Does your laptop really give you what you want?

Laptop trackpad
Ah, the laptop and trackpad - the perfect combination for trouble free computing on the move, right?

I collect laptops. This isn't because I particularly like them, in fact it is for the opposite reason. I hate them all. I love the idea of a laptop; the thought of anywhere computing, the freedom to jot down a few hundred words here and there - in a pool of sunshine on the lawn, maybe. Or over a second cup of coffee in the kitchen or skulking in the back row during a christening. But actual laptops never seem to let me do this.

Over the years I have owned a Compaq, an Advent, a Samsung, several Sonys, an Acer and a MacBook. I have experimented with ultra-portable combinations of Palm organisers and folding keyboards and flirted with the one-laptop-per-child XO. With each new romance there is a good deal of initial wooing and excitement. My new love is paraded breathlessly on my arm to all my friends, who make polite, impressed sounds before turning to each other and whispering "I give them 6 months, tops". After that, come the inevitable rows - behind closed doors at first and eventually in public and soon a frosty impasse develops as we each retreat to our private worlds: me, back at my desk; she, in the Big Box o'Junk in the garage.

Am I so hard to please? Am I that impossible to live with? All I want from a laptop is:

  • A full size keyboard
  • A screen that I can read clearly in bright sunshine
  • An internet connection that works everywhere
  • Access to all my desktop data and applications
  • 4 hours of battery life
  • A way of moving the pointer on the screen that isn't a trackpad, clip-on trackball, mini mouse, stylus, touchscreen or little rubber clitoris.

The trouble with these seemingly reasonable feature requests, of course, is that they miss the point entirely. My fantasy of laptop ownership is not about doing serious work - I'm not a corporate executive trying to embed my spreadsheets in my webcast. I just want to be able to goof off for a bit but call it work. Taking a laptop for this is like going on a caravan holiday - why bother leaving home if you take everything with you?

What I need is the electronic equivalent of a paperback novel and a pen and paper. For the paperback, I could use an iPhone (or at a pinch, a Kindle). For the pen and paper, I could use… well a pen and paper I suppose.