Gadgets, Thoughts

Work around computers? Or have them work around you?

I've been thinking recently about the way my computer use has changed over the years as technology has progressed. And I started thinking about how it's not uncommon to say that you 'work around computers'. Certainly this is how it is with desktop computers. I used to have one sat in the study, all wired in. If I wanted to do anything on line or use the computer I went to it. Sat at the desk and worked around it.

When I got my first laptop I got my first taste of mobile computing, being able to do work from the sofa, or even sat out in the garden if that's what I wanted. A taste of freedom and flexibility. When I got my first Internet tablet, my thought was simply that certain things I'd be able to do without having to boot up my laptop, check e-mail, some light browsing etc. I still assumed that I'd want to do a great deal on the laptop. And obviously if it was already powered up I'd use that for preference.

And then along came my nokia n810 and over time a subtle shift occurred. I have talked before about how much I like this device, but it was only a couple of weeks ago I realised that I now prefer it out right to using a laptop. During the recent snow in the UK I had to work from home. And so I spent all day with my laptop. And into the evening it was already there and booted up. And yet I found myself wanting to just put it away and use my n810. And I realised that I was still working around my laptop. Yes I can use it where ever, but once you've picked a location it's not actually convenient to move around. You can have it on a lap but it's not that comfortable. IT gets hot, it forces you to stay in one position. You can have it on a table or desk but then you're stuck there.

I believe my Internet tablet gives me something close to true freedom, I started writitng this post stood in my kitchen, walking about the house getting ready to come out, I could put it in my pocket whilst doing things, and quickly retrieve it to write a few more sentences on it's thumb board whenever and wherever was convenient. Now I'm out at my cafe of choice 'boswells' and I am using my bluetooth keyboard to give me something close to the laptop experience. And yet I can easily switch back to typing on the thumb board and continue where ever.

Obviously other factors are that it has a really great LCD screen, it is a pleasure to look at and work with. It's fast enough to be pretty capable of most of the tasks I want it to do. And those which it can't I off load to my mythtv server.

The only thing that limits the freedom of this device is that lack of built in 3g support. I'm confined to where I can find wireless, or I have to take the extra step of tethering with a phone.

This slight limitation is due to be removed in Nokia's 4th generation Internet tablet currently in development. Having gone from buying a nokia 770 because it was cheap, and upgraded to my n810 by buying second hand on ebay. I am now actively watching for latest news of the next tablet codenamed rx-51. Unless nokia does something truly horrible (like make it without a hardware keyboard) then I shall pre-order one as soon as I can. I'm not sure I even care if it's much faster than the n810, though that will be a nice bonus.

I believe this is the future of computing. More than simply being mobile, it's about devices which are usable whenever wherever, it;s about devices that work around you not the other way around.