My laptop (a thinkpad) after faithfully serving me for 3 years was replaced with a newer, thinner and smarter-looking piece this week. The laptop has been a wonderful workhorse – serving me well after a brief starting period when the machine threw power tantrums and going into freeze mode ever so often. Many visits to the local IT doctor did not work, it played truant to all his geeky remedies. Finally, he clenched his teeth and with a determined chin took it to a closed room and I suspect from all the noises within undertook the hardware equivalent of cntl+alt+del – a procedure that made the machine a ready convert. The machine has been behaving well ever since – I suspect resigning itself to the fact that irrespective of all its intel chips/ big memory /graphic cards and such wizardry capabilities, its owner would only engage it to do powerpoints, spreadsheets and documents – and then more of the same. It’s like having Dhoni confined to the little league you say? Well, such is life – into each life some rain must fall!
The new laptop, it definitely seemed lighter – however the bag it came in weighed a ton. Wondering if they added a mini-bar as an accessory, I (hopefully!) open the bag – and out tumble tons of shiny new stuff. The DVD drive comes in a separate box, the wireless keyboard and mouse, half a dozen cables (only god knows for what), a docking station – and very importantly a contraption that looks like something out of a bruce-lee movie. This is a veritable buffet, and you can pass a very diverting hour or two simply trying to figure how they all fit in! And sadly, no mini-bar there.
Onto the machine now – I boot it and the windows OS asks me for the password, decides I am Aladdin, puts on its blue home face and goes into configuration mode as a prelude to opening its wonder wares. The “Dude, I am hungry, charge me up” low battery light blinks up and I fish around – pull a cable, connect it to another (thanks lego for teaching me skills that are relevant a few decades hence!) – I suddenly realize I don’t know where to plug in the charger. They have changed the ports! Ten minutes of searching, swearing and experimenting later, I find the new port – it’s a little squarish hole now placed at the top-left corner (it was a round pin-type contraption on the bottom-right corner on my earlier machine). So 3 years and 2 levels up, someone changed the charger ports.Talk about innovation!
This is the topic I wanted to muse on. Charging ports are like fuel cables at the local petrol station (or if you are in the us, gas station). You need them to fill your device up so it does what its supposed to – so why do they make it different on every machine? No matter which car you buy – a Ferrari, a corolla or even a hummer – you can always get it charged at any station around the world – how odd would it be if we had to carry fuel hoses everywhere I travel? Cars seem to get them, but devices don’t – and isn’t that a shame?
Or talk about docking ports – think of them as car parking slots – at most you have a small, medium and large (and if you are a burger outlet owner, perhaps you may want to bung in an extra-large version) – you don’t have a parking slot that is dedicated to a particular model and year? If you did, traffic would go nuts (where it hasn’t already that is!).
Thinking deeper, memory cards come in only a few varieties. As do sim cards (a full, micro or nano!). Software platforms (like dropbox, gmail, twitter etc.) work across as well – its only stuff that device manufacturers make that’s so unique to them.
Which brings me to the central question – why do they not standardize hardware essentials like charging ports and docks to a few types? Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place for absent-minded people like me who are always forgetting chargers – we could find a replacement in a thrice no matter we travelled to? And on that note, how do they manage all their travel – do they check in two bags everytime – one for their travel ware, and another for all the cables?!
By this time, the device is configured and inviting. I logon and am delighted. The track pad is cool. The buttons work very well. The laptop is spaced out well and the wrist feels comfortable. I like it! And yes the powerpoints and documents come up brilliantly – it passes all the regular tests with flying colours. Nice job IBM – but for that charger!
As I fire up my mails, I see a headline about Apple working on developing a car. I go day dreaming again. Come 2017 (or whenever they launch it )I’ll probably break my bank and buy the car – thinking about everyone I can demo it to and make them gasp in admiration. Driving from the showroom, I would look at the delightful interiors and rave on the performance –-at which point an elegant light on the dashboard would let me know that my tank’s near on empty. Rushing into the nearby station (remember the car is rumoured to be electric!) – I’ll breathe a sign of relief – only to have the attendant smile at me wickedly and ask me if I have brought in my charging cable? Ok that’s more a nightmare than a dream!