Dependence. Realised once when the object of dependence is gone, realised again when a poor substitute arrives.
Laptops. My first, back in 2001, was a big clunky tank of a Thinkpad, shaped like a mini-bar and twice as heavy. I lived with that machine for nearly 4 years, carried it to just about every major city in this country and some cities outside. Plugged in what used to be called an air-card, stayed connected (as some of you might vouch) from
The Tank eventually gave way to a sleeker Thinkpad. With a touch pad. There’s life outside the track pointer!? Glory Hallelujah! I was converted within a week. Week? It took a day. So fickle are we, so quick to luxury. I sneered at that little nub that had been my support for years. But T2 and I were not long for each other. In two months, I changed assignments and bid her adieu.
In the next office I was Shown a Laptop. Such a laptop, O citizens of the cyber-world, such surpassing grace! A sleek metal shell with nary a straight line, blinking lights, a low businesslike hum … it might have got a featured role in Star Wars, it might even have made a pass at R2D2. It was a Character. But it was not a functioning laptop. I’d power it up, go into a meeting, come back and clear my mail, have a cup of coffee, finish a few phone calls – then check to see whether it had got around to asking for the password. It was the Ultimate Babu – solid, slow, dim-witted, contrary, unable to adapt (no DVD drive, ONE USB port?) and No Bloody Use.
There was a story behind that machine. Apparently my predecessor in that office had Attended an International Seminar. (Held in
Thus it came to pass that I was saddled with that Thing.
Out of evil cometh good, for the sheer awfulness of it goaded me to look for a new laptop. Which was how I came to find Penelope. Ah, Penelope, love of my life etc. (J. Humbert Prufrock?) Light, good-looking, easy to use and above all good to me, she was a Toshiba M300 Portege. We were together for two years until I switched to my present assignment. When I handed her over I saved her soul on three separate hard drives, but woe is me, I can never have her body again. (This is about as carnal as a middle-aged bureaucrat can get.)
My next was a Sony Vaio. Very posh, all mod con except maybe hot and cold running water and a back scratcher, but it Lacked Soul. I always had a sneaky feeling that it secretly sneered at me because I never played Halo or set up a video conference on it. Face it, a Vaio’s great for graphics and multi-media, it has major snob value, but it makes little sense for a dinosaur like me. When it was stolen last October, my sense of loss was tinged with a faint relief.
So now I’ve raided the office store and dusted off this Thinkpad. It’s bigger and heavier than the Tank (with a screen I could hire out to INOX) and only marginally faster than The Thing, but I’m grateful that I have SOMEthing to keep me company over the morning coffee until I can get a replacement.
Which brings me to what B.W. Wooster might, with his usual twittering brevity, term the res, the nub, the gist, the crux of the matter. What should I buy? The Toshiba M500 Portege would be the obvious choice, but it’s way too expensive. Poor value for money. Sony is out for much the same reason. HP have a couple that come close to my specs, but they’re heavy. The IBM X series are in there, but they don’t customize. Dell have put together an offer, but they’re trying to push a Latitude 430 – it’s light and small, but it has a 1.2 Ghz processor, no built-in optical drive and reviews say it super-heats to about 60 Celsius. I’m too old for Half-burnt Hams, thank you very much.
So where do we go from here? I use the laptop for (loads of) documents, the occasional presentation, photo-dumping, the Net and once in a long while, an in-flight movie. Which means I need a stable system (enough RAM), a fast but not super-fast processor, all the slots and ports possible, mid-range graphics and decent sound in a LIGHT package. Since I have a ginormous flash drive for data back-up, the optical drive can be external (translation – it can go in my checked baggage and not cripple my shoulder). Budget is not really a constraint, but it wouldn’t hurt if it came cheap.
Suggestions, wise people?