigtail antenna I can glue on it.

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