Mary Lou Jepsen on Low-cost, Low-power Computing

   
   
   
   
   

Two weeks ago O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference took place in San Jose, CA and Mary Lou Jepsen, the brain behind the XO's ground-breaking display design, gave a keynote there. Not surprisingly she talked about low-cost and low-power computing and what kind of things she and her company Pixel Qi are working on these days. Suffice to say it's an interesting keynote and definitely well worth watching!


After watching the video, check out Peter Glaskowsky's review of the same. I'm not sure I can agree with many of his points, like:

Jepsen wanted her audience to believe that the key breakthrough in the XO-1 design was the screen, but the fact is that low-resolution, low-quality, low-power displays have been widely available for years. They aren't used in PCs because they don't meet the expectations of PC users. And frankly, the display in the XO-1 wouldn't meet most PC users' expectations either.

What do you think? Was Mary Lou all hyperbole or does her talk encapsulate the XO-1 advances and her own contributions, and Peter just showing a mean jealous streak?

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The day a really affordable screen meets the currently available $15 computer from http://playpower.org , then we will be able to talk business. (BTW, $15 or even less in Asia, in the US about $50)

The next solution is waiting for Ms. Jepsen, or Mr. Glaskowsky's, to actually deliver such a screeen.

Peter Glaskowsky's comments are right on the money. Mrs. Jepsen keeps spreading the same lies that have alienated so many of Negroponte's potential customers.

The criticisms are fair to the extent that the XO's screen is actually close to run-of-the-mill. Many of the fancier technologies (diffraction gratings, whatnot) were omitted.

I think there's blame enough to go around. Jepsen is soft-peddling the failure of the XO by one important measure - production numbers - but I think she can lay claim to kicking off the "netbook" phenomenon which, valueless to me as the prediction has been, is what I wrote would be the primary claim to fame of the XO.

Also, her claim that it's the screen now, not the processor, has merit as well.

After all, the display is the single, largest cost element in a laptop and has been for some time. Substantially reducing the cost of the display was a singular accomplishment and the accomplishment that made the XO viable.

Glaskowsky's piece comes across to me as anger directed at dream purveyors that turned out to have feet of clay.

"but the fact is that low-resolution, low-quality, low-power displays have been widely available for years."

Low cost, low-power, daylight readable, non-toxic displays have been widely available for years?

Great, who kept them hidden for so long? Where can I find them?

"They aren't used in PCs because they don't meet the expectations of PC users. And frankly, the display in the XO-1 wouldn't meet most PC users' expectations either."

So Mary-Lou is faulted for catering to children in the developing world io to rich people who do not want an XO anyway. Just as everybody knew they would not want and underpowered netbook.

Is he saying that Mary-Lou developed a new screen out of complete ignorance? Because she was unaware of what the market had to offer?

To me this sounds a lot like whining and jealousy.

Winter

Mr. Glaskowsky seems to have a lot of hostility, and I don't know where it comes from, but it's interesting. Maybe he doesn't like how much time Mary Lou spent bashing CPUs. He also speaks like a person who hasn't actually used the XO screen.

To suggest that there is some product out there that's similar is nonsense, as anyone who's used the screen can attest. I'd like to see a souped-up version of the screen, but the screen as it is is something really special, not just a "low cost, low quality" screen, as Mr. Glaskowsky suggests. I wish I could buy a computer with a screen as nice as the one in the XO. Right now I can't.

He also seems to discount the very clear fact that there is a market for these devices, as witness the growth of the netbook market. And he avoids the two big elephants in the netbook room: lack of a decent screen, and lack of a decent CPU.

Not one of the netbooks currently available has a screen that can hold a candle to the one in the XO. If Pixel Qi can get their screen into a netbook, that netbook will have a huge competitive advantage over the other netbooks, because it'll be the first netbook that actually has a readable screen.

And why is it that every new netbook seems to come with a fatter, spendier x86 CPU? Why not an ARM CPU? Intel CPUs have to run the Intel instruction set. It's a horrible power hog. A netbook with a Pixel Qi screen and an ARM CPU, running Linux or BSD, would sip much less power than even the Geode-based XO laptop, while performing better.

I think there's a real market for a device like this. I've been holding off on buying a netbook in hopes that something like this would come out. I think the future is very bright for Pixel Qi, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of their effort. Sooner than later, I hope.

I can only say about Glaskowsky's comments that I love my Acer one, and I only can use it thanks to the XO people.

Maybe I'm rare and weird, but I really like using my laptops to read and write(active), more than seeing videos and music(pasive).

I see videos, but I read way more, and I NEED a 200-300 points per pinch resolution screen. I NEED an outdoors viable screen. I NEED a screen than don't need power when I read.

And a lot of people that Works with the computer instead of plays with it need this things too.

The "They aren't used in PCs because they don't meet the expectations of PC users" makes me laugh, I should not be a PC user. Those expectation should be the +450Watts, +40'' TV screens that are selling like hotcakes.

Who cares, I want it, I want small screens with lots of resolution, and low power, not ton coal burners/hour for powering the needed electricity to run.

The screen is wonderful. I have a nice 15" dell laptop, a 4" Toshiba PPC, a 3.5" dell PPC, a 3.8" compaq ipaq PPC, and a great 20" LCD and a 24" iMac screen. The XO is my favorite because it is the cleanest and fits the most into the real estate given.

Yes to ARM. The ARM compaq ipaq PPC was revolutionary for its time 9 years ago. I still use it. You can completely turn off the backlight and make the battery last forever by simply using any form of overhead lighting (ie airplane overhead light).

Without the screen, the XO would be very much so worthless. After thinking about it, if they put in a more powerful processor and more memory (preferrably an ARM), the XO 1.5 would be a hit.

Of course, they would still need to make it actually available to people without requiring a purchase of 100 - or is it 1000? If it is 100, it might as well be 1000...

It is very interesting that Tech world community's skepticism/cynicism toward OLPC discredits anything to do with OLPC/XO1.

It's almost as if they are bitter about how the world's attention has gone to affordable "netbook" laptops. Sort of same phenomenon core gamers are having with Wii/DS' more casual user base dominance.

Although I disagree with many things OLPC did, you gotta give credit when it's due. Ms. Jepsen's achievement made XO1 possible.

I really do hope we will see what Pixel Qi is cooking up soon.

Contrary to Glaskowsky's claim, Mary Lou's display design did a lot to save power. In all other computers the cpu continuously refreshes the display, even when it is static. In the XO, there is a chip in the display that saves the last image sent from the cpu and uses it to refresh the screen, and the cpu is turned off to save energy.

