In this season of brash consumerism, many of us “haves” look for a way to give back to those less fortunate than ourselves.  The goal of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program is to create a laptop that can be manufactured cheaply enough to distribute to children in developing countries that lack educational supplies such as text books.  As OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte says “It’s not a laptop project.  It’s an education project.”

The XO laptop was just released and looks awesome. It weighs in at just over 3 lbs, is dust-proof, spill-proof and drop-proof.  It has wireless 802.11 access (wifi), full web browsing capabilities, built-in speakers, game control pad and a video camera.  It comes preloaded with software for word processing, music authoring, PDF viewing, software programming and several games. xo laptop In its book-reader mode the screen swivels around ala a tablet-PC, the screen goes to black and white and the battery life is extended from its normal 6 hours to 24 hours.

Another button displays the source code of any application running on the machine and kids can see how the application works and learn to change the code (a restore button is included in case kids’ “improvements” don’t work properly).

And though this laptop was not designed for the American consumer market, for the holiday season the XO laptop is being offered on a “give one, get one” program.  For $420 ($200 of which is tax-deductible) one XO Laptop is shipped to you and one XO laptop is donated to a child in need in a developing country.  Everyone who participates in the Give One Get One program will also receive a year’s worth of access at T1 Mobile WiFi spots (think playing with a funky green laptop at Starbucks).

Don’t be confused though — this will not be your primary laptop.  It has no hard drive, only 1 gig of flash memory.  It does not run Windows and the keyboard has been reported as too small for adult touch typing. This is a laptop designed for children in developing countries, not you.

Most of us at Table XI were fortunate enough to be introduced to technology at an early age… and our lives have been unquestionably enriched because of it.  This project offers a chance to pass that opportunity on to the next generation.

For more information read the NY Times review (and check out the video) or view the official OLPC website.

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