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Is One Laptop Per Child Winding Down? 111

An anonymous reader sends this quote from OLPC News about whether the One Laptop Per Child project can expect to continue much longer: "Here is a question for you: 8 years on, would you recommend anyone start a new deployment with XO-1 laptops? With the hardware now long past its life expectancy, spare parts hard to find, and zero support from the One Laptop Per Child organization, its time to face reality. The XO-1 laptop is history. Sadly, so is Sugar. Once the flagship of OLPC's creativity in redrawing the human-computer interaction, few are coding for it and new XO variants are mostly Android/Gnome+Fedora dual boots. Finally, OLPC Boston is completely gone. No staff, no consultants, not even a physical office. Nicholas Negroponte long ago moved onto the global literacy X-Prize project." A response from OLPC says their mission is "far from over." They add, "OLPC also has outsourced many of the software and development units because the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic, concentrating on its core values – education."
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Is One Laptop Per Child Winding Down?

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  • Winding down? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:01PM (#46468327)

    I hate to be snarky, but did it ever wind up?

    • They certainly had a presence. I used to see booths and hardware at tech related events and conventions, though they were usually smaller ones.

      I always figured this for a temporary project: it was a concept laptop that made many many compromises to achieve a price goal. Pretty cool in that respect. That price goal is now being met (or nearly met) by other products ranging from crappy tablets to crappy chromebooks.

      Shame to see it go because it also had the philanthropic mission angle that I suspect is not do

    • Re:Winding down? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by penguinstorm ( 575341 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:10PM (#46468439) Homepage

      also: no one on slashdot ever "hate[s] to be snarky." Ever.

    • Speaking of which, in the 1990s, prior to Al Gore finding his niche as Eco Savior/ManBearPig, he was leading a previous crusade that might have been called One Desktop With Internet Per Poor Family, to the applause of CEOs of companies like HP. This was before Obamafones.


      • That "Obamafone" program that you are referring to was actually started during the Reagan Administration. Kinda hard for something that happened in the nineties to predate that...
        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          How dare you bring facts into this... HOLY Regan never did such a thing... the great SATAN Obama and his Stalin SOCALISIM created that!

          to repent you must repeat out loud the "tear down this wall" speech 3 times with an american flag draped over your head.

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      I hate to be snarky, but did it ever wind up?

      That was how you charged the battery, wasn't it?

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      No. The hardware never met expectations and it never really got to the kids. Most were confiscated by the local dictators and sold off. Honestly, it should have been epaper displays, but they did not want to pay for those, (epaper is still horribly overpriced) and honestly you could outfit a village with very old used toughbooks for the same price as all the XO's and the toughbooks were easier to get as well as having better specifications and rubber waterproof keyboards.

      • No. The hardware never met expectations and it never really got to the kids. Most were confiscated by the local dictators and sold off.

        Not just that. I thought the buy-1-give-1 program was awesome and my daughter was four at the time, so I thought it would be perfect. Christmas came and went and I never got a box in the mail. The office was clearly a mess.

        I month or two later, I gave up after getting nowhere with those people, bought her a pink eeePC and all was well with the world. Especially ASUS's p

    • In fact, I would go so far as to say it quite literally changed computing by showing that a low power non-windows laptop could work (crank charger? hell yes). The form factor was closer to what made the Asus eeePC 701 famous - and get this, the even the name seems to derive from the OLPC mission [1]

      According to Asus, the name Eee derives from "the three Es", an abbreviation of its advertising slogan for the device: "Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play".

      [1] []

  • "Flagship" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:08PM (#46468401)

    Sugar is the horrible POS that made the XO-1 such a sluggish pain to use. If they had developed a lean UI rather than deploying some overarchitected academic project that was clearly never tested on the target hardware it would have been much more appealing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      With a hard heart, I second this. I had the joy of having an XO-1.5 laptop for a good six months. Sugar is the biggest pain in the arse, It is great when i realised I was able to use gnome 2 on the laptop. Then it became usable.

    • I've heard Sugar is the reason many of the kids learned to hack their first machine. That's a feature, not a bug.