"Jepsen wanted her audience to believe that the key breakthrough in the XO-1 design was the screen,..."

"Mrs. Jepsen keeps spreading the same lies ..."

"the XO's screen is actually close to run-of-the-mill."

What really great breakthrough must you have done to attract such valiant efforts of naysayers, belittlers, and slanderers.

Winter

If this screen is so great, then why hasn't it made it into other technologies? That would help drive down costs through market of scale. Since the rest of the project isn't getting those volumes. Look at the popularity of netbooks, e-book readers and other portable electronic devices with screens.

One of the claimed benefits is "toxic free". Many LCD screens are now shipping with LED backlights. What other toxins remain?

Also on power consumption, this page: http://www.olpcnews.com/hardware/screen/olpc_screen_backlight.html indicates 1W backlit, 0.1W reflective. My Netbook only uses 1-2W tops for the screen.

How popular is the reflective mode on these screens? (not just hypothesis, or assumptions on what people in other countries are doing, I'm curious in actual usage rates in deployed OLPCs)

And does the super low power reader mode work as advertised

The screen isn't a great breakthrough despite Winter's claim. It's a clever extension of current technology that allowed a much less expensive screen to do much of what a more expensive screen can do.

If you can afford the more expensive screen then you don't need Jeppeson's clever hack but if you can't then the alternative is no screen at all. Since, as I predicted long ago, the real market for cheap laptops is the wealthier nations the Jeppeson screen design is ignored.

Egg of Columbus!

The XO screen is probably the best thing on the XO. Real estate, e-book mode, daylight readable, low power. And the power savings is not coming just from the lower consumption of the screen but because its design allows the CPU/GPU to power down when not much else is happening.
Then why isn't pick up by the Netbook vendors? Washed out colors and limited view angle. Given that power consumption is not an issue for these markets and that for significant power savings you need the (non-existing for these machines) proper power management software, there is no incentive to tolerate the limitations.
That's why pixel Qi is developing new screens hopefully without these limitation. However, these does not make their claims false.

@John Smith:
"If this screen is so great, then why hasn't it made it into other technologies?"

1 The colors are not so great for those who can afford full color.

2 Patents. They always hamper progress ;-) The producer has exclusive rights for a year or some more.

3 Developing new products cost time.

@John Smith:
"Many LCD screens are now shipping with LED backlights. What other toxins remain?"

The ones inside. The ones they fight over in Congo.

@allen:
"The screen isn't a great breakthrough despite Winter's claim. It's a clever extension of current technology that allowed a much less expensive screen to do much of what a more expensive screen can do."

And that is not a perfect definition of a great breakthrough?

@allen:
"Since, as I predicted long ago, the real market for cheap laptops is the wealthier nations the Jeppeson screen design is ignored."

Why should I care for those in the rich nations? And why come here when you are not interested in the developing nations?

Jepsen developed a great screen for a netbook for children in the developing world. If others, eg, CERN engineers or Astronauts, have no use for it, I could not care less.

@mavrothal:
I could not agree more.

Winter

> And that is not a perfect definition of a great breakthrough?

No. A great breakthrough is moveable type or the Watt steam engine or mechanical loom. But putting together a high resolution but cheap monochrome display and a low resultion and thus cheap color display is a clever piece of engineering. The former substantially reduced the cost of duplication, mechanical power and cloth. The latter will be displaced in another year or two and forgotten in ten.

> Why should I care for those in the rich nations? And why come here when you are not interested in the developing nations?

What difference does it make what you care about? My comment was specifically about where to successfully market a cheap laptop and it turns out I was right.

If old Nick Negroponte had asked me I would have told him "don't be an idiot Nick. Poor people don't have the money to buy laptops and poor governments, like rich governments, don't give a damn about poor people".

The only thing of importance in politics is political power and poor people don't have much political power. It was predictable that government agencies wouldn't be all that interested in the OLPC and look, they're not. People are interested in the OLPC as in the people who were willing to buy two computers to get one. Imagine how many computers would've been sold if you could pay for one and get one.

And as for who's interested in poor countries, it's quite clear that all you're interested in is seeing yourself as the noble, white protector and uplifter of all the little brown children who will adore you for for being very upset that not enough of other people's money is being spent to satisfy your conscience or what passes for a conscience in someone who's angry that other people aren't as good as you think you are.

But just so you don't go away emptyhanded, here are a couple of more predictions.

Dr. Negroponte will gradually, almost innoticeably, distance himself from the OLPC project. Heck, that's not much of a prediction is it? He's already about the job of peeling off the OLPC project like it's a dirty shirt.

But wait, there's more.

Then it'll be tougher to get support since the rising tide of netbooks, along with their falling costs, will obviate the need for the XO and NGOs won't be able to pull in much money to supply kids with computers when, after all, there are poor kids who are hungry, naked and sick.

Finally, the sales volume will drop to low to continue to run the assembly lines and that, Winter, will be that.

Oh yeah, what are current sales chugging along at?

@allen:
"A great breakthrough is moveable type or the Watt steam engine or mechanical loom."

All were "evolutionary" in your definition. Moveable type already existed in China for a century or so. Watt's "only" addition was a condensor and an automatic valve. And mechanized looms of some form did already exist.

They were all great breakthroughs. But they were not isolated pinnacles of innovation in a mud plain.

And that is the way great breakthroughs come about: A lot of small steps that at a certain point make a new technology economical and feasible for everyone.

@allen:
"My comment was specifically about where to successfully market a cheap laptop and it turns out I was right. "

Ah, but who was interested at a new market for cheap laptops? Neither Negroponte nor Wayan Vota nor anyone else involved in the OLPC (nor me, to be sure). They were interested in improving education for poor children.

So, you can ask why was no-one in the world interested in developing a new market of cheap laptops?

Free market economics has a good answer for that: Because the laptop market is controlled by a few (near) monopolies, eg, Intel and MS. It is classical economics theory that monopolies shun low margin markets.

@allen:
"Finally, the sales volume will drop to low to continue to run the assembly lines and that, Winter, will be that."

What, no improved education for children in the developed world? And all because Mary-Lou and Nicholas did not develop laptops for rich students?

Winter

No "improved education" for poor kids either when the production lines shut down. You OK with that too, Winter?

By the way, what's the per month production rate for the XO?

@allen:
"No "improved education" for poor kids either when the production lines shut down. You OK with that too, Winter?"

Instead, the OLPC should have developed a laptop that is useful for the rich and useless to the poor?

