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I review the $100 Laptop

It can survive a 6 foot drop, take quality video, teach programming, and browse the Internet. Some say it will revolutionize education and, in turn, the world. And it uses less power than a toaster.
The Laptop (using the camera)


There are two parts to this review - my reaction and (closer to the target user) my little brother Jeremy's reation.
If you haven't heard of it, the 100-dollar Laptop is an MIT professor's project to make innovative and durable laptops for kids in developing countries, which will one day cost only $100. This could ((maybe)) close the economic gap caused by students' disinterest and opportunity-blindness in 3rd world education.

I got the laptop through the give-one get-one program, which means that a kid in Afghanistan, Haiti, or Africa is going to get one from us, too. I've been following the project for awhile, so I was delighted that I could get my hands on one AND help them out a bit. They're in some trouble because IBM, Microsoft, and some local companies are starting to get in on the game. All for the better - these kids need a lot of laptops to fulfill the OLPC goal: "One Laptop Per Child"

It was charged right out of the box, so I got to connect it with our wireless network and try out some of the application. Word processor, paint, digital camcorder, music, programmable activities from beginner (give directions to a car) to professional (Python programs involving high school math), and the internet browser are all included. There are also a handful of official downloads, from a presentation application to the original SimCity.

Don't get the idea that the XO laptop is low quality. The screen uses an LED backlight and a new pixel design which saves energy and produces a display which OLPC claims is better than most laptops on the market. Instead of a fragile hot drive and fan, this laptop has no moving parts, using flash memory (like a giant USB drive). The funny "ears" pick up every wireless network in my neighborhood. The screen can rotate 180 degrees in either direction, which makes it a perfect "eBook reader" which lasts for hours. Activities, files, and even the internet connection can be relayed and shared between laptops.
It has several buttons for use in games, scrolling the screen, or typing in different languages. One button shows the code for the application in use, and lets you edit. If it breaks, it's easy to take apart and replace things. I really admire the design work that went into this.

When I first tried it out, I was having trouble figuring out the technical stuff and worried that it would overwhelm a kid. My little brother Jeremy didn't know anything about it, but wanted to try it out right away. He could tell it was kid-sized, and its Kermit-the-Frog-green design made it look fun. I helped him try out the writing and painting programs, then he tried out the music and calculator ones by himself. He asked why it didn't make a lot of noise like other computers, and I tried to explain the different-memory thing. Maybe it made sense, I don't know.

Right now, I'm planning to play with it, try programming an edu-tainment game for it, bring it to show my engineering-for-the-3rd-world group, and then give it to my little brothers when I come home in the spring.
The orders carried out so far include 227,000 to Peru, a few test buys in Brazil, and (seriously) Alabama schools. Millions more are under consideration all over the world. I wonder if in 15 years, the millions of grown-ups educated with these might even be called "the Laptop Generation".... able to compete on a level playing field in innovating and developing future technology