Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Du Hast

While I work with a lot of technology, I rarely feel the need or desire to get my hands on the latest device or tool. Notice I wrote rarely. Sometimes an urge overtakes me and I can’t but go with it.

One time I did just that was when I bought one of the first netbooks. I liked it. A lot.

What struck me most about the netbook wasn’t its utility but the general attitude towards them. Far too many people, including those who should have known better, thought that netbooks were intended to be a full-blown replacement for desktop computers or laptops, and that they could do everything a desktop or laptop could. That definitely wasn’t the case.

In fact, netbooks were intended to do the jobs that today’s tablets do. It’s interesting to see how the so-called limitations of the netbook have been forgiven and, it seems, positively embraced with tablets.

Back when they came out, people derided and even dismissed the ability for netbooks to help you do any work. In my case, I found my netbook to be a wonderful productivity tool — it let me work without having to lug around a larger laptop. But most people didn’t see it that way. They dismissed netbooks as being underpowered toys.

Flash forward a few years. Tablets, which have pretty much the same limitations as netbooks, aren’t just being embraced. They’ve become part of the digital lifestyle of a large number of people. Myself included.

It’s definitely a case of attitudes and opinions being flipped around — from not having and hating, to not having and liking. Some of that can be attributed to the number of apps that are available for tablets of all stripes. But even when netbooks had their heyday, there were plenty of desktop and web-based apps that enabled you to do most kinds of work.

Maybe the change in attitude also comes from the novelty factor of tablets. I’m not saying that they’re flash-in-the-pan, but they’re new. For most people, they’re kind of exotic. Something out of science fiction come to life. For many people, tablets are more for consuming rather than creating content (although this is slowly changing). They don’t expect tablets to be able to run Microsoft Word or to be used for serious work. Instead, tablets are used to check email and social media accounts, to view photos, to read, and that sort of thing. Everything that a netbook could do. And a bit more than a netbook could to, to be honest.

It’s interesting to see how attitudes about some things change, and how quickly. While I’ve become a tablet guy, I still see the utility and effectiveness of other devices (like netbooks). The key isn’t simply embracing the right technology — that will be different from person to person. The key is embracing the limitations of the technology you’re working with and knowing how to best use it to your advantage.

Note about the title: I took the title of this post from a song of the same name by the German industrial metal band Rammstein (of which a good friend of mine is a huge fan). Du hast is German for you have. But, if pronounced with a longer s (Du Hasst), it becomes you hate.

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