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Charity Laptop under attack from Intel.

One Laptop per child

It could transform life for billions of children, but one man’s charitable dream of a £50 computer is under attack from Chip manufacturer.
Just as orders are due to be placed, Intel has changed its tune as it jostles for position, with others who once doubted the dream, in a market that could be worth billions.

Experts queued up to say it couldn’t be done, but they were proven wrong and on the dawn of production, all maybe lost.


Updated: July 13th 2007

Intel and the OLPC (One laptop per child) have now joined forces

What makes the XO special

Laptop Detail
Click Image to Enlarge
  • Screen
    Supplied by the Taiwanese firm Chi Mei, the 7.5-inch LCD uses one-seventh the power of standard screens and is one-third the price. It has a ” sunlight readable” mode.
  • Memory
    The XO does away with a fragile hard disk in favour of a gigabyte of Flash storage, supplied by Samsung. Without moving parts, it is much more robust and reliable.
  • Processor
    Instead of constantly checking that all systems are go (even if nothing is happening), the XO’s processor, made by AMD, turns itself off in idle periods, even between keystrokes.
  • Casing
    The casing is totally sealed when the laptop lid is closed, keeping out dust and water. It is 2mm thick (the standard is 1.3mm) and has rounded edges for added strength.
  • Keyboard
    Made from a single piece of sealed rubber, the keyboard is spillage- and rain-proof. A separate touchpad allows drawing and writing using a stylus or finger.
  • Antennae
    XOs use inbuilt wireless routers, supplied by the US firm Marvell, to form a mesh network. Only one machine needs a net connection; the others can piggy-back.
  • Hinge
    The screen can be rotated using its “transformer hinge” and the laptop closed to turn it into an e-book or games console. The display automatically flips to stay upright.
  • Battery
    With a 24-hour life in e-book mode, the XO’s battery is charged via a ” power brick” hooked up to a hand crank, car battery or solar panel - or even a cow-powered generator.
  • Operating system
    XO laptops are shipped with Sugar, a Linux-based interface custom-designed by the open-source software firm Red Hat. It allows children to see what activities the community is involved in.

Attendance up 50%

The idea for a cheap, durable laptop for children in the developing world came to Negroponte eight years ago in Cambodia. The professor and his family had set up a school in a remote village and given each of its pupils a laptop. According to Negroponte, the village, which at the time had no running water or electricity, was transformed. Attendance at the school went up by 50 per cent, and the first English word the children spoke was ” Google”.

Linking isolated Communities

Seeing the potential for computers to link isolated or impoverished communities to the wider world, and to get more kids into class, Negroponte began thinking big and OLPC was born. Its mission statement is: “To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore.” The challenge: to build a cheap, child-friendly laptop that could be shipped by the million and survive the trip to school in sandstorms or monsoon rains.

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