The first thing you should know is that I don’t need this computer. I have a perfectly funtioning laptop sitting here on my desk, and I’ve got a couple of monitors hooked up to it. That’s plenty of visual space for any academic or personal task. And plenty of memory/processor power for regular computing tasks. I can even run some pretty robust programs on this machine. So why a new computer? Four reasons: 1) staying ahead of the socio-digital curve, 2) technical knowledge, 3) raw power, and 4) portability (ironically).
Let me explain:
1. I want to stay ahead of the socio-digital curve. I want to function as a person others can look to for digital concerns regarding writing, research, scholarship, teaching, and related social activities. I want to be the kind of person I would ask if I had questions. That means doing more than merely good enough. I need to know about emerging writing technologies (hardware and software). And the only way to do this, I think, is to make sure I’ve got the resources at-hand to follow various questions wherever they may lead. Of course there are limits. And those are good, too. For instance, I’m useless to people who want to know about the affordances of Macs. Other ways, too.
2. I want to know about more than just interfaces. That’s partly why I’ve been tinkering with code lately (css files, php tools, and Adobe AIR. And it’s also why I’m choosing to build this computer from distinct components. Not only do I have much more control over the quality of hardware I choose, but I also end up learning a great deal more about how the different parts of the machine funtion in relation to each other. (For instance, just now, as I’m writing this, I realize that I didn’t order a wireless card for the machine. Don’t know if I have a cord long enough for it, either. Ugh.) If nothing else, I at least get to mess with installing a new operating system on my machine, and trying to get all of the different components talking to each other. I’ve done it before. It’s a headache. Probably not worth it unless you really WANT to know how it works. I do.
3. Raw Power. I’m going to be working more with video editing and screen capture over the next few months, so I wanted a system that would be able to handle that. My current laptop can get the job done, but it’s incredibly slow. Painfully. This new machine will be much, much snappier. And yes, that will have a direct impact on my writing practices. Not only will I be more productive (in theory), but I’ll also be much more likely to take certain risks with the process, because I have less time invested. And if you don’t think that’s true, just consider the doubters of a similar argument about wordprocessors vs. typewriters.
4. It makes my laptop much, much more portable. I purchased my current laptop a while back with average computing power, but in a highly portable (13.3 inch) laptop. The trouble has been, though, that I haven’t ended up taking advantage of the portability because it’s a bit of a hassle to get the machine unhooked from the monitors. (software issue, not a hard ware one.) I even considered saving about a hundred bucks in this process, and just getting a netbook. I could leave my laptop on the desktop, and scoot around with the new one in my pack. But then I’d be wasting the laptop’s portability, for which a paid a premium, and have a much less powerful machine in my pack. Not a viable option. So now, I’ll have a very portable, relatively powerful machine in my pack, and I’ll leave a much snappier, more powerful machine on my desk.