My Little Laptop

Marco with corrected spelling and grammar just wouldn't be Marco, so I've left the following article untouched save for the addition of some whitespace and an occasional punctuation mark. I suspect that his experience will resonate with many of us... - RS

It's like I'm me again. I went the last 5 or 6 years without any computer, much less any laptops. I'd thrown out, given away, and sold every computer I owned. Protest? Sort of. Religious experience? Perhaps.

I was trying for detachment, and you betcha, I got it. I can now rip myself away from internet, word processing, programming, you name it. I finally have the power over my own life to walk away. And it took a lot of work to get to that space. I was, well you could say I was addicted. Not sure if there's a 12 step program for computer addicts. Yeah there is; I'd call it herding sheep on the Navajo reservation 24 miles away from the nearest phone, electrical outlet or gas station. But that's a whole other story.

Let's see, I'll describe one experience of many from before I was properly detached, and then I'll discuss my first re-experience with computers. Then I'll brag about my new laptop. One page? Two? Probably two, so read on. I 'pen' this for you who might read this 100 years from now, and also for you who read this the very next day. But I especially write this for myself. This makes for some kind of officialness. A solidifying of my vow of poverty away from technology.

"I am no luddite, just a nice guy who thinks televisions completely suck."
- Mark Harry Ehrenfrucht

OK, it's about a year since I've returned to city life from having dropped completely out of society. My wife and I visit my friend Carl at his place of employ in Northwestern Connecticut. His office has a desktop, a laptop, an answering machine, phone, flourescent lights, and cornucopic other devices all giving off a hum around 50,000 hz (exaggeration for emphasis). Nevertheless it's a hum that most people have been able to tune out most of their lives. I'm only sensitive to it because of my 7 months of complete silence. (I was no monk. Conversation, cars and f-15's flying overhead don't count: the overall silence was profound compared to any that someone in a city could EVER relate to.)

"Carl, can we go outside whenever you get a break? You're going to call me crazy, but the hum of all the electronics is giving me a buzz that actually hurts."

His is one of about 45 offices on the 2nd floor, and one of the only ones with solid walls. Most of the other ones have those temporary carpeted walls that everyone commonly refers to as Carrols. (Jim Carroll would be pissed to know we named such a nightmarish wetscream after HIM.) Every other office has about as much technology stuffed into a small space just big enough to fit a chair and a human. Maybe you can relate to this, maybe you can't: call me oversensitive, the hum was nearly deafening.

Nevertheless, Carl had the freedom to take a lunch break whenever he felt like it, so it was promptly after the "royal tour." The three of us then went outside and got grinders at the local Subway. Caught up on old times, traded quips for a half hour or so and then split. It was really nice to see my friend

Carl. I think it had been quite a while since I'd spent much time with him.

That was the first time I was really close to a LOT of technology in about 2 years, and it was to be another 3 or so. So, I went another few years with relatively no interaction with computators. "I'm an addict," I'd tell people, "if I go near it now you'll have trouble ripping me away from it. Best not to go near." Most people couldn't ever know just HOW addicted I was. And give or take statutes of limitations, it might be illegal yet to speak with any further candor. Let's just say I knew I needed to go a long time not touching any.

Well, I return to University of Connecticut on the GI Bill in, yo, about 1995 or so. Semester one: I'm taking a playwriting class, two other English classes, a music class, and an art class. Each professor takes my papers typed on a manual. (My favorite. One given to me in 6th or 7th grade when I took my first interest in writing.) They do, however keep telling me I ought to get a disk and start using the computer labs. They assure me it'll make my life a whole lot easier. Well, I was planning on going back to computing, but I felt I NEEDED to finish one complete semester with no electronic interaction. I did. Missed dean's list by half a percentage point. The following semester I rationalized that they were giving me a network account in my name from my tuition, I might as well use it. And in fact, the professors were right, it did stand to make my semester a whole lot easier. I began doing all my school work in the computer labs. OK, I decided. I'll use them whenever I need to but plan on never buying one again.

Don't ask me about making dean's list that semester. I did. Don't ask me why I dropped out right after that, you'd get a whole seperate story that won't go here. Needless to say, this semester I transferred here to University of Wisconsin where I help run a homeless shelter and await my bachelor's degree. Two years? Year and a half? Soon. Then it's off to continue being a songwriter, which I've been before, during AND after college. I'm just after that paper now. The certification of a degree. The hoop. The carrot. The credibility is all I'm seeking. I deserve it without college, but my country practically demands it for every transaction now. It's virtually what a diploma was in the 1940's. Not sure if I'll do graduate work right away after this. I'm about overloaded with the institution thing. Maybe another rest, relax, and regroup, then more school. 5 years from now I predict.

At any rate, the last few years have been ones of occasional computer use, hoping to never buy one and (I thought) thereby get addicted again. How was I to know I attained the detachment I needed in 5 or 6 little years? You can't until you surf the internet. ("Why, when I was your age," I imagine myself someday saying, "I was manipulatin' that info-su-po-hi-way before it was even a dirt road. Just some matted down grass.") for, say, an hour or so and actually are able to get up and walk away when you're done with what you were looking for without thinking, "Just one more gopher, yahoo, bookmark, gif file." Yeah, gif file. Music to my ears, but that's another .wav file.

I'm helping run this shelter and some guy donates an old antique IBM PC Convertible hoping someone can get some use out of what cost him $2000 less than 10 years ago. No one offered him more than 50 bucks for it, so he considered it a 49 dollar donation and is right now I'm sure getting about half that back from his taxes.

So I let it sit there for 2 weeks. No one was interested in it because it was "too huge to be a laptop."

"Too slow for my taste."

"Too heavy."


OK. The thing is a dinosaur but you can't beat the price. I adopted it about a week ago, and I'm still reteaching myself wp4.2 on the thing. I think my last time tooling around word perfect of any kind was about 7 years ago.

OK shall I end with a comparison and contrast between this and the last laptop I ever owned? Sure, goes...

A floppy reads 6.5 times as much at about 10 times the speed. And there's two of them in here, built in! Internal memory is like 25 times as much at not even a meg! The internal modem (that I'll probably never use since I have access to one about 40 times as fast) is 4 times as fast. Yes, it's a 1200 and the last one was 300. (It DID host an external as high as 19.2 without mods, and I HAD seen it work a 9600. But it still only had a 1979 type modem inside.)

The backlit 80 column lcd screen kicks butt over that sand screen 40 col. etch a sketch thing I loved so much. And the built in doubledot matrix printer is a real cutey. Only thing it lacks is the built in word processor I so knew and loved. That thing was so user friendly it practically performed illegal acts upon you the minute you turned it on.

You guessed it, I used to have a Tandy Model-200 laptop. Ran on 4 AA batteries, and it was my first connection to compuserve chat. Ah, I remember my first laptop, like a St. Pauli Girl. No better. At any rate, now that I can handle it I have another laptop, a new craving for composing at the qwerty pad, and lots to write about.

So look out e-world.

The infomaniack is back.

Marco's observations, rants, gossip, flashbacks, and ruminations appear regularly in Activist Times, Inc. Send all ATI correspondence to

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Etext ©1997 Robert Szarka
Last Update: 19 Jun 1997