One Laptop per Child machine gets tested in Denmark

Project looks promising, but rough edges still need to be smoothed out

During the last 24 hours Computerworld in Denmark has been a member of a small and very exclusive club.

Computerworld is one of the first media outlets that has been given the chance to test Negropontes' peoples-PC. It looks promising, but there are still some edges that need to be polished before the XO-computer meets the standards that have been set for the One Laptop per Child project.

It's small and beautiful

The first impression is the size -- or rather, the lack of size. It's actually much smaller than we expected. It didn't take many seconds before that feeling was wiped away by the admiration for the white and green plastics beautiful design.

Critical voices amongst the editorial staff said it looked like a toy from Fischer Price. At a second glance the design turns out to be way above what we have seen so far when it comes to laptops.

Well considered and workable -- in a lovely infantile way.

XO seems to be durable even though it's slimmer than we expected -- but it will most likely survive children's use, sand and water.

Rabbit-ears as network connection

In order to open the display you have to lift up the small rabbit-ears that are used as antennas for the wireless network connection.

Then you can open the screen up and the keyboard and touchpad is revealed. The computer components are hidden behind the screen and not under the keyboard. The start-up procedure takes a while but all of the sudden the characteristically logo with a kid in a circle appears on the screen.

The desktop is very different from that in Windows. But when you have grabbed the basic functions it is simple as children's play.

When you open a program its logo is displayed in the circle around the kid. This allows you to see which programs that are running and enables you to navigate amongst them.

At the top of the display is a main menu with a mesh network and wireless networks, at the bottom there are a range of icons that represent the applications present on the PC.

Drawing program and much more

The PC contains a drawing program, a text editor, a calculator, an e-book reader, a music program and a browser that has additional functions, for example a picture viewer.

XO has a problem which overshadows all the bright features

The computer is simply too slow. And it is hard to see if you have launched a program or not. The speed that the test-Pc was running was so slow that it could be a problem for its success if improvements aren't made. In fairness we have to stress that the computer we have tested isn't the final version.

That display is hot!

The keyboard is not designed for adults. The green plastic covered keys are small -- almost like the ones on a PDA-keyboard. It's not designed for adults though and will never be comfortable for big fingers, besides that it works.

The display is capable to be adjusted so that it can be viewed in bright sunshine as well indoors. That function works perfectly. A single touch and the display switches mode and the sunlight is not a problem at all.

Unfortunately we didn't have the chance to test the mesh-function or the crank handle that is used to wind power onto the computer.

The XO-computer paid a visit to Denmark because of its nomination to the world's most prestigious design award, INDEX: AWARD 2007. An award Negroponte and his crew won.

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Nicolai Devantier

Computerworld Danmark
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