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As Long as We Remember...

February 22, 2010

Labyrinth of Laptops

Steven R. Berryman

Heading for Best Buy with son Paul on Saturday night seemed like a good idea, especially as I was without reliable keyboard and mouse, thanks to my wireless setup gentrifying.


I also needed my usual stack of printer cartridges – such a profit center – and paper to feed the monster.


The “big box” superstore for all things modern in toys got me so turned around that it wasn’t until hours after getting home…that I had any realization of having virtually forgotten to even look at what I came to purchase, let alone make the acquisition.


Lost in thought and exploring with Paul had been most entertaining.


Truthfully I had been ignoring any visitations to Best Buy, as after 20-something years in consumer electronics and big box retail, I knew my weaknesses well.


“He who dies with the most toys wins” was written for T-shirts with me in mind!


Not the least of my trepidations here involved my having interviewed for a district manager position with these guys 12 years ago when they were in hot competition with Circuit City. They won, and the guys from Richmond are gone now.


Distraction one is the sheer size of this place, a brilliantly lit and laid-out floor plan. The Las Vegas casino of consumer electronics and software superstores! I found Paul reading movie and music titles in multiple rows, just inside the main entrance. I started to lose the brain about then.


Blu-Ray disc or DVD/CD version? The industry had learned nothing from the format wars of Beta vs. VHS!


We took a right after running into large kitchen appliances – my wife’s specialty at SEARS – and got to the north side of all that is digital and/or computer. We were now directly adjacent to the audio systems that we had variously called stereo or even hi-fi in the past. Necessarily I averted all eye contact.


Paul needed some Norton Antivirus protection, as his computer was heavily invaded now, and we surely could have purchased it on-line; but what fun would that have been?


The yellow box was $39.99 for a year, highway robbery, the need for which was probably planted by a secret sister corporation or the like…creating their own demand…


I checked out software allowing for use of three computer monitor screens at the same time, as I use two at home, and foresee the use of more there and at work converting construction documents for estimating. Turns out you do it by adding two extra graphics driver cards, with two outputs each.


Geeky, huh?


Next aisle of toys down was the holy grail of things that will connect your human interface with the Internet. Cell phones, iPhones, ear-phones, and I probably missed the nose-phones. I will need a laptop soon.


There were three entire rows of laptops! A labyrinth.


Me, doing more writing than ever – an addiction now – things with keyboards were it. Small things were for thumbs, so I passed them over….for now, and got to the new breed of little laptops.


Not being a “mini-me,” my starting point in browsing was anything with a full sized keyboard. The 10-inch mini-laptops, a new breed, were just too small, and 11-point type looked like ants running across the pages.


Son Paul found a Compaq running around $349 with a full set-up, and he instructed me that they all have built-in wireless connection capabilities…silly me for not knowing that!


Nice screens at that price, typically 14 inches measured diagonally or so. An 8 by 11 inch piece of paper opens to almost full page width with these. And I could read it.


So, with this as entry-level consideration, I found that for a few hundred bucks more, extra speed and memory capacity can be added. For about triple the base price, the guys over at the Apple display case will agree to begin talking to you!


Paul and I ended up playing with the full sized PC systems with big touch screens, starting about $699. Big and non-portable, it was nonetheless, like Star Trek come to life. Touch a field here, drag and drop there. Truly amazing!


Close to the exit now, we had almost made it. Quick trip through the checkout and out the door, with just the Norton Antivirus box, Paul had agreed to pay half, and so it was done.


After a stop at Chick-Fil-A and Border’s Books, we took the direct route up North Market Street home to Dearbought and admired the building-to-building snow removal. The streets were packed with pedestrians, thrilled to be out.


Felt smug back home, just in time to get into it on Facebook…


’Til I remembered what I had headed out to Best Buy for in the first place!


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