Saturday, November 07, 2009

Silicon bonanza

Twenty years ago right about this month, my dad went out and bought our family's first personal computer. It was an Apple IIGS, and ours was the first family I knew of with our own computer. I recall it costing around $2,000.

My sister and I loved the new computer. It arrived just in time for me to hit middle school and start having papers to write, and I still can't fathom how anyone did that before electronic word processing. My family also had an electric typewriter, which I think I might have used to write precisely one school paper, but even then I had the sense that typewriter was more of an archaic novelty item than an actual functional tool.

The IIGS was eventually joined by a Mac (nominally bought for my Mom to use for her business, but Lisa and I mooched it frequently), and when I went off to college, I spent all my savings buying a Mac laptop. It had a 500MB hard drive and cost me about $1,000.

Not long after that, my sister got a first-generation iMac, and thus began our era of everyone in the family having their own PCs.

Since that first college Mac laptop, I've run through more computers than I can count. (In several cases, the line between what was 'mine' and what was my job's computer has been fuzzy -- starting my sophomore year of college, I had a school-issued laptop for my Residential Computer Assistant gig, which I basically used as my own personal machine as well as for work stuff.) But for the past decade, one split has been clear: I have my computers and David has his, and the two sets stay very separate.

Some of this comes down to preference. I like desktops, and by the end of college I'd made the switch from being an Apple fan to preferring Windows. (Yes yes, I know, this makes me an inferior human being. Trust me, there's nothing you can say on this that David hasn't already.) David strongly prefers Macs and laptops. So as soon as we had the spare cash, he went out and got his own MacBook.

This popped to the front of my mind right now because my current desktop has been showing signs of impending death for months. It's only the second desktop I've had since 2002, and I got about four years out of it, so I can't complain too much about having to upgrade. I took the early Windows 7 reviews (the general tenor seems to be "well ... it's waaay better than Vista ... and seems to be actually ok ...") as a sign that I should finally let go of Windows XP. So, sitting on my living room floor and waiting to be installed, is a new HP Pavilion desktop with Windows 7. Total cost: $544. Can't complain about how computer costs have fallen over the years.

But I'm curious: Are David & I now the aberration or the norm? Do most families share one computer, or does everyone (adults, at least, and probably older teens) have their own?

Also, I remain slightly boggled by just how damn much computing power we get to take advantage of these days. David's standard computing lineup consists of: MacBook, iPhone, iPod 60GB classic, BlackBerry, fancy Canon camerathingie I forget the details of.

My computing setup: Windows desktop at home, HP Mini netbook for travel, BlackBerry, cell phone (very primitive Samsung, but it does have a browser), Palm (Tungsten E2, and I remain in deep denial about Palms basically being discontinued), iPod nano and Bluetooth-equipped Canon PowerShot. And all of that together costs less than my family's first IIGS. Wow.