I used one of the very first netbooks from about 1994-1998. There have been micro-laptops that fit in your palm for perhaps 20-years, but I’m talking about one of the first subnotebooks that was internet friendly: the Compaq Contura Aero (thumbnail photo at right – from the Computer Museum in Germany). I had the top of the line (4/33c).
Internet was through a cardbus card. And boy, this thing was a dream come true.
I went to one of those colleges that gave you kiddie desks – you know, the kind you used to see in high school? And my Aero fit right on it. In fact, at 7.5 x 10.25 x 1.7″ (4.2lbs), it’s just smaller (not thinner) and only a pound heavier than the EEE PC 1000 at 7.5 x 10.5 x 1.1″ (2.9lbs), which is the biggest of the netbooks that deserves to be called a netbook.
Best note-taker I ever had. I did my B.A. on that computer. I wrote all my papers and essays on it, took it to every class, and could type faster than the instructor could talk. The thing had the best built-in trackball I’ve ever seen, so navigation was lightening-fast. Spin the ball, and you were all the way across the screen. I loved it. Simply loved it. So much so that I bought another one about 2-years ago, before the netbooks exploded on the market, intending to replace the hard drive and use it just like I did back then.
After all, I didn’t just take it to school, I took it to all my favorite coffee shops. That and satchels full of books. I’d pile them up, boot up, and write more words in one sitting than perhaps at any other time. If I needed to eat, I’d take it to diners, pull out an orange extension cord, and a light socket adapter, and connect right to the light over the table.
What I learned back then is that portability is everything. The conversations with friends, the poetry written in cafes, the notes on books, the papers and never-ending coffee… that little treat was before the days of wifi, but it was great for exactly the same reasons, and in exactly the same ways, as the new netbooks. And when I’d get home, I’d plugin and do research on the newly emerging world wide web.
I’ve had an EEE PC 900a (predecessor to the 901) for a while now, and I absolutely love it. It goes anywhere. I love that thing so much, I take it to bed (literally). And so, naturally, the wife took it over. It’s the tiniest of the netbooks, and the size is perfect. I love it for that, too. I’ve taken it on planes, next to larger books. I’ve walked down the street with it. I’ve balanced it on a foot and done blog entry. Love it.
And that’s why I almost bought the 901. I need my own now, and the 901 has a 6-cell battery, so you get more than 7hrs of battery life. But I thought and thought and thought all weekend, and finally decided on the 1000. For about $85 more, it’s just slightly larger (though thinner) than my Aero. And I know I’ll love it for all the same reasons.
I went with the EEE PC 1000 (not 1000 H, HA, or HE) – I like solid state – no hard drives. The 1000 has an 8gig master drive and 32 gig additional drive, webcam, bluetooth, and 6-cell battery. Of course, it has the standard 1gb ram and 1.6ghz atom processor. I’m upgrading the ram to 2gb.
I didn’t go with the Aspire, because it has a 3-cell battery, and the fan runs all the time, whereas the EEE PC fan runs when it needs to. I didn’t go with the Wind or the Lenovo, because you can’t get them without hard drives. I didn’t go with the Dell or the HP, because they’re Dell and HP, and I’m somewhat principled about it, besides the fact that I think their products are inferior, and they nickel and dime you to death on their web sites, and include non-functioning or semi-functioning slots, antennas, etc. I basically don’t like them. Asus’ EEE PC however, started the current revolution (e.g. Dell and HP have taken a queue from Asus’ naming convention with their ‘copies’ – or counterfeits, if you like).
But I’m not here to beat up the copy cats. In the end, I’m sharing a moment of pure joy, as I contemplate a much newer and more enhanced netbook of the size (10″) I’ve always loved, and which is perfect if you’re a big man like me, and don’t like your wrists touching while you type. Again, the 901 is great, I love it, and I’ll use the wife’s 900A whenever I can get my hands on it, but I know I’ll type faster on the 1000.
What’s this got to do with work? Well, it’s all about work, actually. Real work – not the philosophy of work. When I lean over and say to a colleague, “you really need to stop flying so much, and start Skyping more”, it’s somewhere between an intervention and a technology review, but it’s really just plain practical.
Yes, this isn’t really a review, and no it isn’t really much more than a “Yeah, sonny, I was there first, and loved it then and still love it now, and hey, I’m getting a new one!” The internet, and technology have done so much for me, though, that frankly I don’t care what it sounds like – I’m happy about it. So there. I think back on the productivity I had with my Aero, and I look at the productivity my netbook offers now, unobtrusively on a nightstand, or as the smallest thing in my briefcase, and I am just so glad that the days of bloat in between are finally over.
Shifting to truly portable (flexible) cloud computing is like being fat for years, and suddenly being thin again. It’s like going to bed tired and worn out and waking up virile and 25 (well, some of us are still just as virile, but now we can control the direction).
So lastly, for those of you who loved the little Aero, and many still do – there’s still a following, I’ve held and used the EEE PC 1000 (tried out the 1000H in a store, just to be sure), and I have to tell you, it feels like the same fit. Not just for nostalgia, but for the sheer practicality that, paired with cloud computing, the Contura Aero (and other subnotebooks) brought to us. I’ve sat with the 900A in coffee shops, used it on plane tray tables (with room just for the 1000 – no larger), and rested it on my steering wheel (not while moving), and when my 1000 gets here, it’s going where I go. We’re back, baby!
Oh, and I’m not feeling that superior. I still do have a suitcase computer or six.
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