June 21, 2018

The Role of a New Machine

My five-year-old laptop (would I kid about this?) is due to be replaced soon, so it has me thinking about old and new machines. My first (personal, not work) computer was, believe it or not, a laptop. It was an Apple Powerbook 145 I received as part of the Apple Library’s “Network Citizen Award” back in the early 1990s. Sometime after that I gave a series of presentations to Apple Computer, Inc. staff about the Internet and eventually worked off the cost of an Apple desktop setup.

Meanwhile, I had a desktop for work. Thus, like most professionals I found myself keeping my current files on various removable storage media. First 3.5″ disks, then Syquest disks, and eventually Zip disks. Trying to keep everything in sync was a huge hassle, and that was only if I had remembered to put the files on the disk in the first place.

I eventually realized I could only have one computer in my life and that’s when I made the final break from a desktop. What I carried back and forth to work, then, was the computer itself.

But as I await my new laptop it occurs to me that pad devices are potentially giving desktop machines a new lease on life. First, I find myself going to staff meetings with my iPad, not my laptop. At conferences I no longer lug my laptop around, but my iPad.

Cloud storage of files makes it trivial to have your documents available to all devices — even your smartphone. And if I want complete control of my laptop or desktop from my iPad, there are products like Splashtop that do it for you.

So oddly enough, I feel like desktop machines are an even better option now then they were even just a few years ago. Between cloud services and storage and the new pad devices, desktops and a pad can be a very good combination. I’m still not giving up my laptop, but I no longer think that a desktop is an anchor. Rather, it can be a very good solution if you need more power and storage than a laptop provides and you have the access and portability that a pad device provides.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. I’m waiting for just the right tablet – with HDMI and USB connections – to hook up to my keyboard, mouse, and big monitor – voila! It’s a desktop. Disconnect the peripherals and take it where you go. Cloud storage is where most of the GBs get parked. From what I’ve seen of the best present tablets, processor power is not a problem.