Thursday, June 12, 2008

One part of the American dream that's getting smaller, lighter, easier to carry and less expensive


On a bike tour, I remember wandering into Starbucks to see if there was a computer for checking email. "You have to bring your own laptop to use WiFi," says the clerk. That was in the "classy" Stanford Shopping Center, near Palo Alto, CA.

Laptops were expensive and too heavy to carry on my bicycle, back then. Too heavy along with my tent, sleeping bag and so forth. Most shoppers darted in an out of jewelry stores buying gems for their lovers and driving SUVs back to their $500,000 starter homes.

With chain grease on my face, I felt like some street person wandering into that mall.

Kind of like a street person, but then I called someone from my new cellphone. A prepaid cellphone for just the summer.

It was my bike trip of 2004.

Now it's 2008 as people find they really can't afford $500,000 starter homes and SUVs are being dumped for gas prices. My bicycle still rolls and now there's a computer small enough to fit.

The Asus EeePC.

I paid well under $500 including sales tax. Less than many folks pay each month for rent. Now I can surf the web, watch Youtube, check email, use Skype at WiFi connections. Lightweight PC fits on my bike.

Runs Linux. It's a free operating system created by volunteers. I saved money by not installing Windows, which you have to pay extra for. Linux does the job.

I also looked at a few other even smaller gems, like the Apple IPod touch. The Asus really impresses me and I have often wanted to venture into the world of Linux.

Thanks to libraries for use of their computers while traveling, but more and more of the private Internet cafes require you lug along your own computer for their WiFi these days. Libraries are great, but they're often closed in the small towns I go through.

Computers keep getting smaller and cheaper. Now, even "car free," bicycling me can travel with one.

Fits in a pannier and slim enough to put other things around it.

Now if we can just learn to make "smaller and better" a mantra for other parts of the so called American dream, we can still make progress on this small planet.

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