Laptops: The window to your soul

Image credit: dougbelshaw

They wish us good morning, cheer us up with pictures of our family and pets, and remind us of that family birthday we almost forgot. No, I’m not speaking of your best friend, but your laptop.

Yet, in today’s society, the two are largely alike. While we may be loath to draw comparisons between a machine and our wonderful living, breathing friends, it is almost impossible to deny that we treat and value them in similar ways. This should not be surprising: our laptops are at the heart of our student lives here in Cambridge and we use them daily to write essays, type lecture notes – and submit articles to TCS!

Far from being mere academic tools, however, they inevitably become part of our own selves – externalisations of our personalities onto a screen. I am not one to stereotype and know that we should not judge a (Mac)book by its (plastic) cover, but these devices genuinely are emblematic of our personalities. Parallels between character traits and the way we organise and customise our laptops fascinates psychoanalysts, and they have made many rather frighteningly insightful observations. Uploaded a plain blue wallpaper? Then you are probably someone who prefers to keep your personal life private. Often have many icons open? This reveals your disorganisation and inner insecurity.

It’s fascinating to look around lecture halls and see the various ways in which adoring owners customise and care for their laptops. The first extreme are those who live in the virtual world. The laptops owned by these technophiles are brilliant, sleek devices. Adorned with the most up-to-date accessories and polished to perfection, woe betide you if you should leave fingerprints or – shock horror – a scratch on the screen.

At the other end of the scale, there are those whose laptops must have steel reinforcements because, no matter how many times they are tossed rashly into rucksacks or have their screens slapped shut, they just don’t seem to break. These battle-ready machines are often the possessions of similar spontaneous wildcards. I am referring to those who live in the moment: they leave the house at the last minute yet always catch their train, they toss their cam-card in their back pocket but never lose it. They could probably drop their laptops from the top of the UL tower and STILL not break them.

Yet, I suggest that there is more to these free spirits than meets the eye. You may have noticed that they often tattoo their laptop covers with indie decal, slogans, and other emblems in an apparently haphazard array. However, look closely and you will see that the aesthetic finish is flawless: anyone would think that the owner had spent hours re-tweaking their arrangement before finally peeling off the adhesive tape and sticking them down. Well, that’s because they have. The air of spontaneity is deceptive; below the surface, they are just as conscious of appearances as the rest of us.

Finally, I turn to the category to which I belong. Our laptops are homebodies – you won’t see them about much. Like a good pair of walking shoes, they are sturdy and practical, but far too bulky to slip into a rucksack. A trip out for my machine would mean me cycling to Sidgwick looking like a camel. And getting backache.

It’s indisputable: we love our laptops. Yes, we may threaten to throw them out of the window when the Wi-Fi goes down (why does this always happen when the essay deadline is only a few hours away?!), but, like a best friend, we wouldn’t have them any other way.

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