Stonehenge: riddle of the ages and a reminder that mankind's ingenuity constantly exceeds our expectations - enduring war, revolution, winter and summer.
My Compaq Armada notebook: a reminder that mankind's ingenuity dates in about nine months when it's built around an Intel chip. Enduring several cab rides, two plane trips and the journey up and down the stairs, two weeks ago I knackered it by tripping over the mains cord in a hotel room and cracking the screen.
Of course, comparing the two isn't strictly fair. You can't predict where the sun's going to rise on Midsummer's day using a Compaq notebook, or anyone else's for that matter. And Stonehenge doesn't have an internal CD-Rom drive. But Stonehenge, unlike a 1998 model notebook, was built to last.
Five miles up the road from Stonehenge found this product columnist hanging out with the Royal Signals, looking at a notebook computer that doesn't
break when you trip over the mains cord. The Army Tactical Computer (ATACS) costs #15,000, is the size of a small suitcase, and can be dropped from a height of two metres onto concrete without breaking. I asked the sergeant to do this, but he's not that stupid, so he wouldn't. I wanted to have a look at what it does, but I can't because people like me can't be trusted.
I might tell all of you, and then the Royal Signals would have to kill you. Imagine the headlines: 'Thousands of resellers slain in military operation - cull means columnist unable to replace cracked screen.'
It just doesn't bear thinking about.
Now the army's notebooks may be able to stop a speeding bullet, which isn't strictly relevant to most civilian executives, although it might play well in Italy, South Africa and certain central American countries.
But the basic design shows that the army knows a few things about computing which Toshiba, Compaq, IBM and others have forgotten.
A personal example: in a hotel room, the mains plug and the phone plug will invariably be on the opposite side of the room. This means that picking up your email when drunk will inevitably result in tripping over the mains cord. Even with the stumpy tables you get in hotels, this will crack your TFT screen. So if you ever meet a drunk Royal Signaller in a hotel, you can be assured his laptop isn't broken.
You won't be able to use his ATACS to pick up your email though, because you're not allowed to see the screen, and frankly he's got better things to do than read email to a drunk.
To summarise: the real sales story for a busy globetrotting executive is to admit that sooner or later they will undoubtedly knacker their notebook computer through doing something drastic like closing it roughly or spilling some coffee on it.
Either you sell them an ex-military declassified ATACS instead or, for the same price, 10 ordinary, disposable laptops. Or even just a longer cable.
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