The Best Computer I Have Ever Owned

The Best Computer I Have Ever Owned

David Martin in front of an Apple II-E when he was 7 years old
I didn’t own the computer in this picture (it was my parent’s), but I sure remember when I was pecking away at that huge clunky keyboard, green monochrome screen, and loading up games on the dual 5 1/4″ disk drives. The Apple IIE was my first foray into the computer world, and after using this computer I was HOOKED.

After the Apple IIE, we upgraded to a an IBM PS/2 80386 computer with the DOS operating system. We went through several upgrade cycles from the IBM 386 to the 486 then an upgrade to a Pentium, and a Pentium II. Throughout the various upgrade cycles, the peripherals (mice, keyboards, etc) and the computer hardware evolved and the technology got better with every generation.

In the summer of 1999, I was preparing to enter my freshman year of college at Indiana University. In high school, at my first job I took over the paper route from my sisters, then moved into the BIG money waiting tables at Steak ‘n Shake. Saving money was pretty easy and I had managed to save up enough cash to buy 10 cheap gaming headsets (under $50) and sold them for profit and contributing that to my first computer. I was able to find a great deal (Thanks Bob) on a Pentium III 500mhz Compaq Presario computer with a matching 17″ Compaq monitor and a “business class” HP 970cxi DeskJet printer. I also received a Intel Pro PC Webcam for my birthday later that year which would be an awesome accessory to chat and play games with. There was a basketball game and a bubble popping game that came bundled on the webcam CD software that turned out to be a BLAST to play. The motion based gaming with the Intel webcam and the included software was the precursor to the Microsoft Kinect peripheral, one of last year’s hottest Christmas gifts.

After about two years, according to Moore’s Law it was time to upgrade my computer. Maybe, subconsciously it was those “Dude, it’s a Dell” commercials that lead me to buy one. Or maybe not. I already had my Blue light blocking glasses, so I was ready. I ended up purchasing a Dell Dimension 4400, Pentium 4 – 2.0ghz computer with 256mb of RAM and a 64mb video card. The hinge design of the computer made it easy to open the machine up to upgrade the hardware. I added more RAM (which is usually the best way to speed up your computer), installed a Sony DRU-500A DVD/CD burner, added a wireless LAN card, added a USB 2.0 card, upgraded the keyboard and mouse to a wireless Logitech system, upgraded the video card, and made countless improvements to the system software. This computer certainly ranks as one of the best computers that I have owned and provided me thousands of hours of endless enjoyment.

In addition to the Dell Dimension 4400, I began to develop my website design business and needed a portable laptop computer. After a lot of careful research, I bought a Compaq Presario R3000 laptop computer from Circuit City. The design was sleek, silver, and was powerful enough to become a desktop replacement. Unfortunately, that model of computer was one of several computers that fell victim to a faulty Power Adapter that wasn’t soldered correctly to the motherboard. The fix cost a few hundred dollars, but luckily I was reimbursed by a class action settlement. Shortly after getting the power adapter fixed, I began looking at a laptop replacement.

After owning the Dell Dimension 4400 desktop computer for several years, I decided that it was time to upgrade to a new computer with more RAM to watch streaming videos on Youtube and to find a computer that could handle more processor intensive applications. I decided to follow the advice of my “better half” and see if an Apple computer was really all it was cracked up to be. Being a price conscious and an avid deal hunter, I wanted to get the Apple experience without breaking the bank and was happy to find an outstanding deal on a Mac Mini for only $519.99.

The Mac Mini was such a wonderful choice as a desktop Microsoft Windows PC replacement. I remember rushing home from work when it came in so that I could get it all setup before my softball game was to start that evening. After plugging in my 24″ 1080p Sceptre monitor that I ordered from, I quickly learned what “plug-and-play” really means: You plug it in and then play! It took me 15 minutes from opening the box until I was ready to open a web browser and use the computer. I was so used to inserting a DVD in a PC, the being prompted with no less than 10 different options. It was simply amazing when I put a DVD in the Mini it immediately played the disc and bypassed the menu. The ease of use, no questions asked, simplicity of design is why Apple is so successful today. I was reluctantly being convinced that this was the future of computing.

Now that my home technology needs were taken care of with the Mac Mini and my son using the older Dimension 4400, it was now time to focus on upgrading the Compaq R3000 “web design” laptop to a newer, more powerful machine. Thanks to Craigslist, I found an Indiana University student that really needed some cash and was willing to sell his laptop at a very affordable price ($700). At the time, I had never heard of Asus, but based on the specs (1.86GHZ Core 2 Duo with 2GBRAM, ATI Radeon 512mb video, Windows XP Premium, integrated 1024 x 768 Webcam, Biometric fingerprint reader) and the reviews, I knew it was a great deal.

