“My name is Jake, and I have forsaken traditional computing,” I calmly say.
“Whaaaaaa?” gasps stunned blog readers.
Calm yourselves, dear readers. Let me tell you how this Windows-raised, college-converted Mac geek became a regular user of a Chromebook for (almost) all his computing needs. It’s not a complicated tale, but it’s a sign of the times.
I remember the first computer at my house from my early days. It was upstairs near the attic and it ran Windows 3.1. It took forever to boot up, had this fun game called Minesweeper, and you could print files from something called The Writing and Publishing Center. I found this entire system fascinating, but it was something I might encounter a few times a year when I followed my father up to this humid, less than pleasant tomb of nerd-dom. Thinking back, I guess the computer had no purpose but to help him “keep up with the Joneses,” or to think it was useful for work at home.
By the time I reached third grade, we had similar PCs at school that had this “intranet” thing – yes, intranet. All I knew about it was that teachers could message teachers at other schools and files were sent around the school using this service. Seemed cool, and I wondered if our computer at home did this. I soon learned it did not, but I wouldn’t have to wait long for similar services of the world wide web to slowly trickle through the phone lines to a bulky tower and monitor.
To take a wild guess, by fourth or fifth grade, we had a Windows 95, and later 98 and ME PC at home that Dad set up in the family room. It had internet, and I remember one of my first encounters quite fondly. I really liked the weather around that time, and I thought I wanted to become a meteorologist and do forecasting on television. I’m glad that dream passed, because my dislike for math would have disqualified me once I entered the classrooms in college. Regarding this early memory, I wasn’t the best speller, but I knew I had to click on the internet button on the desktop, and I could type in anything and have it come up on the screen.
Being eager and not taking ten seconds to check my spelling, I typed “weather chanel” into the address bar and tapped the enter key. The next thing I remember is seeing scantily-clad ladies pixelating on the monitor and screaming for mom because I was afraid of the ramifications knowing that I shouldn’t be seeing this stuff. Quickly diving under the desk as mom entered the room, I cried and screamed that I didn’t mean to make those images appear, that “I wanted to see the maps and radars” like they have on TV.
Soon enough, she made the corrections necessary for The Weather Channel’s then-simple website to appear. I wasn’t in trouble, and we were left with a famous tale for the ages at family gatherings. That was our home computer, slowly getting updated and improved until I really needed to have my own by middle school. We frequently had to write papers and print them – always in the standard Times New Roman font, size 12. My first PC passed on to the computer afterlife by the time I was starting high school, so my parents and grandparents purchased me a better machine meant to get me to college by sophomore year.
My senior year of high school, I finally got to see Apple products in action. I got my first iPod (a lime-green iPod Nano) and had an English teacher who used an eMac on his desk. After seeing, learning, and using these tools at home and school, I knew I wanted a Mac when I went to college. Over the course of my college education, I had two MacBooks and then a third one when I started my teaching career. I also got a refurbished iMac from my parents as a college graduation gift. That refurbished iMac is my primary machine to this day and sits on my home office desk for storing photos, archiving my college documents, and eventually putting the Rosetta Stone German software to use (that still sits collecting dust; sorry, Mom).
In my first year of teaching, my school and students received Chromebooks from our corporation. I soon realized they were hand-me-downs and didn’t do everything a new one would do. I eventually forked out $150 on Amazon for a snazzy Asus model, but it soon lost its luster when the keyboard died after an unfortunate incident of a book being dropped on it. By that summer, I found a smaller Dell Chromebook and still use it regularly to this day, even after leaving the education profession, where Chromebooks hold a large market share.
Why have I stuck with these cheap but trusty machines? It’s simple: they’re simple. Much of what I need to do for myself can be done in Chrome using social media sites, Google Drive (G Suite?–is that the name now?), and other cloud-based services. Everything can be synced to my phone using cloud services, and I don’t need to worry about battery. I easily have six to eight hours of battery life on every Chromebook I have used, and I don’t use them to watch much media, but I can stream anything from Spotify or NPR quite easily. The best part: being web-and-cloud focused, there’s no chance of viruses.
The times are changing. Easy is in, and expensive and clunky is out. We all want to be trendy, but more so, I believe we want the most “bang for our buck.” If you, like me, want a laptop that’s affordable and easy to use, try a Chromebook. I don’t think you’ll regret it.