Wednesday, January 17, 2024

I remember when laptops were magical technology reserved for the very rich and powerful

I started traveling extensively for work in the late 90s and early 2000s, and it was then that I first encountered The Laptop People in airports.

They were always nicely dressed, and they would invariably open their carry-on bags and break out their laptop computers the minute they took their seats on the plane.

Compared with today's technology, these devices barely fit the definition of laptops, as they often took up considerably more room than the average person's lap offered.

But they were all we knew, and to me they were amazing. I worked regularly on comparatively bulky machines tethered to a desk. The idea of a fully functioning computer you could take with you (and operate on battery power alone) was mind-blowing.

The batteries didn't last long, of course, and later when WiFi became a thing, connectivity could be spotty. But you could work on a memo or a spreadsheet 35,000 feet in the air, which I thought was just about the coolest work-related thing imaginable.

I think most of The Laptop People back then were earnest in their desire to be productive. They didn't care that their small (large?) computers could be viewed as status symbols.

But a subset of them were very showy in getting the laptop out of the bag, setting it up on the small seatback tray in front of them, and asking (loudly) whether they could connect to the airport concourse WiFi while the plane was still parked at the gate.

These people have evolved today into The Loud Cell Phone Talkers.

I bring all of this up because I now have my first-ever personal laptop. I've had many laptops before, but they have all been loaned to me by my employers. Terry got me a very nice Asus for Christmas, the first one I can truly call my own.

For what it's worth, while the luster of laptops has obviously faded over time, I'm still very discrete in my use of it in public places. And I don't talk loudly on my phone, either.

I'm more proud of those two things than of having my own laptop, if I'm being honest.

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