Indeed, they could then have taken the market in the "West", but the children in the developing world would still be without an improved education.

In short, the OLPC tried to help the poor and it seems you fault them for not helping the rich instead?

Winter

If good intentions counted for anything then Dr. Negroponte's empty gesture might be worthy of praise. But good intentions don't count for anything so whatever the intentions of the XO organization might have been it's the result by which the organization will be measured and by that measure it's a failure.

By the way Winter, I notice you ignored the question about production numbers. How low do you think they'll have to go before the plug is pulled?

@allen:
"I notice you ignored the question about production numbers."

Maybe zero, no sales at all? I really wouldn't know.

@allen:
"But good intentions don't count for anything so whatever the intentions of the XO organization might have been it's the result by which the organization will be measured and by that measure it's a failure."

And what is that result?

I see two options open for such a project:

1 Design for the western world and sell shiploads of netbooks in the west. They are useless in the developing world so nothing improves in education there.

2 Design for the developing world and reach some children. Sell only a few in the western world. Experience and some improvement in education in the developing world. Lessons learned.

Ad 1: Total failure (but they get rich)
Ad 2: Partial success (but they get famous)

Would that be clear enough?

Winter

> Maybe zero, no sales at all? I really wouldn't know.

Or care, obviously. How you going to get all those laptops into those poor kid's hands if they're not being made?

I also see two possibilities.

1) Design for the western world and sell shiploads of netbooks in the west. Then, between Moore's Law and the inevitable magic of the competitive marketplace, the price for those netbooks will drop and drop until it drops to the point that netbooks start to be of interest to people who exist at the income levels common in the less developed countries.

2) .....Oh, sorry. There really isn't any other possibility as proven by the collapse of the OLPC project, is there? Improvements in education? Feel free to offer some proof in support of that claim. And about those lessons learned, what would they be?

The lesson I can draw from this debacle is that when you do things for bad reasons don't expect good results.

Dr. Negroponte kicked off this project without a clear goal in mind other then to inflame passions and hobnob with the presidents and prime ministers of a bunch of countries. Well, he succeeded.

But proving that it's an ill wind that blows no good, at least we probably won't have to put up with any more nonsense like this. The ignominious collapse of the project should, one can hope, make similar projects synonymous with cold fusion as a metaphor for unrealistic or at least unfounded enthusiasms and kill any such projects before they squander tax or charitable monies.

@allen:
"Then, between Moore's Law and the inevitable magic of the competitive marketplace, the price for those netbooks will drop and drop until it drops to the point that netbooks start to be of interest to people who exist at the income levels common in the less developed countries."

Moore's law didn't work to the advantages of the developing world in the last two decades. The current trends in commercial netbooks are against your trickle down effect. So, your point one will not help education in the developing world in the future like it didn't in the past.

@allen:
"The lesson I can draw from this debacle is that when you do things for bad reasons don't expect good results."

It is a very special mind-set that considers improving education for poor children a "bad reason" to act upon. Not one I care much for.

@allen:
"The ignominious collapse of the project should, one can hope, make similar projects synonymous with cold fusion as a metaphor for unrealistic or at least unfounded enthusiasms and kill any such projects before they squander tax or charitable monies."

That is a very remarkable statement. It says to me you do not care about the well-being of the less fortunate. It sounds a lot like those "philosophies" investment bankers were fond to discuss before they wrecked the world economy.

In short, if you really think a charitative project to improve education in the developing world is worthless, then I must say that I could not disagree more with you.

Winter

> Moore's law didn't work to the advantages of the developing world in the last two decades.

Of course it did. Where do you think affordable cell phones came from? The tooth fairy?

> The current trends in commercial netbooks are against your trickle down effect.

No it isn't. The downward pressure on price is irresistible. That's why you can buy a $500 dollar laptop anywhere around town when not that terribly long ago a $1000 laptop was considered cheap.

> So, your point one will not help education in the developing world in the future like it didn't in the past.

Oh I'm sorry, have you, or anyone else for that matter, ever presented any evidence of an improvement in education due to the use of computers? And as long we're on the subject of the use of computers in education, perhaps you could provide a succinct description of what one might expect from the successful use of computers in education. Unless, of course, you've got an example.

> It is a very special mind-set that considers improving education for poor children a "bad reason" to act upon. Not one I care much for.

And it's an unfortunately common mind-set that conflates being terribly upset with a situation with actually doing something about it. Not one I care much for but that's the conceit you've chosen to embrace.

Oh, and the only thing remarkable about my feelings on the subject are that I'm expressing what many people have already concluded but choose not to express. It's telling though that the only way you can approach the subject of the failure of this project, and the obvious lesson to be drawn from that failure, is by raising the specter of the bogeyman of the moment - the investment banker and your defense of the project isn't in it's success because of course it's a failure, but in it's good intentions.

Well sorry Winter but good intentions aren't nearly as worthwhile as good results so whatever the project "tried" to do, it didn't do. I know that in your world good intentions are an acceptable defense for failure but there's a big world outside the blinkered, parochial confines of the world you've created for yourself and in that world it's doing what you announce you're going to do that's considered success.

@allen:
"Of course it did. Where do you think affordable cell phones came from? The tooth fairy?"

My point. GSM was an "open" market with a lot of competition. Laptops are a closed market dominated by two complementary companies. With competition, we see affordable products for the developing world. Without competition, we do not.

@allen:
"That's why you can buy a $500 dollar laptop anywhere around town when not that terribly long ago a $1000 laptop was considered cheap."

Indeed, mostly AFTER the arrival of cheap netbooks. And the cheap ones are all disappearing again. Even though they sold well.

@allen:
"Oh I'm sorry, have you, or anyone else for that matter, ever presented any evidence of an improvement in education due to the use of computers?"

http://www.kennisnet.nl

@allen:
"And it's an unfortunately common mind-set that conflates being terribly upset with a situation with actually doing something about it."

The OLPC tried to do something about it. Mary-Lou devoted two years of her life to making this work. We tend to remember fondly those who sincerely tried to help us but failed. We don't care much for those who rather never tried than run the risk of failure.

Any attempt to improve the fate of humans runs the risk of failure. And the OLPC dared try to do this in a risky but important manner. Failure was always possible, as all projects and people have limitations and things can go wrong in so many ways. Stupid errors is only one reason in many.

Speaking badly about them just because they tried and failed says so much about how you see the world and your fellow humans.

@allen:
"the bogeyman of the moment - the investment banker and your defense of the project isn't in it's success because of course it's a failure, but in it's good intentions."

