NYT Magazine has an article (reg req) about moleskin notebooks, which apparently, through clever and almost viral marketing has become the thing to have if you want to appear intellectual or even cultured (that is, if you don’t opt for blogging to show that you’re with it.) There is even a moleskin blog.
I wonder when we will have the same affinity for computers. I’ve had a few, and a some of them have stood out as extremely good, artifacts that were better than their successors (though not as powerful, which is why they were replaced.) So far, my three favorites have been
- The Compaq 386 Portable I got in 1986 (12 pounds, no battery, 2Mb hard disk), at the time the most powerful PC in the world.
- The NeXT workstation that I borrowed for six months in 1990, too bad I couldn’t really do anything with it except create killer reports in Display Postscript and try to understand the practical implications of object-oriented programming, and finally the
- Toshiba Portege 3440CT I still have lying around (mostly used by my daughter) which was a great little computer but too weak in the muscle department to stay on as my work machine.
Each of these computers had a combination of innovation and usability that, at least for me, was a significant step forward at the time. The Compaq was the first really useful portable, as a desktop replacement. The NeXT taught me how to really work with everything electronic rather than a combination of paper and screen. The Toshiba was ultra-portable and allowed me to work anywhere.
Alas, technology marches on, and you have to give up these machines because they wear out or something presumably better comes along. But can you really get attached to a computer, as a professional? With the exception of Macintosh fanatics who can be relied on to whip up their powerbook at a moment’s notice, I have so far only heard writers and nerds vax lyrical about keyboards (in particular the IBM buckling spring variety.) (Lest you think I am MacPhobic, I have had a few Macs as well, unfortunately always a tad underpowered for a number of reasons, primarily lack of software and stupid IS non-fiddling rules.)
I suppose we will have to wait for Moore’s law to taper off a bit, and notebooks to get even more modular and customizable, before we imbue them with personalities and employ them for personality signalling.
Or am I wrong – what is the “cool” computer to have, provided you a) keep Macs out of the context, and b) don’t get into this tiresome Linux vs. XP debate?