He told his father he wanted to be a sculptor Paris. His father told him that for every year he went to MIT he would pay for a matching year in Paris when he finished. It was very clever. He was planning to study architecture, because it was art and mathematics put together. His headmaster told him, “I like grey suits, I like pinstripe suits, but I don’t like grey pinstripe suits.” While at MIT he realized that hte mixing of art and mathematics was computers, and began focusing on that.
Didn’t have to worry about earning money, or what people thought of him, let’s tackle a big project. He worked with Joe Jacobson and thought if they could leverage children and bring universal access information to the world.
The OLPCs are shipping! Here’s a picture of the assembly line at the factory, taken at 3 in the morning:
There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t give their laptop or cell phone to their kid to debug it. He doesn’t think the question of “Who’s going to teach the teachers to teach the kids?” is valid at all. Research found that kids that program think differently, and debugging was the closest children could come to learning about learning. His son Demetri set up a school in Cambodia, connected it to the internet, and gave the children regular laptops.
One Laptop per Child is a non-profit, being a non-profit is fundamental. Everyone advised him not to but they were wrong. Why? The clarity of purpose is there, he can see any head of state, anybody because he’s not selling laptops. Second reason, you can get the best people in the world. All of their services are pro-bono, and it’s not to save money because they have money in the bank, but they attract the best people in the world. They couldn’t afford a CFO, they put out a job description at zero salary and had dozens of amazing applicants.
What’s different about OLPC from a normal computer? It used less than 2 watts (which is roughly what you can generate with your upper body?), dual mode sunlight display, wifi mesh network, and it’s rugged.
Design matters. When he graduated from MIT he thought the silliest thing to do would be to go to Paris for six years, so he didn’t. In English the word “cheap” has a double meaning, which is very apt.
If you’re in a desert the OLPCs can talk to each other about 2 kilometers. In the forest it’s about 500 meters. They’re launching with 18 keyboards, English is the smallest. There has never been a keyboard in Ethiopian, they had to go in and help them make a keyboard which is going to be a new standard for the country. In the beginning they decided to go to six country: Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand. They wanted to get it out, and then the little countries could piggyback on the bigger ones. He was traveling 330 days a year. Meeting heads of states in a tent, with camel smells everywhere.
Big states were big on the photo ops, but not on follow through. Current launch countries: Uruguay, Peru, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Cambodia. There was a domino effect, Uruguay started it. Add up all those countries, still wasn’t enough. They announced a program for the United States: Buy one Get one. They now have a Give Many Program. Tell people about it, tell your friends about it. $100 target price in 2009, $50 target price in 2012. The first kids just got their laptops. They went to Peru and Mexico, they’re only making about 5,000 a week, they hope next year to make a million a month. In laptop land is a big number. Everyone in the world combined is 5 million laptops a month.