There’s nothing like the thrill of hearing the sweet chirp of your computer’s battery monitor telling you that you have three minutes until your computer completely shuts down due to a drained battery. I’ve heard this chirp often lately. It’s hard to tell if my computer’s battery life is getting worse, or if I’m just using it in charger-less situations more frequently. Either way, my computer’s battery lasts for 1.5 hours maximum, and usually less. That chirping noise is supposed to happen when I have 10% battery left, and for some reason is often delayed until I have 5% battery life left, which functionally means that the chirp will happen quite belatedly after my computer has died and been turned back on after being plugged in.
So you would ask why, why would I possibly like this lovely feature? There are three reasons.
First, the computer that I have has worked splendidly. It’s an Acer Aspire 5532. When I bought it brand-new from Best Buy in May of 2010 it was less than $400 including tax. Sure it doesn’t have a web cam, but my old computer didn’t either so I already had one. Yes it only has two USB drives, but that’s enough for filling up my external hard drive, so good enough for me. It has a 17” screen which is fantastic for watching the Daily Show and the other various videos that one might watch online (ie. Baby Sloths). It’s not bad looking either.
Sure, sometimes I get somewhat jealous of people who have MacBook Pros or iMacs, but there is no way that I could ever justify such a purchase. Let’s assume that people replace their computers every 4 years. My <$400 17” screen Acer will average out to less than $100/year, while a $1799 15”MacBook Pro will average $479/year (after tax) and a $1199 13” MacBook Pro will average $319/year (after tax). Even considering the fact that MacBooks have greater resale value, a brief Ebay search indicates that a 4-year-old 15” MacBook Pro can resell for an average of $780, which still results in a yearly loss of $284. I understand that some people do interesting things with their computers, but I don’t and I know that the vast majority of friends and acquaintances with MacBooks use their computers for the same things as I do: listening to iTunes, writing Word documents, checking Facebook obsessively, Googling things, Wikipediaing things, Youtubing things. Which brings me to my next point:
Second, a crappy battery life is an amazing way to meet people at coffee shops. If you frequent coffee shops that have ubiquitous electrical outlets, this does not apply as much. But if you, like me, enjoy independent and local coffee shops with sporadic electrical outlet placement, having a computer with poor battery life provides you with a great excuse to speak with that cute guy or girl sitting next to the nearest outlet.
For example, one day I was at Espresso Royale in Dinkytown, a place infamous for its lack of outlets. I was working away on grading some undergrad discussion forum posts when my computer died without even chirping first. I spent several minutes with computer cord in hand wandering the coffee shop, seeking an elusive outlet. The only one I could find was at a two-person table where a fellow was sitting by himself, working away on his own laptop. I asked if I could share his table and outlet, and he willingly obliged. This fellow, Jesse, was very friendly and the entire endeavor was quite satisfying. We chatted, worked, and watched each other’s computers while the other went to smoke (him) or went to refill a water bottle (me).
This is not necessarily just a tactic for those who are single and looking. There’s something about having a connection with community that has become more and more important to me as I’ve been learning to navigate the world on my own. While being in grad school has blessed me with an abundance of lovely friends and acquaintances, many of them will someday move away and I’ve been especially aware of possibilities for meeting new friends once this happens (and before!).
Third, I’ve been trying to spend my time a lot more wisely lately. I try to do some sort of physical activity every day, usually including at least one hour of yoga and some running or biking. I’ve found that both meditating for 20 minutes every morning and being physically active make my mind more able to focus on work or homework that I might need to finish, which makes me overall more productive than if I had forgone the physical activity and meditation and tried to spend all of that time working. One of the major features of this new lifestyle trend has been to cut down the time I spend online. When your computer unexpectedly dies or starts chirping that it is about to, you are able to assess what you’re doing and evaluate whether that activity warrants the retrieval of a power cord to continue. In many situations I realize that what I’m doing (watching the Colbert report, re-reading Mr. Money Mustache blog posts, looking at friends pictures on Facebook) isn’t something that I really want to spend more time doing, so I leave my computer dead or plug it in and turn it off. Having this time limit helps me be more productive and provides a great reminder for times when the internet sucks me in.
Having a great computer battery life is probably a necessity for some people, but I’ve found that the monetary as well as unexpected social and personal benefits from a poor battery life are not insignificant for me.