As a kid, my life changed when I saw a somewhat portable Apple Macintosh unboxed in the movie Short Circuit. Before that day I had daydreamed about girls, now I dreamt about girls AND my own Macintosh. As it turns out, the appearance of Macintosh was a product placement by Apple, a perfect move, the first in the long line of portable utopias to come.
Two years before the movie, Commodore had released its Executive 64 model that also set a standard for future images of dudes sipping a drink at the poolside while running business empires or perhaps just letting their minds roam free by writing best-selling novels.
Today, computers are much more portable than that, but somehow you still can't use laptops in a way movie producers and marketers show us. Prove me wrong, but it is not possible to work properly in direct sunlight because of the glare, and besides that, sand will jam your trustworthy electronic partner's input channels in minutes. Still, there are millions of pictures like this:
Even in normal life situations, my laptops are destroyed on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t care about them, but as I use them at very different locations from planes and buses to a table, where despite my best efforts, my two year old will assist me with stamping the keys or smearing the screen with fat from meatballs, they just deteriorate pretty fast.
You can imagine my confusion when I look at this:
Last time I spilled coffee on my laptop, I knew what to do – disconnect everything and go to the service ASAP. But I didn’t, because I had a book to finish. There was no time to wait for the diagnostics and service. The book itself was backed up to the cloud, so as there was no danger to the script, I just dried everything that I could with napkins and prayed that the computer would last for an additional week. It did, but the “e” didn’t function on the keyboard. At first I tried to continue without the “e” as a French writer once did, but then found an old external keyboard and clacked to the end of the book with this.
But any other digital professional will probably never spill her drink and if she does there is probably a super fast service shop next door. Right?
Then there are these countless men in hammocks in the sunshine with laptops on their laps. Doing what? Boiling their nuts off?
So, why do we lie with pictures? Why are these images accepted and spread even by journalists who write about the future of work? Why people seemingly want to move into their screensavers as a piece in Guardian points out and then distribute carefully faked proof that they are actually there?
As we pose at the gates of paradise with devices that have bitten apples on them, we of course follow a cool idea of freedom from all the bad stuff that is associated with office work. We are actually so invested in this idea that it is difficult to admit that some things still suck. Besides that, smeared and broken laptops do not make a pretty picture - although once we did a pretty successful ugly laptop competition in Estonia
Why write about it here? There is a chance that some people actually believe that these pictures are real and I hope that the work done at Teleport will help to cut through the screensaver romanticism and laptop utopias and offer less biased advice for remote work.
P.S Some survival advice if you try to read this on the beach.
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