  • I can go on eBay and get and Android netbook for the same price as a XO-1. It has more memory and ton of software that just works. Most pay as you go cell phones have similar power, a good battery life needed for these areas and has the dual purpose of, well being a phone. I can't see OLPC going any further unless it becomes a broker for similar devices.
  • Silly project dies a silly death. News at eleven!
    • perhaps. I believe the current ubiquity of under-$100 computers is due in part to OLPC. I just wish everybody would make devices waterproof and drop-resistant by default, as the OLPC project pushed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It wasn't silly when it began. When it started, ethere was nothing of the sort even remotely available on the market. More like, market has caught up and can produce hardware cheaper now.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:24PM (#46468605)

    The founder of the MIT Media Lab, which churns out nothing but useless ivory-tower crap, moved on to something more shiny?


    OLPC was nothing more than a way to pay for travel to academic conferences and get his name into stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:30PM (#46468665)

    I and a few other volunteers set up a few new deployments just this past January (2014) in Haiti. 8 years on, the XO-1's are still great learning tools. There is still a supply, as a lot of people redonated their "get one," and the laptops themselves seem to last almost forever. Spare parts aren't all that hard to find, and there are dozens if not hundreds of developers and sysadmins still supporting existing deployments, with the more adventurous of us working on new ones.
    For anyone interested in starting a new deployment with XO-1's, you can get in touch with us at [] and we can talk about the details.

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @05:44PM (#46468799)

    OLPC was a project to get computers into the hands of children in developing nations. This was at a time when a laptop for a hundred bucks was thought to be impossible...... and then along came smart phones and tablets.

    The OLPC was made obsolete by these devices. You can now get Android tablets for under 50 bucks and have access to hundreds of thousands of apps on the Android OS. No longer are you stuck in a sandbox like system with limited hardware and software. Sure they arent as rugged but the low cost makes them more appealing and they are essentially throw away (though that is not necessarily a good thing)
    See this: []

    • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @06:38PM (#46469187) Homepage

      I agree.

      If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

      You can buy "white box" Android tablets at amazingly cheap prices because they are mass-produced in China. While these tablets fall short of the ideal devices imagined by OLPC, there is absolutely no way for OLPC to get their costs down to match.

      You can buy at least three Android tablets for the cost of one OLPC device. You could bundle tablets with a keyboard, a carrying case, and maybe a solar panel, and still massively undercut the OLPC's custom hardware.

      Cheap Android tablet's don't have great battery life. But I bought one of the original XO-1 laptops and it only had a few hours of battery life, so clearly OLPC must consider even the limited battery life of a cheap tablet to be sufficient.

      One of the nifty things about the OLPC custom design is that it's easy to repair. But with the massive cost advantage of a generic Android tablet, whole spare tablets could be shipped.

      The promise of Sugar never was realized. For example, one of the reasons I bought an XO-1 laptop was that I was excited by the thought of the "show source" key, where you were supposed to be able to go anywhere in the system, hit the "show source" key, and find some kind of editable Python source code you could tweak. I never did find any source to tweak before I gave away my laptop. (It's in India now!)

      Another part of the OLPC custom hardware was the "mesh" networking, which aimed to make it possible for multiple students to cooperatively share limited networking resources. Did that ever actually get used? All the photos I have seen show students in classrooms, and if the classroom has WiFi then an Android tablet would work fine. If the "mesh" networking is valuable, then maybe OLPC should invest in a one-off gadget that just does that, and plugs into the USB port on an Android tablet.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        "If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop educational software that runs on standard Android tablets."

        If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop FREE educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

        This is what is needed, along with FREE educational texts in native languages. one of the largest problems is that there are not a lot of books printed in the languages of 3rd world countries. and absolutely no advanced education texts.

        • by steveha ( 103154 )

          If OLPC wants a new mission, it should be to develop FREE educational software that runs on standard Android tablets.

          Sure. They give away all the software they write already, and I assumed that they would give away any Android software they write. It seemed so obvious that I didn't feel the need to put in the word "free" but I guess I should have. Thanks for the comment.

          one of the largest problems is that there are not a lot of books printed in the languages of 3rd world countries. and absolutely n

      • by zwazo ( 3574817 )
        Speaking from my experiences training teachers in Haiti in Sugar...

        As far as source code goes, press Shift+Alt+V. It's also available on the dropdown menu for the Activity. Maybe that feature was added after you gave your XO to India (thanks for redonating it so volunteers like me can get it into the hands of kids who need it); maybe it just wasn't included in the minimal guide. Yep, sometimes it's not a hardware or software issue; it's a lack of documentation.

