Nineteen-eighty-nine was a watershed year: The Berlin wall fell, television wunderkind Seinfeld premiered, and Dwell’s beloved hometown, San Francisco, shook to its core. It is not altogether surprising, then, that in this time of revolution, innovation, and general upheaval Apple released its first laptop computer—the Macintosh Portable—inciting a sea change in personal computing. A Cro Magnon–like predecessor to the modern-day iBook, the Mac Portable delighted critics but was altogether underwhelming to consumers, who were perfectly content typing away on their bulky stationary word processors.
The problem with antecedent laptops like the Mac, the Osborne 1, and the Compaq Portable series was that each weighed between 16 and 30 pounds, making the prospect of portability seem about as convenient as slaying the Nemean Lion. (Their Herculean heft was due, in part, to lumpish lead acid batteries.) Today, laptops have become svelte and savvy, and are giving standard desktops a run for their money—the operative word, of course, being run, because nowadays people are working from everywhere and anywhere and they’re taking their computers with them.
But just as you wouldn’t strap a baby into the front seat of your car, you wouldn’t consider just any old briefcase fit to carry your electronic bundle of joy. Laptops require a hardy yet stylish satchel, an attaché worthy of a 1.65 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM.
Of course, for every make and model of laptop, there are a hundred bags in which to house it. That’s why Dwell sought out Mark Frauenfelder, telecommuter extraordinaire and editor-in-chief of Make magazine, to help separate the wheat from the chaff. “I have a big thing about zippers being weak,” Frauenfelder says. “Once I was traveling and the zipper was stuck on my bag. I was pulling really hard and it broke, and my hand, which was in a fist, shot up and I punched myself in the nose.” Sage words of warning, yet something the average consumer might fail to consider despite having been foiled at least once by the duplicitous YKK. It seems Frauenfelder has experienced every foible known to digital travel; amateurs take heed.