Basser Seminar Series

One Laptop Per Child - the View from 1978

Speaker: Lee Felsenstein
The Fonly Institute

Time: Friday 26 June 2009, 4:00-5:00pm
Location: The University of Sydney, Wilkinson Building, Lecture Theatre 1.

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The talk would take the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project as an example of the old paradigm for computer use - created by a priesthood, closed off from those who wish to experiment with it, marketed through huge bureaucracies with no feedback from the user, and packaged with a set of myths that make no sense. These sort of tactics were attacked successfully in the 1970's by the movement that created the personal computer industry. I will explore how the lessons learned in the development of the PC industry were ignored by the OLPC project, how the result was failure to meet the project's stated goals, and how the project is changing under the influence of the same types of computer enthusiasts who built the PC industry. I will offer a somewhat broader picture of possibilities for computers at the village level in the developing world and discuss how some of them are currently being implemented and will present a more detailed picture of how the rest could be implemented.

Speaker's biography

Lee Felsenstein is recognized as a pioneer in both the design of early personal computers and in the formation of the personal computer industry from a hobbyist pastime. The legendary Homebrew Computer Club (1975-86) of Silicon Valley was instrumental in the formation of 23 of the original personal computer companies, largely due to the open meeting process developed by Mr. Felsenstein. He designed the first complete personal computer incorporating video display, and the first commercially successful portable computer. Mr. Felsenstein has operated his own electronics design company and spent 8 years working for Interval Research Corporation. He is a Laureate of the Tech Museum of Innovation for his work on sustainable information and communication systems for the developing world, and has been awarded the Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier award of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1972 from the University of California at Berkeley.