I found this story particularly interesting this morning.
My first thought was this quote attributed to Mark Twain.
The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/mark_twain_141773
There are many angles on this thing had my mind racing.
I’ve long been a user of Windows on the desktop. It was the platform of choice for my school district(s). As such, I always had a computer at my fingertips courtesy of my employer. Of course, it wasn’t Windows as we know and love it. Controls were put on the operating system so that you couldn’t customize it or install your own software. Your typical educational environment.
So, I suspect like many teachers, I bought my own for use at home. Over the course of a career, it added up to quite a number of computers. And like most technology (particularly with Windows computers), they got slower over time and the technology vastly improved from year to year. In my mind, all of this made it important to continually upgrade. I recall even suggesting to an Member of Parliament once that a teacher who purchases a computer for use at home should have it made tax deductible. The challenge was proving that it wasn’t a family computer, I was told.
As a Computer Science teacher without a textbook, I would have to come up with activities and assignments on my own. Despite my grumbling, it was actually a fun activity. I would also write my own solutions to every problem so that I got a sense of how long it takes to solve and also to make sure that there wasn’t a topic that hadn’t been taught that was required for a solution. At times, it seemed like I was doing homework for six courses every night.
In the middle of all this, there came a real significant shift from Imperative to Object-Oriented Programming. It’s not the sort of thing that you learn by reading a book. Having a home computer was such a big asset. I don’t know how I could have survived otherwise.
But, given my current use of computers, I don’t have the same needs. Like so many, my digital life revolves around a good browser. Over a year ago, I decided to solve another problem I had – an iPad that has become just about completely unusable. Even when it was usable, it was terribly slow. So, I went out in search of a Chromebook that ran Android apps. This was to be my new tablet.
I wish that I could report that it was success from first powerup but I’d be lying if I said it was. Out of the box, the Chromebook didn’t support Android. So, my first step was to get it so that it would work. That meant installing the Beta of Chrome OS. From there I was off.
It wasn’t that the applications didn’t work. They did. Sometimes in a size that would be suitable for a phone. Other times, it would go full screen. Sometimes I could even decide! By flipping back the screen, it became a touch enable device with a very high resolution. The biggest issue for me was a 13 inch screen that seemed too big.
Meanwhile, back on the Chrome OS side of things, I was stuck with a traditional desktop mindset. I felt like a fish out of the water not having a program for everything. If you’ve ever seen my Windows computers, you know that I’m a hoarder of software. So many programs; so much functionality; so much duplication…
I was starting to really wonder whether I’d made the right decision or not.
The turning point for me came at the CSTA Conference in Baltimore last summer. I decide that, if I was going to do this, I was going to prove to myself that I could either do it or not do it. Normally, when I go to conferences – and particularly computer science conferences – I take at least two computers with me. And a tablet. This time around, it was just me and my Chromebook. What about applications? I’d already been on the path to the light and had local applications like OneNote installed so I’d be good without wifi. Pleasantly, McNamara Terminal at DTW had free wifi. What was I worried about?
How about on the plane? I don’t tend to do much work on the plane but the bluetooth connected to my headset and played some tunes for the flight.
At the conference, there was wifi everywhere and everything that I needed to do was easily accessible. All my conference notes, the committee planning sheets, my volunteer schedule – all nicely available. Playing with a Micro:bit in a session? No problem. There was only one thing I couldn’t do and that was to participate in a Java workshop. It wasn’t the end of the world because I was also proctoring it. I returned home convinced that I had made the right decision.
Things only got better from that point on. Oh, I still fire up my old Windows laptop but it’s usually just to access some files that I’ve got stored there and to allow it to update itself. The updates always seem to come at the wrong time, unlike the Chromebook that just wants to reboot itself when a new version of the OS arrives.
So, back to the article. Windows died at home? Perhaps dying is a little harsh. There are still a number of legacy computer things that I’m more comfortable with on a Windows computer that keeps me coming back. But, if I was to just start out now, I’d be quite comfortable doing just about everything I need to on this Chromebook.
It’s come a long way in such a short period of time. Will it mark a death in the way computers are used at home?