I have had at least two computers up and running in my house ever since about 1993. At various times in the past twelve years I have toyed with the idea of going back down to one, but it never happens – there is just too much benefit.
I got to wondering today: what do people do when they only have one computer in the house? (I’ll call these “normal people”!)
There certainly has been an evolution in the function of the various computers that I’ve owned. Back in 1993, my two computers were an Apple IIgs (used for connecting to the Internet, since it had a modem) and a 486 running Windows 3.1 (used for programming assignments as a computer science undergrad). In 1996 I retired the Apple IIgs, only to replace it with a Mac (used for writing and graphics), while the Windows machine had become a Win95 box with a Pentium procesor (still used for development work).
In the summer of 1998, I was introduced to Linux, and loved it from the start. Since then, my second (or third, or fourth) computer has always been a Linux box, and I’ve enjoyed the benefits since then:
1. SENDING LARGE FILES TO PEOPLE
To send a 750 MB file to someone else, I’ll place it on my Linux machine’s FTP area, and then send that person a password to retrieve it. How do normal people send files that are any larger than about 10 MB?
2. BACKING UP MY DESKTOP COMPUTER
The data files (and sometimes a few bits of the operating system) from my desktop machine a routinely backed up to the Linux machine. How do normal people do backups?
3. EASY UPGRADES OF MY DESKTOP COMPUTER
This is tied into #2, really. When I want to upgrade my desktop computer (or reformat due to some problem) I never worry about it, I just erase the hard drive and upgrade. I know my files are already backed up. How do normal people upgrade their computers without losing everything?
4. RECORDING TV SHOWS FROM REMOTE
I set up a PVR (personal video recorder) that is integrated into a satellite tuning card. When I want to record a TV show, I just go to my web site and look at the online program guide, and tell the PVR to schedule a recording. How do normal people record shows if they have neglected to program their VCR before they left the house?
5. UNLIMITED EMAIL ALIASES
When I sign up to some new web site, I just create a brand new email alias for that site, and point it to my main email account. That way, if they ever start spamming me, I can delete that alias without affecting any of the rest of the email I get. How do normal people register with web sites without giving their one email address to all the spammers in the world?
There are more, but these are the biggest ones. Admittedly, these are all personal technological benefits… I’m not actually making any money with them or saving the world here.
Yes, I know that the questions above are rhetorical – the answers are pretty much obvious.
Yes, I know that “normal people” isn’t actually a euphemism, it’s just simply true – these people really are normal, I’m the oddball here.
And finally yes, I know that I could do the above if my main computer was just a Linux machine. However, then I couldn’t do a few things that I really do need my desktop machine for, like author home movies, track our home finances and do my business taxes.
Hmm…perhaps the really good chefs of the world wonder how “normal people” are able to cook with any less than 6 frying pans in their kitchens…?