Permutations of Portability

I recall my first “portable” computer – a Kaypro with two 5.25” floppy drives and a 20Mb (wow!) hard drive. It weighed “only” about 35 pounds, but I was younger then, so yes, it was at least marginally portable.

Next in my portability experience came a couple of smaller and lighter “lunchbox” portables, not much over 15 pounds. I christened one of them “Junior,” and another, with a white case, “Blanche.” I recall many travel experiences with those boxes, including one time en route to Australia when my (female) business partner, seated across the airplane aisle, asked “where’s Junior,” and I replied, very matter-of-factly, “He’s in the overhead bin.” The comment was overheard by a fellow passenger who pressed a call button and I soon found myself explaining to a flight attendant that Junior was indeed an inanimate box of electronic widgets and not an abused offspring.

Flash forward a few years and I was the proud owner of the first of about eight laptop computers – the first configuration that could be called conveniently portable. Since then I’ve experimented with diminutive “netbook” computers (with much too small a keyboard for my fingers and my “hunt, peck and cuss” keyboarding style), and have sometimes envied but not emulated those who manage to generate text on various tablet and smartphone platforms. Not for my fingers!

Of late I’ve come to realize that portability may have found its “rock bottom” and begun to rebound, as once pocket-sized phones (with almost invisible screen text) have spawned a generation of successors with incrementally larger screens (and less portability). The same seems to be true of tablets, and my last stroll through the laptop section of a local big-box store surprised me with a display of two models with screens and bodies at least as wide as an economy class airplane seat.

So, where are we going in an effort to strike some balance between convenient portability and practical functionality? The answer is likely to be very subjective and, fortunately, the available choices fill a broad spectrum that should offer something for everyone. I only hope that there’ll be no return to the “luggables” of yore. And I hope I’m never sharing an airline seat with a fellow passenger (or, worse yet, one on each side) using a wide-bodied laptop.