No, the "investment banker" example was chosen because their mindset was strongly anti-government and anti-taxes and towards a market-only society. Their fall showed, again, that there is a government and there are taxes for a very good reason.

You imply that the commercial failure of the OLPC equates to an educational failure. There is more to education than a market of supply and demand. So a commercial failure of the OLPC is a pity, but does not mean it was an educational failure. My point was that a commercial success could well have been achieved on top of a complete educational failure (like the Intel me-to offerings).

@allen:
"I know that in your world good intentions are an acceptable defense for failure but there's a big world outside the blinkered, parochial confines of the world you've created for yourself and in that world it's doing what you announce you're going to do that's considered success."

I think I can respond with a simple citation:
"Johannes Gutenberg, despite being a man who died bankrupt in relative anonymity, can perhaps be considered the father of the information age."
http://www.essortment.com/all/printingpressg_runq.htm

According to your logic, movable type was a failure because the inventor and his company went bankrupt.

Winter

> My point. GSM was an "open" market with a lot of competition. Laptops are a closed market dominated by two complementary companies. With competition, we see affordable products for the developing world. Without competition, we do not.

And yet in this "closed market" companies come and go, prices drop year over year. Apparently it's not quite as closed a market as you'd like to believe. In fact, the only reason Intel's dominant is because they're frantically innovating every waking minute and developing new products. Microsoft's dominance is a special situation that's coming to an end. The competitive nature of GSM was driven by the failure of state monopolies to innovate.

> Indeed, mostly AFTER the arrival of cheap netbooks. And the cheap ones are all disappearing again. Even though they sold well.

Wrong and short-sighted.

The price drop of laptops has been occurring since the very first one was produced. If it wasn't a perfectly flat line, sorry but the trend over any reasonable length of time is clear and it's downward.

Manufacturers developing product for this new form-factor made their best estimate of what people wanted and were willing to pay. Some of their guesses produced products that weren't sufficiently capable to sell well so they were withdrawn. That products at that price-point will reappear is inevitable since it follows the downward arc of prices that's been in effect for decades.

Right now it's possible to buy a quite nice netbook for $270 and this time next year it'll be significantly cheaper then that as customer preferences work their way back up the supply chain resulting in the integration of functions previously performed by individual integrated circuits.

> http://www.kennisnet.nl

And?

> The OLPC tried to do something about it.

Who cares? If I try to stop someone's arterial bleed and they bleed to death because I'm inept how much difference does it make that I tried? The measure of success is success not intentions.

> You imply that the commercial failure of the OLPC equates to an educational failure.

No, I'm saying the OLPC project is a failure. The failure of computers in education is an on-going fact. Feel free to offer proof to the contrary. That is, something a little more substantive then a URL.

> According to your logic, movable type was a failure because the inventor and his company went bankrupt.

And you can't make your argument without putting words in my mouth.

Dr. Negroponte made all sorts of grandiose pronouncements. He made ridiculous volume projections, vulgar comments about those who might not want to buy his computers on his terms, hobnobbed with all sorts of presidents and prime ministers, courted the press at every turn and what is there to show for all that pirouetting before the news media? Good intentions.

You obviously think that good intentions are a sufficient justification for the project but I don't.

@allen:
"If I try to stop someone's arterial bleed and they bleed to death because I'm inept how much difference does it make that I tried? The measure of success is success not intentions."

I think this is the perfect example to illustrate our different mindsets. You have people who are inept and still try to stop the arterial bleed. Sometimes they succeed, often they fail.

Then you have people who do not even try to help because they fear they might fail.

If I end up with an arterial bleeding, I know who I want in my neighborhood if there is no doctor around.

@allen:
"And you can't make your argument without putting words in my mouth."

You claim the OLPC is a failure because it was a commercial failure. Actually, you consistently imply NOTHING positive came out of the OLPC because they designed their hardware for the developing world (=No market).

How is that different from Gutenberg going bankrupt for inventing movable type? Only because history later proved him right?

@allen:
"The failure of computers in education is an on-going fact. Feel free to offer proof to the contrary."

That is a political statement of opinion.

The link to http://www.kennisnet.nl is to the official website of the Dutch educational system. I see how Dutch school children use computers in high-school on a daily bases (from looking into the course plan up to researching and producing reports). But somehow, the fact that this material is in Dutch seems to invalidate it for those that deny computers are useful in education. (and there is a difference between "in education" and "in the classroom")

@allen:
"You obviously think that good intentions are a sufficient justification for the project but I don't."

A misunderstanding. Negroponte sold a project to improve education in a very effective way. They delivered more or less what they promised (the XO was better than I expected), but the uptake was less than they projected. Commercially, it was a failure (not a show stopper for a non-profit). And I do not care that you do not like how Negroponte sold his project. The strong and weak points have been evident from the start (read OLPCnews for that). If realism was really that important MS would have been out of business for decades (they have never, ever spoken the truth). That is one side.

The other side is that motivation, execution, and result are three completely different aspects of a project. If you think that failure is unacceptable, and altruism is bad, then little progress will be possible in the world.

A project we can learn from is never completely wasted. As such, the OLPC leaves a huge legacy of hardware, software, and experience.

And you might give us the quotes where the sponsors of the OLPC regret their involvement and tell us they consider their investment a complete waste. I know of no sponsor who stated that. But if you do, please inform us.

Winter

> I think this is the perfect example to illustrate our different mindsets.

Yeah, you seem to think an ineffective attempt is the equivalent of success and I don't.

Dr. Negroponte made all sorts of grandiouse projections and pronouncements. None, with the exception of a production hardware, has come to pass and getting a working production model can hardly be laid at Dr. Negroponte's feet.

As for his other predictions and promises, which have come to pass? Is there an educational revolution in progress? Is education improving for poor children? According to you, yes. According to people on the scene, the picture isn't quite so clear. They're obviously supporters but there doesn't seem to be a series of triumphant announcements to herald success. If the people who are actually trying to implement the use of the OLPC in education aren't announcing triumph after triumph just where does your certainty come from? Not from seeing the results.

> You claim the OLPC is a failure because it was a commercial failure.

Once again, you can't make your case without putting words in my mouth.

If you compare projected production figures to actual, it's a failure.

You can't compare predicted educational results to actual because there never were predicted educational results beyond the intimation that amazing things would come to pass. Of course by that measure the program's also a failure since nothing particularly amazing has come to pass.

