On my flight to San Francisco, I saw a kid carrying one of the much-blogged-about XO laptops of the One Laptop Per Child project. I’ve been skimming people’s posts about this project for, what, a year or two now, generally thinking that there are lots of things kids in developing countries probably need more than computers (safe water and affordable medicines come to mind), but then again, if these things are what they claim to be, and the project spreads worldwide, there’s real potential for a revolution in digital access. And my other thought is, dang, my kids could really use these things; our four-times-as-expensive (at least) laptops are a mess after a year or two, require a full-time IT specialist whom we do not have money to hire, and are, at this point, rarely used and almost useless. Could the solution be a couple of crates full of these things? And yet another thought is, can a computer really be made tough enough to survive all the hazards of being used by kids (let alone being used by kids in less-than-ideal environments)? So here’s this six-year-old kid walking onto my flight with her mom, carrying her open laptop upside-down by its handle, and the thing just looked like when righted it would probably be okay, that she could drop it and it would probably be okay, that she could spill her juice on it and it would probably be okay. If only my laptop were that resilient. I think it’s also pretty cool that it comes with programming ability, that kids can make their own programs for it, they aren’t tied to what is already loaded.
This has nothing directly to do with the XO, but a half-hour later, the pilot was informing us over the intercom that we were delayed because a some program on the plane wasn’t working properly, and they couldn’t get the replacement program to download, and the technician was going to run to his office and bring it over on flashdrive to download manually onto the airplane’s computers. Well, maybe he didn’t actually say flashdrive, but reading between the lines, that’s what he was going home to get. I laughed, figuring it was a better response than completely freaking out that some important electronic system might be malfunctioning on my cross-country flight.