Mostly Cajun had a post about the 30th anniversary of the Osborne. The Osborne was a clunky dog made with technology that just wasn’t ready. Sadly, it’s unique design has was relegated to the scrapheap of rejected ideas. I never had one. I think the Osborne’s design was pretty cool and we should rethink it’s rejection.
Seeing the Osborne on Mostly Cajun accidentally re-ignited a complaint I keep simmering on my back burner. “Portables” are gone forever and laptops have emphasized small over utilitarian far too long.
I’d love a modern laptop’s components dumped into the archaic Osborne’s design. Forget about delicate laptops meant for ironic twittering at Starbucks. I want a beefy utilitarian device for hammering out work on my terms. Something I can use mercilessly.
I especially want everything in one piece. A monoputer? Engineers reduce laptop size by externalizing parts. Why? I have to carry all that crap anyway. Why should a power cord have a transformer? In a larger device you could stick the power supply back inside where it belongs. Why should I carry a mouse separately (or suffer with a touchpad)? If a truck can have a glove box so can a portable computer. A mouse should nest inside a portable when traveling. I don’t think a laptop should need a protective case either. Cases are overpriced pillows required for fragile little toys that need coddling. Who decreed that we should stuff laptops in a protective sleeve and then jam the sleeve in a briefcase plus a wad of cables wrapped around a mouse? I want my laptop to be the briefcase.
Modern laptops (cool as they are) are constructed like puny little toys; the final frontier of electronic metrosexual consumerism. Don’t drop it. Don’t toss it in the car’s back seat. Don’t leave it in the cold. Don’t let your kid play with it. Don’t spill coffee on it. Not everyone likes carrying around a Fabrege egg. Who trained us to accept such things?
Because I like hurling vindictive and arbitrary barbs at Steve Jobs I blame him and his pet media. Apple couldn’t make something better so they made it smaller. (And admittedly cooler looking.) Everyone followed suit. It’s been going on for years. The press will always go apeshit for the newest trinket because it’s a half ounce lighter than the last. Why? Do I really live in a populace that can’t lift a six pound laptop? Perhaps some folks really do need need a 4 ounce netbook. (Presumably Woody Allen, small children, and undercover spies?) I don’t. Anything smaller than a case of beer is fine with me. In fact a 24 pack is the perfect size!
I’d like a laptop re-imagined as a “portable”; crude, cheap, repairable, and strong. Within reason don’t worry about size. A “new” Osborn could be all that and a bag of chips. Picture a cheap laptop’s guts bolted into an Osborne style case. There would be plenty of extra space. What would you put in that delicious expanse? Storage? A printer? A battery that lasts weeks? A thermos? A self retracting power cable? A pistol case? A cigarette lighter power adapter? A built in deer cam? A keyed lock to keep the case closed. Straps to tie it to your motorcycle/kayak/mule/hood? An AM/FM radio (CB? HAM?)? A telescoping directional highly selective wifi antenna? A projector? Decent speakers? Imagine the possibilities!
Notice that I didn’t mentioned any technology that is expensive or rare? All that’s lacking is imagination. Go ahead and imagine a different world. If John Lennon pictured universal utopia why can’t I imagine a waterproof portable with an integrated thermos and a monster battery. One that’s so tough I can check it when flying. (Let the apes in the baggage department tag it and toss it in a pile of suitcases while I travel light!) Yes indeed…some things can be built and aren’t only because the blinders are on.
(Incidentally, I’m aware of “hardened” laptops. They sound good but I’ve used them and they suck. They still make concessions to size over utility. Dust seals and a fiddly keyboard wrapped around the same old shit at twice the price didn’t float my boat.)
So there you have it; my Curmudgeonly plea for a world that has both “portables” and “laptops”? Can’t we all just get along? It’s my fault, I was never properly trained as a consumer. I don’t care if the newest iDevice is 1/16th inch thinner but I’d flip for an integrated retractable power cable. These things happen when you’re hopelessly uncool and don’t watch enough TV.
P.S. Photo linked to Denver Post Blog here. I think it’s important for society that policiticans be seen drinking beer.