        Mesh networking is great! Students can use it

    • I disagree. OLPC's purpose was to get their particular brand of cheap computers into the hands of children in developing nations. This was achieved on a limited scale, but seems to have faltered when cheap phones and tablets came around.

      Now, if you want to move the goalposts and suggest that the overall purpose was simply to get computers, any computers, into the hands of children in developing nations, then it succeeded but not because of anything the OLPC project did. Android did that, coupled with the pr

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      To add to what LoRdTAW said:

      The landscape of computer education has also changed tremendously, and for the better. Whether this was stimulated by the OLPC project or not is an open question, but there has been a change.

      Computers in education pretty much meant a computer running a web processor, a word processor, and a smattering of poorly designed educational products when the XO-1 was introduced. Since then the "constructionist" philosophy of Papert, which was the framework of computer education in the 1

    • by Alomex ( 148003 )

      This was at a time when a laptop for a hundred bucks was thought to be impossible.....

      ... and it was impossible. The project has never shipped anything below $200.

      and then along came smart phones and tablets.

      ...which are not laptops and most of which still cost more than $100 (at least the ones you would actually like to own).

      The OLPC was made obsolete by these devices.

      Right, blame those mean commercial manufacturers for making your flawed-premise hype-driven project a failure.

      • The less than $100 stuf is getting better. 800x480 Firefox OS phones have been presented, with dual Cortex A7 and 512MB RAM (and SD slot to give it more storage than a high end smartphone). If a Firefox phablet is $100, 1280x720 with the same specs that's getting pretty usable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @06:00PM (#46468917)

    The OLPC XO-1 enpirically demonstrated that one could manufacture a self-contained device that could credibly be called a "computer" for $100. While that's no big deal today, it was unheard of a decade ago, and the XO-1 stood as the empirical proof it was possible.

  • by Fuzzums ( 250400 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @06:00PM (#46468921) Homepage

    I'm affraid my current smartphone probably has more memory, more storage and is faster than my 8 years old single core laptop running W-XP.
    So how about one smartphone per child?

    • by thsths ( 31372 )

      This. The world has changed, OLPC no longer has a credible goal in hardware. Netbooks have come and gone, and that is the end of that.

      Now educational software, that is a demand that still has to be met in any serious way.

      • by tchdab1 ( 164848 )

        Anticipate the convergence of the evolution in useful netlinked hardware with the growth of your target audience.

        Shoot for One Google-Walker Per Senior.

  • The OLPC Underground (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zwazo ( 3574817 ) <> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @06:11PM (#46468985)
    When I emailed OLPC last year, I didn't expect a response and I didn't get one. Instead, Project Rive's XO laptops came from the Contributors' Program, which is run by volunteers for volunteers. 10 computers go down in someone's suitcase, instead of 10,000 being sent to a government. This "unofficial" effort has long been doing a much better job than the official guys, because we give schools the support they need - from solar setups to curriculum. Unleash Kids launched several programs in Haiti this year. We're using the original XO-1 computers, with new tools like a customized version of Sugar, the XSCE school server, and Internet-in-a-Box. Yep, the computers themselves are still being used years later, and there's a community working to find new uses and users. There's 2.5 million XOs out there, built to last longer than the latest tablet. No matter what happens to the big guys, Unleash Kids and others inspired by the OLPC vision will continue
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      YES! The real story (if anyone wants to research it, many PhDs will be written) is that the bulk OLPC's institutional capacity wound down in the Prior Decade (innovation thrived in 2007-2009 especially) largely replaced by a far larger global community of DIY implementers. In particular is an unauthorized *treasure*, entirely crowdsourced and volunteer-run, far more comprehensive than OLPC's own "official" map. The reason is that country after country realized our children Won't Wait for bureauc

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Time to double down

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A few weeks ago OLPC 2.0 had a presence at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE 12X). Far from being "dead," it was as big a hit as ever. Of course, these were folks who are interested in open course software in education (OSSIE). There were deployers from several different countries sharing their stories and hardware/software developers demonstrating their work. Many people there showed interest in joining in this global movement to improve the education and lives of children everywhere.

    People have cr

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not really an "Anonymous Coward!" My name is Caryl Bigenho and I have been a volunteer with OLPC and Sugar Labs for over 6 years.