Did I miss any other measures that could be used to determine whether there've been any successful outcomes? Feel free to note them.

> Actually, you consistently imply NOTHING positive came out of the OLPC because they designed their hardware for the developing world (=No market).

Once again, not true. I did allow that the OLPC shocked the computer industry into a recognition that the advancement of the technology had made the lowest-priced computers a viable market. Previously the low end was the province of bottom-scrapers who bought obsolescent inventory and built new but obsolscent desk top computers. Laptops were too integrated and requiring of too much engineering for the low-end system assemblers to build laptops similar to their desktops. The OLPC forced a re-examination of the technology and lo! it was clear that a whole new, low-end market had become available due to the advancement of the technology.

> That is a political statement of opinion.

Nope, it's simply a statement of fact. Or it would be if the proponents of the use of computers in education provided some means of validating the achievement of their goals and, oh by the way, stated their goals.

Typically, as in the case of the OLPC, the proponents of the use of computers in education have been big on implication and rather less forthcoming with milestones and measurables. Wonderful things, we are assured, will happen but what exactly those wonderful things are and how to measure whether they've occurred is a bit more problematical.

> Negroponte sold a project to improve education in a very effective way. They delivered more or less what they promised (the XO was better than I expected), but the uptake was less than they projected.

The "uptake" was less then expected by *you*.

Dr. Negroponte's disdain for the education ministries he wanted to buy his computer had me wondering how serious he was as I mentioned some time ago. I predicted that nowhere near the projected number of computers would be sold because the sales campaign, if it can be dignified with that term, wasn't just inept, it was distinctly counterproductive. If not for the B1G1 how many computers would actually have made it out to their intended users?

> And I do not care that you do not like how Negroponte sold his project.

When did you become so important? The people who make the buying decisions obvious didn't care for Dr. Negroponte's sales campaign and their opinions sure as heck do/did matter. The didn't have to read my criticisms of the manner in which the OLPC was sold to form their negative opinions, the shortcomings of the campaign are evident in the lack of sales.

> And you might give us the quotes where the sponsors of the OLPC regret their involvement...

Why? You think a failure to accomplish any of your stated goals will encourage sponsors or be seen by sponsors as anything other then failure? Maybe you can come up with one of your circuitous rationalizations but I assure you the people who can write the large checks necessary to keeping the OLPC project solvent won't.

They have many projects begging for funding and some of those projects have actually managed to produce successes. How will the OLPC project compete with them? By claiming their good intentions are more worthwhile then competing project's measurable successes?

Well, if Someone Who Doesn't Need To Be Named would have allowed sales in the US and Europe (just plain no nonsense sales), production could have reached higher numbers, lowering cost for all. Instead, there was this idea that this is only for developing nations kids, and thus we got cut from significant sources of revenue. Just look at what Leaping Frog has to offer, and compare. We are not just competitive, we could own the market, just like Apple took over the US educational market in its day. Big money there.

We need to admit the reality that the developing world does benefit from trickle-down effects, especially in technology. It has never been there were the primary market is. Emergent markets? sure, but technology, so far, has been adopted, established, and had costs come down in the developed world first, and often benefited from getting cloned (remember the Apple IIe clones? the Sinclair clones? the PC clones?)

We would all gain if OLPC stopped trying to set all the rules and control the market by ukase, but rather be open about the goodies they made, like the famous screen, and let others get in the production and assembly. Then we all gain.

@Yama:
"Well, if Someone Who Doesn't Need To Be Named would have allowed sales in the US and Europe (just plain no nonsense sales), production could have reached higher numbers, lowering cost for all."

I completely agree. That would indeed have been the best strategy.

I see some of the problems:
- Retail and after-sales would have added A LOT to the cost
- They would compete against some of the sponsors
- OLPC is a Non-profit

All could be overcome in the end so we can write down that as a missed opportunity. Maybe a fatal one.

But this is just to underscore how revolutionary the XO was.

Winter

I have an XO, and a Dell Mini netbook with WinXP, plus a big ugly noisy powerful desktop PC snared in cables. I use all 3 for different purposes, because each has strengths and weaknesses.

The XO is the most comfortable for just reading stuff, like ebooks or blogs and forums. The XO screen is high resolution (200dpi), not low resolution. Very easy on the eyes. And the XO stays comfortably cool. I have used it for over 1000 hours.

The Dell Mini netbook is great for laptop video (e.g. YouTube or ted.com) but nearly burns my lap so I put it on top of an inverted plastic basket. What a kludge!

WinXP needs a lot of maintenance, including malware blocking. It is always nagging me about needed updates, and pushing EULAs in my face. But my wife doesn't want to switch to Linux as long as she can get free WinXP support from me.

From what I have seen, the XO is the best design available for beginners to computing, especially poor children. It is a wonderful design, though unfinished and inexpertly marketed.

There is lots of room for improvement in all platforms. As usual, software lags way behind hardware. The XO could get much better much faster if there were a few dozen more full-time software professionals involved. The layoffs at OLPC were a tragedy.

One of the OLPC activities programmers said he contributes because of several reasons. One one after reading Disrupting Class by Christensen. I normally don't read a book on one person's suggestion but it turned out this book is fascinating. I checked it out at my local library.

In a nutshell, Christensen is not an educator but he looked into why the education system seems broken. Essentially, you can't fix the system within the system. What will likely happen is a market that doesn't serve students directly will be filled. Let's call it sugar. This sugar will start filling needs for educational instruction not easily available or well made for certain students. This type of system will expand until much teaching is given through this system (which is individualized) with much less teaching done directly from a teacher.

As a proponent of Direct Instruction, which is as teacher driven as can be, I find there might be truth to Christensen's theory. Schools will be changed from the outside, very slowly, by meeting niche needs and expanding.

This is also why I think Winter's thesis and strong beliefs are correct. Once sugar runs well on any machine, it will become independent of hardware.

That said, I've found the XO supreme in durability and screen quality. So even though we have tons of laptops and desktops in our household, my son is learning type on an XO (granted, using a USB mouse and keyboard). Go Turtle Typing!

@allen:
"Yeah, you seem to think an ineffective attempt is the equivalentthe of success and I don't."

And you state that if you fail, you should not have tried in the first place. Not a recipe of progress.

@allen:
"None, with the exception of a production hardware, has come to pass and getting a working production model can hardly be laid at Dr. Negroponte's feet."

So this is neither about the OLPC nor about Mary-Lou, but simply a hatred against mr Negroponte. Why should I care about your personal feelings towards mr Negroponte. Go bother someone else with them. This is OLPCnews, not Negropontenews.

