XO Repairability and Technology Landfills

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2016

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Where I stayed
Residence Inn Boston Cambridge
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Massachusetts
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One of the OLPC volunteer community goals is to keep as many XO laptops as possible out of the world’s waste stream and in the hands of children. This week at OLPC’s Cambridge office, volunteers are checking, repairing, and updating software on 250 re-donated G1G1 XO-1's, for shipment to children in Haiti who survived last year’s devastating earthquake.

OLPC designed the XO to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. The cute, rugged, green hardware machine was designed to last. It’s batteries do not pose fire hazards and they don’t even get hot! The XO housing can be disassembled with 1 phillips head screwdriver for repairs, and can run the same software as its newer cousin, the XO-1.5. Even now that we have the faster XO-1.5 with more memory, and there is a cool little tablet under development, the XO-1 is still a very viable education tool for kids in the developing world and for kids interested in learning open source software code, and how to develop "apps" in our world.

In our 21st century quest for faster, smarter, and fancier tech toys, and in a world where cell phones and wireless Internet connections are reaching even the poorest, remote places in the world, I am asked what role the first generation XO laptops might play. I often hear “why give them an XO when they can have a smart-phone?”

According to the Software and Information Industry Association, about 90 percent of the world's population still does not have access to a computer. Years ago, when Nicholas Negroponte first conceived the idea of One Laptop Per Child," his premise was that technology education can improve the future of the world’s poorest children. In our 2011 wired world with our growing dependence on technology and given the huge Internet economy, this appears to be even more true. Give a child an XO and they will have a whole library. They’ll have a tool with which to learn technology skills, and to access information that can change their lives.
They’ll also learn, patience, how to figure things out for themselves, and how to find solutions to some of the problems that face their families.

This year I have been hearing more about the devastating health and environmental crises that our global lust for newer, faster, and smarter “tech toys” is creating. In December, 2010, I heard a disturbing piece on NPR. You can fnd the link to it here:

“[W]hen old TVs and computers end up in landfills, the toxic metals and flame retardants they contain can cause environmental problems. Yet even recycling your e-waste, as it's called, does not always mean you're doing the right thing.
"The dirty little secret is that when you take [your electronic waste] to a recycler, instead of throwing it in a trashcan, about 80 percent of that material, very quickly, finds itself on a container ship going to a country like China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Pakistan — where very dirty things happen to it," says Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, which works to keep toxic waste out of the environment.
Recyclers can make money from selling scavenged metal from electronic equipment, says Puckett, but the process to retrieve usable metals is typically extremely toxic. Workers who remove the metals often have no protective equipment and breathe in high levels of toxic chemicals, which are then released into the atmosphere. And most of the countries where the processing takes place — China, India, Ghana, Pakistan — do not have regulations in place to protect workers or prevent the primitive recycling operations.
Puckett describes a trip he took, to Guiya, China, in December 2001 as a "cyber-age nightmare."

"It's the only part of the world where you'll go and see thousands of women on any given day that are sitting ... basically cooking printed circuit boards," he says. "As a result, they're breathing all of the brominated flame retardants and the lead and tin that are being heated up. You smell it in the air. You get headaches as soon as you enter this area. It really is quite sad."

Next time you think about tossing your old cell phone, replacing your computer and monitors, or getting the next flattest, HD tv, please think twice about how you might keep the old ones out of the global waste stream.

Adam Holt, Our OLPC volunteer coordinator reports the following:
On 4/28/2011 12:09 AM, Adam Holt wrote: Stats from our weeklong restoration project finally now wrapped up:
236 reflashed+QA'd:
88-89 total laptops confirmed debricked, including a couple below.
(No time to install http://GPLv4.org towards freeing all the world's children just yet, but maybe when it's translated to Haitian Kreyol ;)
6 reflashed/mostly working/keyboard torn
4 completely dead motherboards / SPI flash suspects: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/SPI_FLASH_Recovery
2 destroyed parts machines (incl 1 flaky motherboard)
1 B4 prototype
Your eyes are not fooling you: we have significantly more clean/working/tested machines (236 units, 242 if the painstaking keyboard swap continues) than donations (arrived in 222 cardboard
boxes).That's what happens when people work hard together!

Thanks to all who the volunteered!
Nancie Severs
Richard Smith
Dogi Unterhauser
Matt Mawson
Andreas Gros
Paul Fox
SJ Klein
Barbara Barry
Jade Doolan
Sandra Thaxter
Phil Hurzeler
Jonathan Felix
If you still have an unused XO, please pass it on. (link) The OLPC volunteer community CAN refurbish it, keep it out of the garbage, and perhaps change a child’s life. We now have 242 working XOs to be shipped to Haiti next week. Way to go!

Be sure to check out the photos of our work below!

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