Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Laptop Computers Take Your Office on the Road

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Laptop Computers Take Your Office on the Road

Article excerpt

Laptop computers take your office on the road

Laptops have become the machine of choice for people who need to work at home or in transit. In fact, today's laptops can serve as your only computer, if you find yourself outside the office more often than in it.

During a busy period last winter, for example, I traveled to Phoenix for a client's sales meeting. The trip, while important, threatened to sidetrack some other critical projects. Before leaving, I had watched a focus group and needed to get comments back to the research firm. In addition, I faced a newsletter deadline and a program presentation later in the week.

When I arrived in my hotel room, I plugged in my laptop and wrote notes from the focus group. Using the phone line in the room, I faxed these notes to the research firm. The next day, between meetings, I edited newsletter articles on a diskette I had brought along. When they were finished, I transferred the files to my office for typesetting and layout.

One or two laptops can also serve the ad hoc needs of a whole department. In less than a year, our office has found more uses for our laptop than we ever anticipated. We loaded Lotus into it for use by account executives who don't have a copy on their personal computer. In the summer, our interns don't always get PCs, so the laptop serves as their word processor.

At the same time, the complete compatibility of today's laptops with their bigger desktop relatives assures them a permanent place in office computing. Some industry experts believe that soon all personal computers will have to be portable. International Data Corporation reports that over 900,000 IBM PC-compatible laptops were sold in the United States last year. They predict that over 1.1 million portable machines will be sold this year. And if you are a Macintosh user, Apple recently introduced a portable Mac.

Making a choice

Manufacturers now offer scores of different laptop models. They range from sporty light-duty accessories for your briefcase to powerful workhorse models with hefty weights and price tags.

Prices range from $1,000 to over $5,000. Deciding among the many options available is easier than it might seem, even if you get confused using anything but your favorite word processor.

Three features determine the type of laptop you need. First is whether you need a hard disk drive or can get by with floppy disks. The others are speed and screen quality. These questions can narrow the broad selection of machines to three or four comparable models to test before you buy. Once you decide on these features, you can choose among several similar models, based on your personal preferences.

* Hard drives vs. floppy disks.

The hard disk decision depends on the number and size of the programs you run. Most public relations people use their computers primarily for word processing. While some word processors run faster and provide more features when run from a hard drive, almost all can be configured to run quite well on diskettes.

Our office has worked with two leading word processing packages (DisplayWrite and WordPerfect); both run well on the 3.5-inch 720 kilobyte laptop disks. These disks hold twice as much as regular PC disks. Unless your documents are several hundred pages, floppy disks can readily store them.

If you routinely use database or spreadsheet programs such as dBase or Lotus, you may want to consider a hard disk system. While you can run these programs from floppy disks, you may wind up carrying a confusing variety of disks during your travels. If your database contains hundreds of media contacts and your spreadsheets carry years of financial data, then a hard drive begins to look attractive.

When you add a hard disk, you get a heavier and more expensive laptop. Many of the floppy disk laptops weigh 10 to 11 pounds; some weigh as little as six pounds. …

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