@allen:
"If you compare projected production figures to actual, it's a failure"

Which equates to a commercial failure.

@allen:
"Or it would be if the proponents of the use of computers in education provided some means of validating the achievement of their goals and, oh by the way, stated their goals."

Improved productivity of teachers? That was the stated goal of the OLPC: More education per teacher (or less money). Read the speech of Ivan Krstic.
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/olpc_xo_improve_teachers.html

However, you seem to be only interested in the use of computers inside US classrooms.

@allen:
"You think a failure to accomplish any of your stated goals will encourage sponsors or be seen by sponsors as anything other then failure?"

The OLPC was funded by sponsors. If they think the project was a gamble worth their money, then what claims do we have to criticize them? Obviously, you somehow know they were strongly disappointed, so please inform us.

Winter

> And you state that if you fail, you should not have tried in the first place. Not a recipe of progress.

Did I? Well feel free to quote me then rather then claim that's what I wrote. Shouldn't be too tough, right? After all, you just find where I wrote what you claim I wrote and quote it.

Oh, and just so you understand, you're decision that what I meant was what you decided I meant, even if the words I used don't support that conclusion doesn't qualify as the equivalent of a quote.

What I wrote was that failure was a virtual certainty because there wasn't any substantive difference between the OLPC project and all the other projects to use computers in education which have, uniformly, failed. Feel free to offer examples of the brilliantly successful use of computers in education. And by "brilliantly successful" what I mean is either a whole bunch better or a whole bunch cheaper or preferably, both.

> Which equates to a commercial failure.

No, it is failure by the such measures as Dr. Negroponte mentioned earlier in the life of the project. He made grandiose projections about the number of computers that would find their way into the hands of poor children. The actual number is a microscopic fraction of his prediction. That's failure and you're not going to mitigate that failure by trying to change the goal.

> Improved productivity of teachers? That was the stated goal of the OLPC: More education per teacher (or less money).

And was the goal met? Is it even stated as such any more? No and the only reason Ivan made teacher productivity a goal, and notice it was Ivan who made teacher productivity a goal not Dr. Negorponte, is because Ivan's naive regarding the politics of public education.

By the way, the natural implication of greater teacher productivity is the need for fewer teachers. How many public education ministries would be eagerly embrace a technology that'd reduce their head-count?

> However, you seem to be only interested in the use of computers inside US classrooms.

Well let's see, if I want to investigate the use of computers in education I have a lot of opportunities in the U.S. Also, if there are any brilliantly successful uses of computers in education outside the U.S. I'm certainly open to investigating them.

There's the Dutch public education system. You guys use e-mail and the web, right? So how's that going? Have costs come down substantially while performance has gone up substantially?

You and I both know that under the best of circumstances computers have provided a bit of convenience at considerable cost with essentially no impact on education. Under the worst of circumstances the use of computers in education has been a worthless expenditure that's actually harmed educational outcomes.

> The OLPC was funded by sponsors.

"Was" being the operative word.

And I've already stated why I find it difficult to believe that sponsors will continue to fund a project that's failed to meet its stated goals. There are other charitable project which do meet their goals so why would a granting agency want to give money to a project that fails, consistently, to meet its goals over projects that do meet their goals?

@allen:

I do understand your message. You say that no-one should ever try to help these children without being 100% sure of success. And never, ever should abyone try something new, because that can actually really fail. And that cannot be excused.

@allen:
"And by "brilliantly successful" what I mean is either a whole bunch better or a whole bunch cheaper or preferably, both."

Again, they should never have been allowed to try such foolish things. Better not to try to help people than to fail.

But here we go:
Project LISTEN
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~listen/

@allen:
"And was the goal met? Is it even stated as such any more? No and the only reason Ivan made teacher productivity a goal, and notice it was Ivan who made teacher productivity a goal not Dr. Negorponte, is because Ivan's naive regarding the politics of public education."

Yes indeed, he is naive. Everyone who thinks educational policy is about education children well and efficiently must indeed benaive. They should never have tried. The USA leads the way here too.

@allen:
"There's the Dutch public education system. You guys use e-mail and the web, right? So how's that going? Have costs come down substantially while performance has gone up substantially?"

Enough to finance some considerable cutbacks (hundreds of millions of euros). It was also a reaction to teacher shortage.

And no, there are absolutely NO plans to cut back on computer/internet use.

Winter

> But here we go:
> Project LISTEN
> http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~listen/

From the web site:

"Project LISTEN (Literacy Innovation that Speech Technology ENables) is an inter-disciplinary research project"

I ask for evidence of success and the best you can come up with is a research project? Yeah, I can tell where this is going.

> Enough to finance some considerable cutbacks (hundreds of millions of euros). It was also a reaction to teacher shortage.

Proof. If you can't make your arguments without misrepresenting mine then I won't take your word for the reduction in expenses in the Dutch public education system resulting from the use of computers.

Besides, if all these savings were effected by using computers then why were you so upset that public money was going to fix up Dutch harbors and roads? Dutch education was getting more efficient because of the use of computers so why is more money necessary?

Look Winter, you obviously enjoy your fantasies so Dr. Negroponte is a great humanitarian who wants to sweep up all the world's poor children and hug them to his bosom. That not being a very practical goal he's brought forth into the world the OLPC which via somewhat vague but nonetheless certain means, will spread the blessings of education to those poor children thus elevating them out of poverty and ignorance because that's the intention of the project.

If that blessed event doesn't come to pass it'll only be because evil capitalists, maddened by greed and excited at the prospect of crushing the dreams of poor children, will use their dark powers to frustrate the great Doctor. Your piercing insights allow you to see those dark designs and by writing mean things and compressing your lips into a thin, disapproving line, will express your distress and contempt which is very satisfying and makes you feel very good.

How would that be?

I don't know who this allen person is nor why he insists on carry on a conversation with only Winter and himself but I would suggest ignoring him. He is obviously not listening to anyone else...

Not getting enough attention paid to your profound pronouncements? OK, let's take a look...

Hmmm, DI. Well, at least your not a constructivist although that's a distinction that's mitigated by pseudo-profundities like "you can't fix the system within the system".

But you say you're cribbing from Christensen who seems to think the solution to the problems of education lies in a theoretical individualization attainable via computer-based learning.

See, here's the problem; there's nothing all that insightful about noticing the potential for educational customizability possible with the use of computer technology. People figured that out, oh, a couple of decades ago and you may have noticed that the revolution hasn't occurred yet.

