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XO laptop gives 9-year-old unexpected powers

A little green artifact from Nigeria transforms normal 9-year-old boy into multilingual, transcontinental cultural ambassador.

A smiling Rufus Cellan-Jones
Rufus Cellan-Jones BBC News

On Thursday BBC News gave us a child's view of the $100 laptop. The article reads like a techie version of Jim Carrey's breakout movie The Mask, with Rufus Cellan-Jones as the star. The laptop, which came by way of Nigeria, unleashes incredible intuition and abilities in young Cellan-Jones:

"I just seemed to work it out. It was rather easy. I didn't even need help. I found Block Party. It's like Tetris. I'm now up to Level 7."

As the article explains, he doesn't stick there but moves on to paint programs, animation programs, and a calculator which, he realizes, "can be rather useful for sums." But a few days in things got interesting: he discovered the XO's neighborhoods and began talking with children in other countries:

"I have three friends. It's nice to talk to them. They don't speak much English but I can understand them."

Rufus's father, Rory, says:

Girls with XO Laptop
XO in Peru One Laptop Per Child

"I had returned from Nigeria not entirely convinced that the XO laptop was quite as wonderful an educational tool as its creators claimed. I felt that a lot of effort would be needed by hard-pressed teachers before it became more than just a distracting toy for the children to mess around with in class. But Rufus has changed my mind. With no help from his Dad, he has learned far more about computers than he knew a couple of weeks ago, and the XO appears to be a more creative tool than the games consoles which occupy rather too much of his time."

Children with XO Laptop
XO Laptop in India One Laptop Per Child

The two G1G1 laptops we ordered are on their way (scheduled to arrive some time between today and December 24), and I wonder: will my daughter work out enough to make friends with Nigerian and Brazilian schoolchildren in a matter of days? Will she become serious about her Spanish studies to widen her circle of online friends? Will she use the computer more for sums, for games, or as an object to decorate with the thousands of stickers and dozens of tubes of glitter paints we've accumulated over the years?

What powers might this laptop unleash when she puts on The Mask?