Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Devices, tablets, and computers

After a week of vacation with lousy internet access, I came home with a long list of projects to tackle. My employment situation has recently changed, and now more than ever, I am a freelance writer. My laptop and an internet connection are essential to my livelihood. Without them I cannot work and cannot earn money.
On Sunday night my laptop made a flying leap off of the couch. I wasn't even on the couch to witness it. I did hear the thud as it landed though and feared for the worst. My laptop has not turned back on since. It is currently in the laptop hospital, where I hope and pray my documents and photos can be recovered.
With little other choice, I went out and bought a new computer. I had heard good things about the Microsoft Surface, and was intrigued by it. Half computer, half laptop? It sounded like it might fit my needs. $500 later, I took one home with me.
I was wrong. I hated it. It is actually a fabulous device, but incredibly impractical for someone like me who needs to be typing and working all day.
24 hours I took it back to the store for a full refund, and purchased a new laptop.
Laptops only come with Windows 8 on them now. If you have not yet had the experience of using Windows 8, you cannot imagine my frustration. It is the unwanted love child of Microsoft and Apple's ugly cousin. It's Microsoft pretending not to be Apple. And it fails big time.
And yet we are stuck with it.
It works best with a touchscreen laptop, and I was informed at the store that by the end of the year all laptops will be touchscreen. (So I bought a touchscreen, because I have no idea how to use 8 without it.)
But all of this got me to thinking. A friend made the comment that she didn't see why we had to move to apps. Why can't we just be happy with the way Windows used to work? (I would venture a guess that she's probably never used a Mac.) Why touchscreens and apps?
As I looked around the stores tonight at all of the different options, I was surprised how few actually pertained to me. Here I am thinking I just need a truly basic computer- Microsoft Office and an Internet connection. A webcam would be nice, and an HDMI port. And really, that's about all I ask for- a working computer. Or a computer I am able to work on, would be a better way of describing it.
And how do swiping or touchscreens make me more productive or a better worker?
In short, they don't.
And that's what hit me tonight.
Computers were originally designed to compute, and do work. And then along came the Personal Computer, or PC. They were intended to allow individuals to do work from home. But we added games to them. And then the internet.
And computers began to become gaming devices, entertainment devices, and media devices, that just happened to also have document writing or spreadsheet creation capability.
And then there are tablets, which are not designed at all to be working tools, or computing tools, but mostly entertainment devices (with rare exceptions), made most evident by the fact that they don't even have real keyboards. They aren't designed to be typed on for more than a few lines.
There is an entire generation growing up that don't think of computers as work devices, but as entertainment or personal devices. They don't think in terms of typing, but swiping and touching. And as I saw first-hand at the store tonight, that is what is sold now. It was harder for me to find a computer that was built just for work computing than it was to find an entertainment device. And as I work my way around Windows 8, I realize that even the operating systems have changed now.
There's a lot to think about there.

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