I was a child of the 80’s. More specifically: I moved between primary and secondary school at precisely the time the first Apple Macintosh hit the market. I can remember the people from apple coming to my primary school, giving us rainbow-apple window decals (so exciting), and trying to convince us to buy the future.
We didn’t buy a Mac (I had a Vic20, and then one of the early IBM PCs), but that rainbow apple adorned my bedroom window and glinted beneath the sway of pink feathered ‘roach clips’ that I would never wear, but secretly loved.
Most of you have heard me say that I learned to wordprocess in dot-commands and know how much impact those first Macs had, but it has been a long time since I have been really excited by something new in technology. OK, there have been amazing advances, and the iphone still temps me, but really, windows followed mac, fast followed slow, small followed large, and it was all fairly inevitable given enough time and money.
Today, though, I caught wind of the revolution. You may know about it already, but I had missed it: the OX from One Laptop Per Child. They have just linked up with Amazon in the States. The idea is that whenever you buy an OX laptop, you actually buy two: one for you, and one for a child in a developing nation. Good idea. But not revolutionary.
What excites me is that they have completely revised the concept of computers to fit the needs of children, and most especially to fit the needs of children in developing nations. So, the laptop works off a touch screen, and is programmed by the child — adapting to how the child works, expanding as the child’s knowledge expands. The new-generation OX-2, which will be launched in 2010, will have two touch screens. If you open it like a book, it acts like a book: an e-book that will open up unimaginable resources in parts of the world where books, paper, pens are scarce. But if you open it like a computer, it becomes a computer — the lower touch screen acts as a qwerty keyboard, so you can type as normal. But there’s more. It’s designed to take the rough treatment of a small child. It will run off a pull-cord if there is no source of electricity. It is wireless ready, and by mechanisms I don’t begin to understand it seems to be offering internet access in places you would think it impossible.
There are only two problems I can see: it’s only available in the States, and you have to buy one to get two (surely there must just be a way to send two??).