OLPC: Kids in Developing World May “View Source”
I have been following the “One Laptop per Child” project for a while now, formerly known as the “Hundred Dollar Laptop” project, though right now the price comes in closer to $200 . . . in November I am looking forward to getting my hands on one with the “Give One Get One” program. I enjoy following developments on the “OLPC News” blog. Today I learned that Microsoft is scrambling resources to shoehorn its normally-bloated Windows Operating System onto this lightweight gem. That makes me smile because it is usually the case that computers like the laptop I am typing on right now are “Designed for Windows(R) XP” or the like, and it is the Open Source community that must scramble to reverse-engineer and build drivers for the new hardware.
Anyway, I was just looking at a post that suggests that since the OLPC is rather ambitious, technologically and culturally, they have no qualms about redesigning the keyboard: no more CAPS LOCK but instead a mode to shift between Latin alphabet and the local alphabet. Also, perhaps, a “View Source” key: which could perhaps allow kids to poke under the Python hood and check out the code that is running underneath. My goodness!
There are some good comments there! I just added my own:
I’d like to chime in with a “me too” . . . sure most people don’t find much use for the hood latch on a car, but we’re glad it is there: it allows us to get in if we need to. For the smaller number of people who DO want to play under the hood, the hood release is invaluable. We all learn differently and and those who are going to get into computers ought to be given the access and encouragement to learn.
I played with computers for a decade before I learned to program. Maybe a “view source” key might have gotten me going faster.
As for code complexity: you can still view the source on this very page and understand much of it. I understand that Python is constrained to 80 columns and is highly highly readable.
As for breaking things: EXACTLY!! The kids ought to have access to break the code on their computers. Rather than turning them in to worthless bricks: worst case you reinstall the OS! Talk about a LEARNING experience!! Anyway, programmers use revision control: hopefully an XO could provide some rollback mechanism. :)
It should also be good for long-term security … people will learn that computers execute code, and code can have flaws an exploits. If the kids can monkey with their own code, you KNOW they’re going to have some early transformative learning experience NOT to paste in “cool” code mods from the Class Hacker. ;)