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Slog laptop

The corollary of the current trend in fun devices
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Many devices enable one to do both fun stuff and tedious stuff together, examples being conventional desktop PCs and Macs. Other devices emphasise the fun, for instance games consoles, mini-tablets, mobile 'phones, and it's quite hard to get them to do things like let you write reports and similar long serious screeds, do your accounts, pay your bills and the like. Having devices oriented towards socialising and entertainment is fine - specialising in functions that way seems rather appropriate.

However, if you have a problem with attention span, staying on-task and the like, you have no device which caters to your needs. You have the fun distraction and PCs and laptops which dangle the temptation of YouTube, this place, pictures of cats, music and so on in front of you, and it ruins your life because you cannot resist that temptation in the end, so bye-bye productivity.

So, here's my idea: just as there are IT devices which filter out the slog, so should there be IT devices which filter out the fun. I envisage a boring old laptop which displays text in one-bit colour, has no graphics or sound (not even a beep or a click), no optical drive, no multimedia and no web capability. It has a socket for a memory stick, built-in applications on its firmware which let you edit text and maybe format it to a very limited degree, a spreadsheet with limited capabilities, a calculator, and a pure command-line based interface. It also has a wireless internet connection, but only so you can pay bills, file tax returns and send in forms - it will not do hyperlinks. Even text-based arcade games are impossible because it behaves like a glass teletype - no cursor control. It's a dull brown-green khaki colour and has a dull green on brown display.

The reason for making it especially boring in the last few respects is to avoid the temptation to hack or tinker. I am slightly afraid, even as i type this, that i'm interested in the challenge of getting it to do something it shouldn't, and that i could've typed this very idea on it, which slightly interests me.

An old conventional laptop or other device does not fill this role because such a computer would be worn out in one way or another - knackered battery, dodgy keyboard, and more importantly, the challenge of making it work in the modern world would be there. No. I want this to be dull, dull, dull. I need this.

It should be fairly cheap, but not ridiculously so because the money saved on not making it "good" should be lavishly splashed out on making it ergonomic. In spite of being boring, it should be a pleasure to use, with a nice keyboard, good viewing angle and various features which encourage good posture, lack of tingly finger things and so on. So it's a nice laptop but it's absolutely yawn-inspiring.

nineteenthly, Feb 21 2012

VT05 http://www.youtube....watch?v=7ND6oLXocR0
Nice case... [normzone, Feb 21 2012]

//I want boredom// http://www.youtube....watch?v=imbwn6iVryQ
When I'm in that mood, I find this helps. [mouseposture, Feb 21 2012]

[link]






       //like a glass teletype ... avoid the temptation to hack or tinker// You think a vanilla CLI is a disincentive to hack or tinker? The VT-102 was a glass teletype ... 'nuf said.
mouseposture, Feb 21 2012
  

       Yes, but there are more boring operating systems than VMS or whatever. I don't envisage anything even as sophisticated as CP/M with this, more like the Dartmouth Time Sharing System or something. No batch files, no scripts, you just type a word and it does it.   

       Anyway, go for the VT52? Or that long flat thing whose name escapes me.
nineteenthly, Feb 21 2012
  

       Isn't this how most laptops were until the 2000s? Why not get an old laptop? I have a 1997 Dell Latitude with some missing keys that I could part with... for a price. I promise that the battery is perfect though and everything is in working order.
DIYMatt, Feb 21 2012
  

       Because perfectly good old laptops are too interesting and ones which are broken are a challenge. Incompatible laptops are also a challenge. I want boredom. This house is chock-full of interesting and characterful computers from a bygone age. It's not what i want.
nineteenthly, Feb 21 2012
  

       I've got a Toshiba Satellite at my desk; runs Ubuntu 10.04, and the video is only reliable running tty. It doesn't meet your caveats, of course, but for most of the read of your idea I have been sitting here thinking "hey, Tosh, he's talking about you..."
lurch, Feb 21 2012
  

       Well, i do have a Toshiba laptop of some description with a plasma screen knocking about which i use for this kind of thing sometimes - it's a 286 - but i also wasted a lot of time getting it on the internet because of the whole challenge thing. This is the problem. It has to be crap, but not crap enough to be a temptation.   

       The long flat thing was a VT05 incidentally.
nineteenthly, Feb 21 2012
  

       //I want boredom// And you think you can achieve this through technology. A futile quest, because the fault, dear Brutus, etc. etc. Actually, there might be a technological fix, but it probably involves either pharmacology or neurosurgery.
mouseposture, Feb 21 2012
  

       // the fun distraction and PCs and laptops which dangle the temptation of ... pictures of cats, //   

       ARM ALL WEAPONS SYSTEMS !   

       // It has to be crap, but not crap enough to be a temptation. //   

       Just about any Microsoft operating system since MS-DOS 2.1 then ....   

       // there might be a technological fix, but it probably involves either pharmacology or neurosurgery. //   

       Being Assimilated into the Borg Collective is a bit of both ...
8th of 7, Feb 21 2012
  

       I suggest Free BSD. It would meet all the requirements. >.>
Psalm_97, Feb 21 2012
  

       My admittedly limited experience of BSD was that it didn't work at all.
nineteenthly, Feb 21 2012
  

       Like we said, just about any Microsoft operating system since MS-DOS 2.1 then ....
8th of 7, Feb 21 2012
  

       Your aim is admirable. However, I think this will wind up like the attempt to make stabbing-proof kitchen knives. That is to say: any tool powerful enough to do waht you want it to do is, in the hands of a suffciently creative or determined user, powerful enough to do stuff you don't want it to do. People have gotten Windows running on iMacs, for no more reason than that they *can*.
gisho, Feb 21 2012
  

       Isn't there a modern pc DOS ?
FlyingToaster, Feb 22 2012
  

       // You have the fun distraction and PCs and laptops which dangle the temptation of YouTube, this place, pictures of cats, music and so on in front of you //   

       Disable your wireless modem. It does wonders for productivity and keeps your computer squeaky-clean.
Alterother, Feb 22 2012
  

       //People have gotten Windows running on iMacs, for no more reason than that they *can*.//   

       I know some people like that and I do not understand them. But the same mentality has brought about some marvelous advances in the Linux world. I do not understand the mentality, I do not share it, but as an end-user I am glad some people have it. :-D   

       But I still think they are odd...   

       //Disable your wireless modem.//   

       Ding! You can even permanently disable it with nothing but a screwdriver and some brute force.
Psalm_97, Feb 22 2012
  

       There's always temptation. I remember running across instructions for both hardware and software to interface an Apple II to a Bessemer converter.
lurch, Feb 22 2012
  

       I am glad I was not around when that was tried. I'm sure someone actually tried it.   

       Remember the "Magic/More Magic" switch?
Psalm_97, Feb 22 2012
  

       Come to think of it, isn't this partly to do with Turing completeness or something? Any computer can do anything any computer can do. So, maybe this would need to be designed in such a way that it only appears to be a computer. A mechanical typewriter is probably not a computer in any sensible way, so what's needed is some kind of device which can do arithmetic but perhaps not algebra, and process text, but in a way that is in some way incomplete or inadequate. Maybe it's more analogue than digital but can access the internet and the memory stick through an A to D converter?
nineteenthly, Feb 22 2012
  
      
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