Yes, it's true. People have been using, or rather trying to use, computers for educational purposes for about forty-five years. Before that television was going to bring culture and elevation to the masses. Before that radio and before that motion pictures. But what did all those people know? Not much, hey? What education really needs if a revolution's to be sparked is a little green computer with an odd user interface.

I think we're far enough down the road for it to be eminently clear that the XO isn't going to ignite an educational revolution although of course you're free to hate my guts for being rude enough to be to notice.

You want to learn something about how education really works? Then quite reading weighty tomes by members of the extended pinkie-finger set and haul your sorry ass down to a meeting of the local school board. That's where policy decisions, like whether to buy a little, green computer, are made regardless of how certain you are of your expertise on the subject. Familiarize yourself with the reality before you declare yourself and expert on the theoretical because without a clear, and hard-eyed, understanding of the mundanities under which the business of education labors to bring forth it's gnat you're in no position to prescribe remedies.

Allen, have you actually taught students pre-k through 5th? I'm not picking on you but I'm not sure you really have. It makes a difference when you have 26 faces looking at you saying "all right teacher, let's see what you've got."

Creating a new system of education does not require going to local school board meetings. You see, they are the reason why things are not working well. How, then, are we to change things within their crummy system?

I hate to say this but we need to think outside the box and work outside the system. The ed system (school boards, principles, schools of ed, TSPC) are all things that stand IN THE WAY OF change. I'm telling you that things like SUGAR (not necessarily the XO but I do like it) is how things will change.

It's the nerds. The nerds will save us. Honestly, I never thought I would say that.

Well now that's a distinctly less high-handed response then previously. If you're so moved perhaps you could explain what changed but to answer the answerable...

Whether I've taught or not is immaterial.

I can drive a car but I'm not an automotive engineer. An automotive engineer might want to consult someone like me because I drive a car but wouldn't welcome my input on engineering decisions. Similarly, while teacher's viewpoints may or may not be valuable they're opinions shouldn't carry more weight in matters of public policy then anyone else and public education is public policy.

Like it or not, when you make something a matter of public policy people with no interest or expertise in the subject aren't just in charge, it's also right and proper that they/we are in charge.

That brings us to the next subject which is - if you don't have a notion of what's wrong with how things *are* being done what gives you the confidence to presume you know how things should be done?

The reason I suggest you attend a couple of school board meetings isn't because of what you'll see that's so obviously wrong but what you'll see that's so very ordinary. You'll see very ordinary people, in the main, who are just trying to do what's right, in the main.

Even if you manage to sneak into the administrative offices you won't find assistant superintendents carrying out Satanic rituals and cackling over the the innocent children whose lives they'll despoil. You'll find relatively ordinary people who think they're doing, or trying to do, the right thing.

If I can get concurrence on the relative ordinariness of the people who make up the public education system the next question is why does it, in the main, suck? How can so many unstupid, unvile, unevil people oversee a system that sends so many kids out into the world illiterate, innumerate and ignorant?

As regards thinking outside the box, you're a little late to the party, kid. Substantive education reform has been going on in the US officially since 1992 and in the rest of the world for somewhere around the same length of time although the reforms take very different forms.

Here in the U.S. the reforms revolve around the idea of the independent public school, i.e. charter school and to a great deal lesser extent, vouchers.

If SUGAR is what's going to change the educational landscape then maybe you'd care to expand a trifle on why it'll do so. My experience with sugar is that it's a user interface designed with some distinctly non-standard assumptions. Now maybe that's the makings of an educational revolution but it hardly seems so on its face so some details as to why it's revolutionary ought to be forthcoming.

@allen:
"...is because Ivan's naive regarding the politics of public education. "
@allen:
"Then quite reading weighty tomes by members of the extended pinkie-finger set and haul your sorry ass down to a meeting of the local school board."
@allen:
"The reason I suggest you attend a couple of school board meetings isn't because of what you'll see that's so obviously wrong but what you'll see that's so very ordinary."

Now we have come full circle and the failure of the OLPC can be attributed to USA school boards?

The central position of school boards etc. is a purely USA phenomenon. In most of the countries the OLPC works in the parents have no direct influence on the curriculum or teaching practices.

So what is it?

The OLPC fails because the XO cannot improve education in developing countries in principle?

Or the OLPC fails because local US school boards see no use for it in US classes?

Or parents in the developing world use their influence to stop the application of computer technology in their childrens education?

--------------

Allen, if you are indeed the same allen, we had an extended discussion on the "economics" of the OLPC earlier:
http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/g1g1_2008/olpc_bust_g1g1_2008_sales.html
and
http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nigeria/bbc_visit_olpc_nigeria_school.html

Your point at these times was that all wealth comes from Free Market Capitalism, and communism/socialism is bad (or something like that) and you seemed to oppose public (ie, government) education on principle.

So I get the distinct impression that your main contention with the OLPC is the fact that it involves governments.

Or did I interpret you completely wrong?
(you complain often that I put words in your mouth) Please correct me if I am and clarify your oppinion.

And, if possible, you might want to explain why you frequent OLPCnews so dilligently to tell us we are all wrong? It does sound like visiting biker bars to tell the patrons to switch to public transport.


Winter

@allen:
"Do you have any examples, and a reason to believe, that the increases in education funding *leads* to economic expansion and one of the outcomes of economic expansion?"

Quoted from a comment of allen in:
http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nigeria/progress_computers_classroom.html

I think I found the root of our disagreement:
You simply do not believe education matters (in development). Only politics (aka: capitalism) matters.

If you really think that way, you must indeed also believe the OLPC, or any other initiative to improve education, is a complete and utter waste of money. Then, it doesn't even matter whether computers are useful in education as education itself is useless.

Winter

Winter wrote:

> Now we have come full circle and the failure of the OLPC can be attributed to USA school boards?

I don't know what "full circle" we've come but one can hardly call the OLPC a failure in the US because there was so little in the way of an effort to sell the computer to American public education. The very few installations seem more accidental then a result of an organized campaign to convince American education establishments to purchase XOs. For there to be a failure there has to be an attempt. I don't believe there was much, if any, attempt to sell the OLPC to American education.

Winter wrote:

> In most of the countries the OLPC works in the parents have no direct influence on the curriculum or teaching practices.

See, this is an example of how a ignorance leads you to incorrect assumptions. The American school board also insulates schools from parental influence much as public education ministries in the rest of the world insulate their schools from parental influence. Rather then one, big, nation-wide education agency that excludes parents however, we have lots of smaller education agencies that exclude parents. But the result is roughly the same - parental presence is carefully circumscribed to those times and events that are convenient to the education professionals.

