Click, Clack: A Computer With Enemies
NEWS FOR THE WEEKEND
At first glance, the gray Apple Powerbook doesn't look like a threat. After all, it's small (measuring but a foot across and weighing a modest seven pounds), and it exists to help students.
But in libraries and lecture halls, the first rumblings of a backlash against users of this seemingly harmless piece of technology are being heard.
As more and more students purchase the Macintosh laptops, the clickety-clack of noisy typing emanating from the machines has attracted the ire of those students who still press pen to paper.
David W. Harrison '97 says he gets irritated during reading period when Powerbook users ignore the "million signs" posted by libraries restricting laptop" use to certain areas.
"It really makes it hard to study," says Harrison, who wonders if Powerbook users lack the requisite reading skills to understand the restriction signs.
Using a Powerbook can make the users as uncomfortable as those around them. Some students say that when they take out their portable computers, people treat them as though they have a mile form of leprosy.
Powerbook user Edith A. Replogle '96 says she gets "dirty looks" when she uses her collapsible computer in the proper areas of the library.
"I feel uncomfortable, even though it's legal technically," Replogle says.
Replogle says she is so self-conscious about her Powerbook that she sometimes feels guilty using it even when no one else is around. And Peggy H. Nguyen '94, who uses her Powerbook to take notes in lecture, says some students purposely avoid sitting next to her because she is carrying a Powerbook.
But Sydney J. Freedberg '95, another Powerbook user, says such cold-shoulder treatment isn't much of a problem. "One person once in lecture said I was typing too loud, so I stopped typing so loud," Freedberg says. "It wasn't dramatic."
But while some hate users for their noise, others rely on them for their notes. Nguyen says that while some students isolate her, others purposely sit close by in order to copy the notes they missed.
"I get more positive reaction than negative," says Nguyen, adding that she uses the computer because it helps her focus and keeps her from falling asleep. "There are some people annoyed by it, and some people think it's the coolest [thing] in the world."
Undergraduate libraries are currently trying to avert a conflict between those who use and those who don't by segregating the potential combatants.
Lamount Library last month installed electrical outlets next to carrels on the second floor. Library officials have dedicated the area to computer users and renamed it the Lamount Laptop Loge. Jon Lanham '70, associate librarian at Lamont, says the Loge was created in response to a large number of complaints made last semester about the noisy typing from laptop users.
Widener Library encourages Powerbook users to work at the east end of the reading room, and Hilles Library relegates laptop users to the typing rooms on the first, second and third floors.
Not all libraries are so willing to compromise, thought. The Winthrop House Library banned the machines in January because of excessive clicking, says library attendant Shataia L. Brown '94.
But these may be mere stop-gap measures, which offer little long-term relief for students inconvenienced by the growing number of Powerbooks.
Frank A. Urso, consulting manager at the Technology Product Center, says Powerbooks made up almost 50 percent of Macintosh computer sales at the beginning of the academic year.
Whatever the side effects, it's clear that academic life will never be the same. Janna J. Hansen '97 says that sometimes when an error appears on her screen, her Powerbook 165c will embarrass her by yelping a programmed message--"moose caboose!"--out into the silence of the library.
"Clicking is just a way of life now," says Joan Duckett, head of reference at Langdell Library. "Some people can't function without a computer."