Monday, 8 December 2008

Touchy Good Things

When Nige reminded me that some people still use CDs, I was filled with a warm glow but not a little shame. It’s like my own love affair with typewriters or admiring Elberry for collecting fountain pens: there is something so at odds in my nature that means that I yearn for the next great thing yet long for the old ways of doing things, as messy, noisy, and as difficult as they were.

This time it began with lust. This particular lust was directed towards a laptop. My current machine is a rather battered Sony, moulded from plastic, which rattles whenever I type and is now scratched to smithereens. And it’s rather heavy. It’s well over seven pounds but that doesn’t include the rather manly power supply which is not known for being light on its toes. I carry the whole kit with me to work but find that I can’t use it in public. It’s too cumbersome to take out on a train, to wide for the tables of my local bookshop / coffee shop.

Years ago I had a small 10 inch Sony laptop. It cost me a hefty chunk of a grant, had a titanium body, and weighed next to nothing. It lived in my backpack as I trawled the obscure corners of libraries, crawling for volumes that hadn’t been touched in years. I wrote a PhD thesis and a novel on that little beauty and it lasted me five years. Then a volume of Sir Walter Scott’s letters fell on it from a high shelf and it developed a whine (Scott’s letters can have that effect). The whine slowly drove me mad enough to attempt to replace the hard disc. In the process, something snapped, something shot across the room, I did much swearing. I had destroyed the machine.

My recent tax rebate came along at a good time. I had earmarked it for a lightweight laptop, with a smaller screen. I was thinking 13 inches. I wanted something I could carry with me when I’m out and about and save me when I’m wasting hours travelling.
I trawled around the websites and came to the conclusion that there just weren’t any machines with what I wanted. Or none near my ‘price point’. Sony have a TT series – the current version of my original, much loved Sony – which start at a dizzying £1700 of carbon fibre goodness. I then started to visit Manchester’s Apple store to try out the keyboard on their new Macbooks. I must have looked a fool these last few weeks, standing there, drooling over their cases, carved from a single piece of aluminium. I would just stand there, typing away on the laptops without there even being a wordprocessor loaded. But everything they say about the Mac keyboard is true. Forget about processor specs, graphic subsystems. I'd buy it just for the responsive touch, the size of the keys and the gaps in between. It’s just the most perfect writing environment. Macs gave some of the best software for writing and I had begun to dream of matching that kind of attention to a writer's needs with that touch. However, I had 929 problems standing in my way, each one with a rim in Latin and the Queen’s muzzle on the front.

And so, I began to look for something cheaper. The alternative was a Dell. Their portable laptops begin around the £600 mark but once you start upgrading to the better processors.... Well, they’re heading into Mac territory and even the basic models are too steep for my humble savings and tax rebate.

Which brings me to the iPod Touch. When Judy bought herself one for Christmas, I had a play with it and discovered, to my great delight, that there are tools for writers in the ‘App Store’. One of them allows you to turn the iTouch on its side and use the full width of its screen as a keyboard. I’m not expecting to write any great masterpiece on it but I now have the smallest portable word processor I could afford. And the other surprise was Shakespeare. It’s a free download and apparently contains the complete works. I will be happy now, jotting away, rereading Othello and the rest.

But I’ll stop here before I become Stephen Fry and describe how I hope to procreate with my touchy little devil. Heavens! Indeed, bless! For the syncing is now at an end and I’m itching to go off and play some more with my pod.

4 comments:

Lola said...

I just bought a Mesh (Asus brand) for a tad over £400. Amazing what you can get for the money nowadays. Not as light as if I'd paid twice the price, but it does everything I need it to.

I also yearned for a Mac. Apart from not being supported by most of the systems at skool, I'd need to achieve a substantial Premium Bonds win (I don't play the lottery).

elberry said...

Heh, i'm using a 1930s manual typewriter and a 1950s fountain pen at the moment for my non-blogging stuff!

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