The Asus was a great computer, despite having Windows Vista on it. Windows Vista, according to most critics was Microsoft’s worst operating system ever. I didn’t have a lot of problems as long as I kept Vista current with updates, but there was the occasional crash of my important programs that was very frustrating. I was very happy with this system, but I was keeping my eye out for an upgrade to one of the new Core i3,i5, and i7 chipsets that Intel had just released. I sold the Asus to a nice lady who needed a very simple computer for web browsing and the occasional Word document. She got all the bells and whistles and was very happy with the computer and that I set it up for her. (Along with her wireless router and DSL modem). Shortly after selling the Asus laptop, I found a great deal at the Microsoft Store on a Dell laptop.

My current “web design” business computer is a Dell Studio XPS 15.6″ laptop. It has a 2.66GHZ Intel Core i5 processor with 3GB of RAM, 1 GB Nvidia Video Card, an HDMI port, and a 15.4″ LED screen. It has 3 USB ports, a Firewire port, dual headphone jacks, and an HD webcam. The XPS line is Dell’s top of the line model, it is sleek, very well designed, and sturdy. The only major fault I have with it is that the screen actually touches the keyboard and may cause scratches to the monitor. Through a separate website, I was able to purchase a custom fit micro-fiber cloth for $20 to lay over the keyboard every time I close it. I also use the cloth to clean the glossy finish. Cleaning the laptop everytime is tedious but when it is free of fingerprints it looks pretty slick. The HD LED screen, really fast processor, ample hard drive space, and all of the features make it the best laptop computer I have owned.

In May, I decided to sell the maxed out 2GB Mac Mini and purchase a newer, thinner Mac Mini with an upgraded processor and the capability to upgrade to 8GB of RAM. For $780, I was able to get the perfect companion to my new Toshiba 55WX800U Cinema Series 55″ class 1080p 240Hz 3D LED TV and upgrade to a 55″ desktop computer in my living room. This is the future of TV.

In June 2010, I was one of the early adopters who decided to purchase an iPad. After finding out that AT&T was going to no longer offer unlimited data plans on their mobile 3G network, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I decided to purchase the 32GB iPad ($729) with 3G wireless access and bought the accompanying $29.99 unlimited AT&T data plan to be “grandfathered” in.

Apple’s App Store was my new best friend. I found so many great free apps. A few of my favorite apps: Toy Story Read Along, the Google Mobile App, Netflix, the NPR app, Pandora, AIM, Dropbox, FlipBoard, iBooks, Twitter, Soundrop, Amazon WindowShop, Google Earth, Appshopper, Find My iPhone, Friendly for Facebook, TED, and Virtuoso Piano.

With the custom A4 Apple chip and a very efficient LED screen the iPad’s battery lasts nearly all day. One question that always seems to come up in conversation about it, is “Am I going to be able to use it as a desktop/laptop replacement?” The answer is both yes, and no. Yes, I can attach a bluetooth keyboard to it to write papers, I can use many different apps create graphics with it (I am awesome at drawing stick figures), and I can listen to music, play games, and watch movies on it. While all of these things are possible, it really isn’t designed to replace a laptop or a desktop. It falls into a completely different category than both of these.

One reason the iPad is so successful is because of it’s convenience. It isn’t very convenient to plug a wireless 3G USB modem into a laptop and use it in my car as a GPS. Can I do this with the iPad? Easily. If I am in the kitchen and ooking for some cooking inspiration I use the stand built into my iPad case, prop it up on the counter, and surf the AllRecipes app to find delicious recipes to whip up. Then, I switch over to the Pandora app and load up some “Happy Together” radio to accompany me. It’s so easy and fun with the touch interface.

My 3 year old daughter uses the iPad almost every day to watch Dora on Netflix, to learn her ABC’s from a few different education apps, and she loves to put puzzles together. The touch interface is so intuitive that the learning curve for anyone using it is virtually measured in seconds.

The simplicity of the user interface, the long lasting battery, bright LED screen, Wifi, 3G wireless, and the portability of the iPad easily make it the best computer that I have ever owned. I have no buyer’s remorse of spending $780 on the best computer I have ever had. The versatility of the iPad is amazing as it can be used as a gaming computer, a business device, a music player, a video player, a phone (I can make and receive calls), and more. While it is the best computer I have ever owned, I must say that it is not perfect. There are a few items (dual cameras, lighter, thinner) that will be addressed by the iPad 2, due to be introduced on March 2nd, 2011.

In closing, I am very excited for the future of tablet computing. The new Motorola Xoom tablet looks to be Apple’s biggest competitor when it hits the market. Google’s Honeycomb Android Operating System is a very slick competitor to Apple’s iOS found in the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad devices. Touch computing and gesture based computing are great innovations in the 21st century and the future looks very bright. I wonder what I will upgrade to next. 🙂

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