Ages ago, I signed the pledge to write a blog post for Ada Lovelace Day – about a woman in technology that I admire. I then wondered who on earth I’d write about; there are quite a few I could think of off hand, but trying to think of someone who I felt had really made a difference to many – wasn’t so easy. About two days after I’d signed the pledge, the January issue of the BCS magazine arrived – a special on Women in computing. One they featured was Mary Lou Jepsen. And my mind was made up!
As those of you who’ve read this for some time will know, I’m very impressed with the OLPC – it’s not just the hardware (and certainly not the keyboard – thought I’d give up on rubber ones when I gave up on the Speccy!) – nor is it just the software – it’s the combination of both, and more importantly the concept that I find fascinating.
I started to do a bit of research – Jepsen’s the same age as me (also a good reason for writing about her!) – and it’s a lot! Time magazine have listed her as 49 in their list of 101 influential people. (She’s 10th in the sub-list “scientists & thinkers”).
She was an LCD screen designer and had done a range of innovative work (HDTV, large scale holographic displays, minature displays etc., etc., etc.,) – so when Negroponte came up with the idea of the so called “$100 laptop” – with low cost and low energy use being prioritised, she became the chief architect of the project. Her particular innovations were the screen, with its minimal energy requirements & readability in sunlight.
The mesh network (again, something she contributed to) – while minimising the number of computers that need to be online (and sharing the data around the class/ village) has also allowed the software teams to really look at software that enables collaboration – and encourages children to work together. Having worked in Papua New Guinea (which, I understand now has some OLPCs) I’ve seen some of the problems of schooling where there’s no electricity, limited resources etc., and feel that the OLPC offers a wealth of information, potential, opportunity – you name it, it offers it – so thank you Mary Lou!