the truth about a OLPC laptop?
well I thought it would be the simplist thing in the world to operate, I thought it would be modeled on everything I ever learned about computers, for all the years I’ve been using them. I thought I’d adjust to it so easily. I thought wrong. When I got my hands on one, it was like handing a laptop to an alien. It was like nothing I’d ever touched before. And I couldn’t open it. Y’see the guy who had been looking at it before me, closed it. And it clicked shut, with a nice solid well engineered ‘click’ … the sort of thing that you could hear across a quiet room and found on such quality items from Sony etc. I heard it click shut. All I had to do was open it up and master the controls like the equipment guru I am.
Hmm. Maybe not.
Y’see I couldn’t figure out exactly how to open it. I first just tried to pull it apart, like my laptop, that didn’t work… so I had a little look around edges and thought I’d wiggle the ariels about a bit, hoping they’d reveal something I’d quickly overlooked. However, they did not. I tried pulling the laptop screen from the keyboard apart again. Nothing. I scanned the edges once again, nothing. I wiggled the ariels again… argggggggghhhhhh. Sooo frustrating. back the pulling the keyboard and screen again, and this time, with that frustration, came an air of desperation, a dangerous force of strength that was akin to breaking things like delicate latches from cheap chinese made plastic products, or perhaps the same sort of badly made interior fittings, from budget cars etc. Wedging my fingers deep into the millimeter crevice, I got movement, YES! … more, yes! more yes, yes yes! … ahhahhh …. I’ve done it…. I’ve opened the laptop!! fucking hell, I am the greatest living human alive and I deserve my £50k a year salary after all!
*mark breathes a sigh of relief.
Jesus, that thing was almost welded shut!… I wasn’t expecting that!
Ok, next up…. lets see this baby in action! After all I was used to macs, pcs and linux…. I’d done my apprenticeship for nearly a decade pressing all the buttons I could on every type of laptop I could find in PC World at the wkends. I know my stuff. Sugar is the OS right? Sweet (pun intended) … ok, it looked a little basic graphically, but hey… I grew up in the 70s and Sir Clive taught me well with the full ZX range. A quick look at the keyboard and wow, look at all those little rubbery coated buttons, the tech head in me began my tried and tested technique of slowly depressing each of the buttons across the top bottom and sides and watching the screen to see exactly what they did… and erm… I pressed and I pressed … and searched about a bit… and um, I carefully ‘read’ the iconography on the buttons and pressed again. Nothing appeared to change… I still had the same little icons on the screen… then outta nowhere, success! (somewhat) … I had changed the desktop from dots on the screen to numbers on the screen. I have found the Calculator! hooray! … I could now type 55378008 flip the screen upside down and re-read the numbers to pronounce ‘BOOBLESS’. After a little childish school flashback giggle to myself and subtle smuggness. I glanced around to see if there was anyone in eye contact to proudly showoff my obviously hilariously mathematical ‘equation’…. but no.
So I continued onwards with my tech quest!
Which I have to admit was really starting to frustrate me. Y’see the menus and buttons I pushed, weren’t familiar. The only buttons I didn’t press were the ones that looked like I was going to turn the damned thing off, and I knew if I did that, I’d never get it started back up again. I secretly really wanted to see something windoze familiar, or at least a menu bar across the top of the screen which I could tab to and select like I’d done on every single piece of living equipment I’ve ever touched to date. But no. Nothing. It had stumped me. This piece of kit that was about to be handed out to zillions of technological virgins throughout the developing nations, was going to enlighten them, inspire them and open them up to a wealth of mental stimulation and opportunities… just like we had been exposed to many years ago.
I only wish them all better luck than what I had.