The OLPC failed in poor countries because poor countries don't have the money to indulge the professionals and politicians who depend on the public education for their livelihood as we in the United States are, unfortunately, lucky enough to do. Those poor countries already spending as much money as they think proper on education and Dr. Negroponte never even tried to demonstrate that the OLPC would save them any money. Ergo, it would cost them more money and they're spending as much as they think they ought to right now. Hence, failure.

As I've already written, the OLPC didn't really fail in the US because failure can only occur if preceded by attempt.

Winter wrote:
> So I get the distinct impression that your main contention with the OLPC is the fact that it involves governments.

I think maybe we've got a bit of a language problem here so I'll have to make an assumption. You correct me if you think it necessary.

My main objection to the OLPC is the dishonesty that the program's been shot through with since its inception.

It's not about the hardware goes the refrain, it's about education.

Yet the project has never produced anything other then hardware engaging in vague statements about constructionism when asked how the hardware is going to result in education absent the appropriate software. When that didn't work it became the open source community that was going to generate the education software.

Of course the open source community has been churning out educational software for decades so the notion that something new was going to result from roughly the same software, there being no blinding insights to revolutionize education software design that depends on the peculiar qualities of the XO, was just an excuse to forestall the admission that there wasn't anything new on the horizon.

And so it's proven. The deployments have all been pilots, necessarily and while some have produced worthwhile results those have been entirely due to diligent efforts by the people on the scene. A far cry from the vision, such as it was, laid out by Dr. Negroponte.

With regard to government involvement, as usual you prefer to cast my statements into a form more convenient to your prejudices but my objection wasn't so much in making governments the target of the sales campaign but in the high-handed and arrogant approach Dr. Negroponte took in that sales campaign. The results are observable in the number of computers sold to governments.

Winter wrote:
> And, if possible, you might want to explain why you frequent OLPCnews so dilligently to tell us we are all wrong? It does sound like visiting biker bars to tell the patrons to switch to public transport.

Who's this "we"?

You claiming to speak for everyone who frequents this web site? Other then myself of course?

Or was an election held of which I wasn't made aware?

Do you have a mouse in your pocket or was that the royal "we"?

Oh, and is this a "biker bar"? Does everyone who frequents this site have a nearly religious fervor about the OLPC project which precludes criticism or dissent except me? Do you enjoy having questions answered with questions? I know I don't.

Tell you what Winter, the next time you're tempted to ask a question that you think portrays you as terribly clever fight the urge. It doesn't.

@dickey45:
"I would suggest ignoring him."

In a sense you are right. However, my idea is that a good debate is there to lay out the real arguments.

This allen person comes down upon OLPCnews time and again to advocate the shutdown of the OLPC project because something like that should not be allowed to exist. He seems more elaborate than the likes of Irvin.

In this much too long thread, I tried to understand his arguments. More precisely, whether there were any real arguments.

His insistence on ignoring any work done on the use of computers in education shows that he really is not sincere. The Listen project is a genuine project from a top university to help children with reading difficulties. As such it does work.

The Dutch situation is not different from that of the rest of Western Europe. Every school in Western Europe (and no doubt North America) uses computers like every business: for administration, communication, the distribution of information, and the production of reports and investigations. This is also true for teachers and students.

In short, no school or student would even dream of getting rid of computers "because their efficacy is not scientifically proven". Requests for that evidence are ludicrous.

The documented insistence of this allen person on denying the usefulness of computers in education just gives us a reference to point to when he again comes back to "haunt" OLPCnews.

Winter

Yeah, well obviously you have all the answers. And yes, something like sugar will disrupt the education system. You can't change the system within the system - that should be obvious.

Did I mention that the XO will do the disrupting? I don't think so...

@allen:
"You claiming to speak for everyone who frequents this web site? Other then myself of course? "

Ah, I was not clear:

We = Those who think ICT can be useful in improving education and/or that better education can promote economic development.

Not We = Those who think both of these propositions ridiculous or are not interested in them

I am pretty sure a majority of visitors here adheres to one or both of these. So I am really puzzled by visitors who frequent OLPCnews for years and either:
- show no interest in education, ICT, nor development (eg, Irvin)

or like you,

- consistently argue that ICT cannot improve education *and* that improving education is irrelevant for development.

Furthermore, I had understood from earlier "encounters" that you think:
"You don't think an end to government education is a reasonable possibility? I'm beginning to see it as inevitable although I'm unsure where the beginning of the end will show up first - the slums of Hyderabad or the slums of Chicago. Toynbee's educational marshlands."
quoted from:
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/one_laptop_per_child_stamp_collectors.html

or
"For anyone unfamiliar with his work, I recommend Dr. James Tooley.

Unlike many armchair experts he's actually gone to some of the most wretched places on Earth. There he discovered that desperately poor people value education so highly that they're willing to part with their meager earnings to pay the tiny tuition asked for by shabby, little private schools that spring up to satisfy their needs. It's that or nothing because the various governments can't be bothered with the poorest of the poor or their children. So they make due."
quoted from:
http://www.olpcnews.com/prototypes/olpc/olpc_xo_vs_apple_iphone.html

So you do not think private tuition is the way to go? And was I really wrong to think your aversion to the OLPC is at least partly caused by its "government" participation?

Winter

"low-resolution, low-quality, low-power displays have been widely available for years"?

What utter nonsense. Back when the first OLPC units shipped, the XO's screen had a competitive pixel density and actually a pretty high resolution in B&W mode. Low-quality? What other screen could you buy with a sunlight-readable mode? Low-power? What other screen was available "years" before 2004 with the same power characteristics as the XO screen?

And of course the real breakthrough was cost. Didn't a typical laptop screen in 2004 cost around $200 while an XO's screen cost more like $20? In what world is that not a major breakthrough? The first world? But the first world is just a small fraction of the whole world, and even in the first world, aren't there many who would sacrifice a standard TFT for the chance to save $180 on their laptop purchase?

Anyway, this triple mode screen is really exciting. I look forward to the day when my laptop can switch to "Kindle mode" and provide 24 hours battery life for book reading.

Oh, god, I so hope that this works out, not only as a user but as a publisher and as somebody very concerned about the cost of education. Funny though, given the history of computer-related inventions and of every frickin' thing related to OLPC, I'm actually hoping that they continue keeping a very low profile in deed until the very day that the assembly line is up and tested and the first products are on the shelves and ready to buy.

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