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Hands-On with One Laptop Per Child's XO Laptop

We visited the OLPC Labs to get our hands on the much-hyped laptop. Created with children of the developing world in mind, this notebook might just change the face of mobile computing.


by Joanna Stern on March 9, 2008


Small green laptops hanging from the ceiling and baking in ovens: This is the scene we walked into on a recent trip to the OLPC offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After years of planning, OLPC's XO laptop (previously known as the '$100 laptop' though now priced at $188) is finally on production lines and scheduled for distribution to schools in developing countries this year. Although we're very familiar with OLPC's laptop--the technology as well as the drama behind it--we still didn't expect much more than a kids' gadget. How wrong we were.
At first sight, the OLPC's XO laptop looks like a prop on Nickelodeon's Double Dare. The closed green-and-white, rounded machine looks more the part of a toy suitcase than powerful laptop. Even the XO logo on the front panel of the machine, which is customizable in 400 color combinations so children can tell their notebooks apart, screams that this is not an adult machine. (Our unit's logo was orange and yellow.) It's also smaller than we imagined. About the size of a small textbook, the 3.2-pound system felt no heavier than a metal lunch box (read what an 8-year-old thought of the XO). It wasn't until we opened the sturdy lid of the laptop, by pulling up the two rubber rabbit-ear-like antennae, that we realized this machine is no toy.
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