Notebooks are main PCs for some feds
- By Richard W. Walker
- Oct 12, 1998
Bill Wall, supervisory
systems analyst, Navy Fleet Material Support Office, Mechanicsburg, Pa., on his Compaq
The keyboard is a problem for me. Im not a very
good typist, and Ive got big hands.
Dan Grispino, financial specialist for the Defense Finance and
Accounting Service in Cleveland, on the Dell notebook he shares with his office mates
Will the notebook computer eventually replace the desktop PC? For some feds we talked
with, it already has.
At the IRS Oakland, Calif., office, employees use IBM Corp. notebook
PCstop-ranked in the GCN surveyas desktop replacements. Users plug them into
port replicators to access full-size monitors and keyboards, Larry Wirick, a revenue
Wirick relishes his new IBM ThinkPad 380EDs large screen, built-in wrist pad and
speedy Pentium II microprocessor.
Short battery life, usually a nagging concern for notebook users, isnt a problem
for Wirick. Whether Im in the office where the notebook is docked or working
out my home and attached to AC power, battery life really isnt much of an
issue, he said.
Another fed who has chucked his desktop PC is Richard Creasy, a Coast Guard telephone
technician who uses a Toshiba Satellite Pro 445CDT Pentium notebook on the road and in his
New Haven, Conn., office.
I took my desktop PC home and gave it to the kids, Creasy said. The
notebook has everything my desktop has, so its really nice.
What about the small keyboard and tricky, mouseless maneuvering? Creasy said he has
become adept at using the Toshibas tight keyboard and eraser-head pointing device.
Plus its got a serial port where I can plug in a mouse if I want to, he
Most feds who carry notebooks arent quite ready to hand over their desktop PCs to
the kids. About 18 percent use notebooks as desktop replacements, the GCN survey found.
Moreover, about half of feds who use notebooks expect to significantly step up their
notebook use, from 18 percent to 26 percent, over the next one to three years, according
to the survey.
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. notebooks ranked second in the survey. They
were the most widely used, capturing 19 percent of the market GCN canvassed. Other popular
brands were Dell Computer Corp. (18 percent) and Compaq Computer Corp. (13 percent). IBM
notebooks, despite their top rating, were used by a smaller portion of feds polled (10
Toshiba user Eric Koglin, a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agencys
National Exposure Research Laboratory in Las Vegas, described his T4800CT, a 4-year-old
machine with a 486 processor, as a great workhorse but outdated for high-end applications.
It cant handle what I need now, said Koglin, who combines text and
graphics in his reports. Hes gearing up to buy a Pentium notebook from Winbook
Computer Corp. (unranked and used by 1 percent of feds in the survey) with a 6G hard
drive, 64M of RAM and a 56-Kbps modem.
Air Force Quality Assurance in Minneapolis is another federal office moving
toward total portability, said Rosemarie Berkebile, a management assistant.
Were starting to wipe out some of our desk systems and use just laptops with
docking stations, said Berkebile, who shares a Gateway Pentium notebook with
Berkebile likes the Gateways durability. It does seem reliable, she
said. I havent been able to knock it out yet. I managed to wipe out Windows on
a Zenith system about four times.
Her one beef was with the machines pointing device. I hate the
touchpad, she said. I always carry a mouse.
Compaq user Timothy Ruland, chief of automated data processing security at the Census
Bureau in Suitland, Md., does not like touchpads either. I have a serial mouse that
I carry in my briefcase, he said. Its a lot easier to use.
Ruland uses his Compaq Armada 1550 mostly on the road. I wish it was a little
lighter, but its not bad, he said.
At the Navy Fleet Material Support Office in Mechanicsburg, Pa., supervisory systems
analyst Bill Wall takes an office Compaq Pentium notebook on road trips to write reports
and keep in touch with the office via e-mail. But hell soon be using a notebook
full-time as he assumes a new position that involves more travel, he said. Hes
getting a docking station so he wont have to transfer files all the time, he said.
The only thing he dislikes about the Compaq is the keyboard. Its an
adjustment going from a standard keyboard to a smaller keyboard, but I dont know how
[manufacturers] can get around that, he said.