This was my last: a personal history of recent computing

I just finished up graduate school. It feels really good. I was thinking back about the beginning of my time as a grad student. Despite being less than six years ago, the computer I had, the phone I owned, and the software I used have changed so much. This is a personal exercise and hopefully an interesting peek into the recent past of computing.




As a newly minted, but very poor graduate student, my laptop was the first laptop I ever owned from four years prior. The Dell 5150 was a chunky laptop with perennial power issues that eventually led to a class action lawsuit. It ran Windows XP, which was already 2 years old by the time I got my laptop in 2003. By the time I was in grad school in 2007, Vista was out. I didn't upgrade. In fact, when I ordered a desktop computer for my work, I chose to "downgrade" to XP rather than try out the vilified and seemingly risky Vista.



Ol' lappy died in 2008 — one year into grad school. I was still poor, but needed a new computer, preferably a laptop so I could give presentations at school and for conferences. But I was still poor and a new, powerful laptop was (and still is) an expensive purchase. One day I was looking through the comments of an Engadget article and one person suggested that it would actually be cheaper to get a desktop and a low-powered netbook rather than a laptop that could substitute a desktop. So I got a refurbished HP Pavilion m9260f, which also served as my HTPC (I've had some strange setups with this computers that required a 6 foot DVI cable). I wasn't able to downgrade to XP for this machine and as it turned out, Vista wasn't terrible, especially the SP1 version I used. When Windows 7 was released, I upgraded and have been pretty happy, but haven't felt the need to upgrade to Windows 8. However, this computer is feeling a bit slow these days. And it won't wake from sleep or hibernation. And the power button doesn't work, so I have to short two contacts on the motherboard to turn it on. Man I need a new computer.



I delayed getting the netbook half of the pair for several more months, but ended up with an Asus Eee PC 1005HA. It arrived with XP and I put Windows 7 on it as soon as I could (though the lack of a CD drive made that difficult!). I got this machine for presentations and on the go work, but now I use it as little as possible. It's just too hard to get work done efficiently with a tiny, slow computer.


This is my next?

I haven't decided on my next laptop yet. I'm sort of waiting for a compelling, touchscreen Windows 8 convertible.




My cell phone was a nice, little blue Sanyo flip phone. At some point, I started using it to read the news over its terrible internet connection. It was really just a single column of text with a few hyperlinks. It helped to kill some time commuting on the bus.



I was given a secondhand first generation iPod Nano. It served me well for listening to podcasts and music until I got a smartphone. Then a couple of years ago, it magically turned into a fifth generation iPod nano (that I really haven't touched).



At some point, I snagged a Palm z22 on the cheap to give me access to some apps without a data plan. I mostly played solitaire on it though. It didn't take too long to die, but before it did, I became a fan of Palm, which led me to...



Palm Pre. Launch day. iPhone killer. Or not. I still liked it a lot. Sure it was kind of slow (I eventually overclocked it) and had a janky mini-usb port cover (it eventually broke off), but webOS could multitask like no other (as long as you didn't get a "too many cards" error).. After my contract was up, my Pre was feeling really old, and the whole Palm/HP meltdown had just happened, which persuaded me to move onto another platform.


The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch. Despite the long name and mix of Roman and Arabic numerals, this phone has served me well. Some folks don't like the trend to ever-larger screens, but the 4.5" screen here is pretty great for me. But it too is in the waning months of my 2-year contract, so I'm on the lookout for a replacement.


This is my next?

The Google-fied Samsung Galaxy S4 is pretty expensive, but it's mighty tempting with the beefy hardware,no skinning, plus updates straight from the source.

Web and Apps


When I started grad school, I finally joined keep up with my friends and family that I had just moved away from (Facebook had just opened up to the public the year prior, for reference). In college, I thought it was a bit of a fad (boy was I wrong) and almost a year and a half ago, I decided to give it up. I wish Mark and co. all the best, though.


I started Grad School using Office 2007 and ended grad School using Office 2007 (and some 2010 on work computers). I'm totally behind the times. But really, that's a indication that I wouldn't really care for a subscription model for Office. I don't think I was missing anything particularly important from the 2013 version.



Circa 2007, I was an avid fan of Engadget, especially the trio of Josh, Nilay, and Paul. I was reading the site when Josh became the new editor in-chief and when he left. Of course I was stoked to follow their new venture, This is my next (named after their propensity to declare an unreleased gadget as their next device), which eventually became The Verge.

It's funny just to look back at just how rapidly things have changed.