My laptop history and usage

My laptop history.   My first laptop information carrier, after passing from 8-bit punched paper tape via 80-byte Hollerith cards and 80-Mbyte magnetic tape reels to floppies of various kinds, was an Atari ST-Book bought secondhand in 1993, a complete 8-MHz 1-Mbyte Atari ST computer in a slim, lightweight, silent form with six hours battery life, a fantastic machine.  Only 400 were sold, of which two in Holland.  I used mine happily to latex articles, course notes, and this website until its battery gave out in 1998.  Its replacement was a many-kilo Dell Inspiron 7000 "Schlepptopf" running Redhat.  It was too heavy to carry in a rugsack so that its power inlet broke from rattling on my bicycle carrier in 2002.  I replaced it with a marvelous 1-kg Toshiba Portégé 2000.  By that time I gave up relying on my institute's computer experts for support; instead, Debian was installed and maintained by a helpful and most knowledgeable graduate student.  When the Toshiba died in 2007 from a keyboard spill, he had left to postdoc elsewhere and advised me to transfer to a Mac as "Rob-proof" unix replacement.  I did so, but quickly got fed up with the MacBook Pro's unix-deviant and unix-hiding idiotsyncracies, its weight, and its bad keyboard.  So, even though MacBook Pro's then became the fashion in my line of work, in March 2009 I decided to switch back to a lightweight Toshiba running straight linux.  This time I dared to rely on Google alone for installation just by myself.  It worked; Google may indeed replace graduate students.  This post resulted from this non-trivial but eventually successful exercise.  I then became much happier with the Toshiba than I ever was with the Mac; a considerable boost of my daily life.

My laptop usage.   As an astronomer I use latex for all my writing:  articles (with BibTeX, see Bibtex and ADS), proposals, reports, course notes and problems and examinations, letters, websites (latex2html), and talks (pdflatex).  As a solar physicist I program in IDL with the SolarSoft library.  I use emacs as editor, mutt for email, xfig for drawing, xv for image inspection, acroread for reading and presentations.  All ancient but robust, reliable, and thoroughly familiar.  I do almost all my work, mostly reading and writing, on my laptop, using a remote server mainly for backup and to provide my websites (including this one) and weblinks into my work directories for collaborators.  I carry my laptop everywhere and type (or search) notes all the time.  Next to my notes, work, and a lot of data, this veritable "information carrier" also contains thousands of downloaded abstracts and hundreds of downloaded articles on my research topics.  I find my way in it not by GUI buttons but via the terminal command line, using many shortcut aliases and the locate command.