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One Laptop Per Child Needs a Spreadsheet Solution

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Dan Bricklin has ported the SocialCalc spreadsheet to the OLPC XO as an Open Source project. 

The One Laptop Per Child XO currently doesn’t have a spreadsheet, but the simplicity and small footprint on client or server of SocialCalc may give it one.  As Dan blogs, Socialtext is supportive of this very good project:

SocialCalc running on the OLPC XO

The One Laptop folks had been encouraging me to make wikiCalc and then SocialCalc run on their machines for a long time, but it wasn’t until now that I finally had the software in an architecture that was appropriate for the OLPC and a machine of my own on which to test. (I think that because the G1G1 campaign got a lot of these lovable computers in the hands of developers a thousand new flowers are sure to bloom…)

I showed my testbed application to SJ Klein of the OLPC project and he reacted favorably and encouraged me to continue. The executives at Socialtext encouraged me to follow through and are supporting what I’m doing.

I’ve now packaged the code I have a little better and am making it available for others to see. I’m calling the project "Sweet SocialCalc" because when we are done I hope we will have native OLPC code driving this (written in Python) so the JavaScript integrates with the OLPC user interface environment (which is called Sugar, hence the word "sweet"). (See my video of a presentation about Sugar and OLPC from last June.)…

One Laptop Per Child News writes about the need for a spreadheet solution:

Currently, the XO laptop from OLPC does not have spreadsheet software. The One Laptop Per Child developers did not think there was a need for it when they designed the initial Sugar activities, and to an extent, they are right.

Children do not need the ability to run macros on numeric data – that’s an adult request. But it is an opportunity for children and adults to bond over basic math, as the Thailand pilot showed:

One of the most engaging project that has involved both students and parents is the family accounting initiative. For six years, many families have recorded their income and expenses in order to better manage their spendings. It was originally done using a simple balance card written on paper.

Later, many had switched to Excel (via desktop PCs at the school’s computer lab and the help of their children). It was a case where the benefits of technology was clear and well appreciated. Thus, having a spreadsheet on the XO has been one of the most widely requested features from the parents. Being able to do their accounting at home through the help of their children is extremely attractive.

Dan is looking for feedback and volunteers to help advance the project.

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