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Road-testing the $100 laptop's `appropriate technology'

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There is a tidy satisfaction that comes from owning a piece of technology that does a few things well, and yet nothing more. Which explains why I am typing this very sentence on my brand new XO laptop, which arrived at my door Tuesday morning.

Better known as the $100 laptop, a project spearheaded by Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of MIT's Media Lab, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative is designed to put streamlined, ultra-durable computers into the hands of millions of children in the developing world.

Cute, of course, is not enough, but it's a start. The keyboard is waterproof, the clamshell is designed to keep out dust, and the screen is on a 360 hinge that allows the XO to convert into a tablet for eBook applications.

The XO also features a very energy-efficient Geode CPU that draws only two watts of power instead of the more typical 30 or 40 watts, allowing it survive six hours of heavy use or a few days of moderate dabbling. Finally, its much-discussed LCD screen can switch to black-and-white mode in direct sunlight so as to remain viewable, something no other laptop is capable of.

But perhaps the most valid defence of the XO is that the device's potential has yet to be explored or even imagined.

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