  • Getting children used to a free, non-proprietary operating system -- weaning them off Microsoft's teats, so to say -- is a social good in itself. To abandon this goal was a huge mistake.

    • " the organization is becoming more hardware and OS agnostic" so they don't believe in hardware and OSs anymore?
      Last time I heard the word Agnostic used, it was Microsoft did not believe in software.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... technology and the marketplace responded far more quickly, more cheaply, and vastly more efficiently than an NGO like OLPC could or would.

    I wonder how much money was wasted funding this organization?

  • OLPC vs EEPC (Score:5, Informative)

    by careysub ( 976506 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @07:54PM (#46469645)

    I bought one of the OLPCs (actually two, as part of the "give one get one" charity program) for my daughter who was in the target age group at the time - and shortly thereafter I also bought an EEPC running Linux. The result - user acceptance of the EEPC blew the OLPC into the weeds. The OLPC was on minor novelty value, and that was all. The Atom processor on the EEPC smoked the Geode of course, and the native apps has far better performance of course than the Python programs on the OLPC, but the real kicker was this: the EEPC let my daughter do thins she actually wanted to do! What a concept!

    It is sad to such a significant amount of money and creativity being poured into a such a "broken by design" project. You pick the slowest processor out there (since low power consumption was apparently a pre-eminent goal of the project). But then you put very inefficient software on it. And it is not even a good app suite!

    • by griffjon ( 14945 )

      As I said many, many times during OLPC's early years, they should have brought it to market globally as a secondary source of revenue and driver of innovation. Props to focusing on education products for the least-served, but the OLPC created the industry niche for netbooks (and arguably, then, tablets), and then after hyping it up, refused to enter the market. They quickly got lapped by hardware that wasn't as open or as rugged, but was available to anyone for a low price. Once the netbook market got ch

  • by The Cat ( 19816 )

    Good idea tries to get low-cost hardware and a good educational platform OS into the hands of poor people.

    Big American corporation comes along and drowns idea in a bathtub.

    Big American corporation offers touch-screen television remote controls (which they call "smart" phones) as a replacement.

    Everyone cheers.

    The end.

  • The OLPC News website in the past months has build up a reputation for sharply criticizing the $100 laptop project headed up by Nicholas Negroponte .. You can shrug your shoulders and simply ignore the blog, but Christopher Blizzard, one of the OLPC's contributors and an employee for Red Hat, looked a little bit further. It turns out that one of the site's authors works on an Intel project that is competing with the OLPC. Oops." link []
  • "Papert and Negroponte distributed [computers] to school children in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal. The experience confirms one of Papert's central assumptions: children in remote, rural, and poor regions of the world take to computers as easily and naturally as children anywhere. These results will be validated in subsequent deployments in several countries, including Pakistan, Thailand, and Colombia. [...] Naturally, it failed. Nothing is that independent, especially an organization backed by a socialist gov

  • With Windows 8 requirement of a license by the proprietary hardware in order to perform a simple Linux install, is wrong. Its real bad. Just say NO to proprietary hardware.

    Re-purposing a computer for One Laptop per Child or some other education use is why I buy all my hardware (PC, laptop and tablet) from Linux ONLY vendors. I figure I can always purchase a Windows license if I want one, however down the road that Linux hardware will not require a Windows license to run Linux because of some stupid pro

  • I bought an XO-1 from the first "Give One Get One" promotion many years ago. I was a bit disappointed with it, but I learned to write Activities for Sugar and eventually wrote a book on the subject which you may check out here: []

    I used my XO-1 as an e-book reader and was so pleased with it and all the thousands of free e-books available from and Project Gutenberg that I learned to create and donate books to these sites and wrote a book on that subject:

    https://archi []

    • Good points on dreams, and disappointments, and continuing hopes.

      Here are some rambles of my own thoughts and experiences with OLPC and an independent software developer long interested in education (my wife and I made a free garden simulator in the 1990s).

      I got two OLPs via the G1-G1 program. One never even made it out of the box, sadly. (I think of donating them somewhere sometimes, thinking it is better a kid has it than it becomes an unused collector's item.) I made a demo version of some of our plant g

  • Did it ever wind up? If you cannot provide an iPad and chauffeured transportation to and from the school of your choice for every one of your bloody spawn, you are a loser.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun