The best laptop that the Wine Curmudgeon ever used was a TRS-80 model 100, a Radio Shack product that is usually regarded as the world’s first laptop. It was awesome – a little more than three pounds, a 300-baud modem, and a faux leather case. In the 1980s, I lugged it to football games, bike races, and city council meetings, where I would write the story, hook the modem up to a phone jack, and send it to the paper by hitting a row of buttons located just above the keyboard.
I loved that machine, which was affectionately known as a Trash 80. It belonged to the late and lamented Dallas Times Herald, and I still have the instructions for using it (written by the great Kevin Edwards, a sportswriter turned cyber type who went on to fame and fortune at the Washington Post).
Since then, I have owned a couple of laptops, none of which I much cared for. In fact, I haven’t had one for almost a decade. They were too heavy, too slow, too expensive and too irritating. I made do with an early handheld, an HP Jornada 720, which had a downsized QWERTY keyboard and synced with my desktop (though the modem never really worked).
But all that has changed.
That’s because I am the proud owner of an Asus Eee PC 900. It weighs 2.2 pounds, has wi-fi, and came with a faux leather case. It has all the advantages of the Trash 80, with none of the disadvantages of today’s software-bloated, overweight laptops. It was cheap – about one-third to one-half the price of a reasonably-configured laptop. It’s efficient, running on Linux instead of Windows. And it’s quick, taking just 30 seconds to boot up (I just timed it.)
Are there difficulties with it? Certainly. The keyboard isn’t full size, and support is non-existent. It came with a bunch of software that I can’t make heads or tails out of (anyone know anything about something called mediaU?). The battery isn’t what it could be, and I still can’t get it to read an SD card from the appropriate slot.
And Linux, for all of its stability, is terrifyingly DOS-like. If you want to add more than basic software updates, command line typing is involved. (Children, ask your parents about DOS, and watch the sweat form on their brows.)
None of which I especially care about. It only weighs 2.2 pounds, I don’t have to hit control-alt-delete. My $5 USB mouse works perfectly. And did I mention that the Asus comes with three USB ports and an ethenet connection?
About the only thing missing is a $10 bottle of wine.