The XO went into production late last year, and I’ve been looking for interesting material on it to talk about here. David Pogue of the New York Times did a review of the XO last year, but I just found the video for it.
I think he does a really good job of presenting it in an approachable way. He mentions a “give one, get one” program that went on for a while, on into December as I recall. At first it was only going to go on for a few weeks, but it went for several. That’s encouraging. It must’ve been doing well. OLPC is not offering this anymore. You missed your chance. Maybe they’ll restart it again in the future. I think it’s a neat idea.
The feature that made me a bit giddy was where he said that with one keypress you can look at the source code for any program you’re running, and even change it. He also mentions that there are three programming environments on it (one of which is Squeak), but only talks about Python, which is what most of the software is written in. He notes that there’s also a “restore” button that restores things back to its “manufactured” state “in case you make a mess of things”. This could encourage programming all the more, because it takes away the risk that you could royally hose your computer so you can’t use it anymore.
Finally a computer that actually invites its users to become programmers. How long has it been since I’ve seen that in the U.S.? Only this laptop was not designed with kids in the U.S. in mind. It was designed for poor, deserving kids in developing nations. Apparently most kids in the U.S. don’t like the idea of programming, not even college students (I know the link is old, but nothing’s changed). It’s sad. Perhaps if CS programs at universities would re-think what they’re doing, take a look around them, and try something creative that really meant something to people we’d see interest return. Unfortunately too many think teaching CS means teaching Java. I pity the beginner who tries to pick that up. I think the XO is going in the right direction, because it gives users “something to chew on”, and it uses a language that is more flexible and powerful than Java. If only it was around when I was growing up.