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Back To School Notes

9/01/2009 09:56:00 AM

Part of the joy of moving (insert sarcasm here) is discovering things that have been tucked away in your closet for years. In my case, this included a Fujitsu laptop I purchased in 1997 before I went to college. Even though I’ve moved about a half-dozen times since graduation, I’ve still toted this oversized paperweight around with me from place to place.

I call it a paperweight for a few reasons: One, I misplaced the battery years ago, and I’ve been too stingy to purchase a replacement. Two, when I was a senior in college, a piece of a floppy disc (there are two words I haven’t typed in a long time) broke off in the drive, rendering it useless. Of course, there is no USB drive.

Some specs:
133HMz Intel Pentium processor
16MB RAM
12.1-inch screen with 800 by 600 resolution
1.3GB hard drive
Windows 95 OS
Weight: 7.6 pounds
Cost in 1997: around $1,800

Although it wasn’t unheard of for a student to have his or her own computer in 1997, anecdotally, I can say that I certainly wasn’t the norm at my New York State school.

I spoke with my sister-in-law, who sent her son off to his first year of college at St. Anselm’s in New Hampshire last week. Although computer ownership isn’t required at the college, the school offers a partnership with Dell allowing students to purchase a laptop at a discounted price, complete with a four-year, on-site warranty.

The specs of the laptop (with no upgrades):
Intel Core 2 Duo processor
1GB RAM
14.1-inch WXGA screen
80GB hard drive
Windows XP Pro OS
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Cost in 2009: $977

My sister-in-law said it seemed as if most of the other incoming freshmen were taking advantage of the program, probably to the consternation of CE retailers that don’t include Dell.

Of course, colleges requiring computers isn’t something new, as evidenced by this Time article from Oct. 21, 1985. Stevens Institute was reportedly the first to require a personal computer — in 1982. What’s interesting to note from this article is that the students are spending about as much as they were 24 years ago, albeit for a desktop:

“Like other entering freshmen, she had been informed that in addition to the first-year fees of about $9,000 for tuition, room and board, she would have to shell out $1,020 for an Apple Macintosh computer and a bundle of software.”

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