In my last technology post, I suggested three criteria for determining whether a gadget was a worthwhile investment. To recap (and slightly revise), a worthwhile gadget:
- saves more time than it wastes,
- does not attract unwanted attention, and
- does its job better than common alternatives.
Essentially, good purches should not be a timesuck, an obnoxious statement (either of materialistic superiority or anti-social technophilia), or redundant.
With my previous fascination with "Pocket PCs," I did not have these principles in mind. Instead, I was caught up in the excitement of having a single device which could (as various advertisements promise) be the "center of my digital world." The more things I could use the thing for, the more "points" I earned for entering into a make-believe technological utopia. The problem was that 90% of the things I used the thing for, it was a needlessy complicated and inadequate method of achieving them.
Truth be told, phones, organizers, music players, games, books, news, and laptops are probably better off separate than jammed into a techno-idol.
All this being said, I've been in the market for an ultraportable laptop. I don't have a portable computer of any kind right now, and my quality of life has not suffered considerably as a result. But a glance at my "objects of technological concupiscence" list reveals that I've had my eyes on the HTC Shift (and before that the Fujitsu p1600). That goes to show you that I was prepared to blow $1500 on an adequate solution to a few simple needs:
- A way to do basic computing (class prep, grading, surfing, writing) in cafes or different parts of my apartment.
- A dedicated PowerPoint presentation machine.
- An option for some light gaming and music (ah, for a days of guilt-free videogaming for hours on end).
Happily now, it seems I don't have to do that, because in December Asus will release a version of their Eee PC with (at least) an 8gb solid-state drive and Windows XP for about $500. As a bonus, it has a Web cam.
Now here's a machine that fulfills the above criteria. It fills the gap left by my Averatec 3200 laptop when I gave that away, and it weighs half as much. Could I sacrifice countless nights trying to use it for everything under the sun? I could (I'm particularly keen on attempting real video-conferencing between me and a brother). But I won't.
I'm happy about the fact that it will never be an adequate music player (too big) or gaming machine (too weak) or even primary computer (screen too small) or DVD player (no optical drive) or e-book (puh-lease) or organizer (never used those functions anyway) or phone (can't hold it up to my ear). It's a laptop. It's nice that it is a real computer, and not a struggling wannabe. And it's nice that it's cheap. The end.