/ Technology

Have you got a collection of computers at home?

Laptop, tablet and phone

For many the time when we just had one computer taking up an entire desk or table somewhere in the house is long gone. Now we tend to have an ever expanding computing collection – which device is your favourite?

These days, you’ll often find a selection of computers in a typical family home. This might include an old Windows XP laptop that you don’t quite want to get rid of, an all-in-one for proper computing tasks and perhaps a tablet for lounging around in the living room. Not forgetting your smartphone of course – handy for searching the internet and keeping on top of emails when you’re on the move.

But what’s your favourite computing device? Perhaps you’re attached to your original laptop that’s served you well and is still going? Or maybe your iPad or Tesco Hudl is your new prize possession?

In a previous Conversation we asked whether you preferred laptops, desktops or all-in-one computers. We received a raft of responses. DavidL is a fan of the despktop PC:

‘There’s no beating a desktop PC with a decent keyboard, mouse, and monitor for doing real work comfortably.’

And Tonyp has a large computing collection – each device has its own special qualities:

‘I’m somewhat knee deep in various computers! My rather ancient Windows 95 desktop is still used as a general purpose workhorse for many applications. I also have a Windows 98 desktop used for some specific applications … then there are my two XP laptops which are steadily being replaced by the use of a recently acquired Windows 7 laptop. Finally, there is the tablet that I am actually using to post this! The point is that there are horses for courses. Different machines suit different needs. Having just one type available can be somewhat restricting.’

And our poll reveals that the majority of people (63%) use a traditional desktop PC at home. Laptops were just behind with 41% and tablets took third place with 36% of people reporting using a tablet at home.

I’m the proud owner of a MacBook Air, iPad mini (the original) and an Android smartphone. The MacBook is my favourite. It’s light enough to slip into my bag without breaking my back but it still sports a full keyboard – essential for my job as a writer.

So now it’s your turn to tell us how big your computing collection is – and what’s your favourite device?


Old laptops can be useful as web servers to host web sites for free via one’s home internet connection with no limits on the size or traffic of the site. They consume very little power and they don’t need to run the latest operating system for such as simple passive task. Every version of Windows has IIS built in, which is sufficient.

1. Home brew (eMc,Dell,Gericom) desktop XP(exW95) 1998 (Peripherals -Scanners,Printers etc.)
2. Travelmate XP & Ubuntu 10.04 & Puppy 2003 (fixing friends’ viruses)
3. Samsung W8.1 & Ubuntu 12.04 & Bodhi & Mint & 5 distros on external disc 2013 (day to day)
4. Nexus 7 Android 2013 (tv and radio, network security & admin, general use {portable])
5. Kindle Fire HD Android(rooted) 2013 (as above & combined for network footprint)
6. & 7. 2 x Raspberry Pi (various os) 2013 (XBMC & playing)
8. Nexus 4 Android 2013 (Everything 3. to 7. + phone) [Favourite lives in my pocket]
+ a couple of earlier smartphones kept up to date just in case.

1. & 2. are used for specific purposes
3. for daily use (inc. vehicle & machine diagnostics & control)
4. & 5. easy to take anywhere
6. & 7. second childhood
8. Haven’t managed to teleport with it yet but very hopeful …

Anon the Mouse says:
21 March 2014

Different devices for different circumstances.

If you mean general purpose devices then we have…

A haswell i7 gaming laptop, Windows 8.1
An i5 Surface Pro again win 8.1,
Openpandora (not the bracelet), palmtop running a custom version of Arch Linux or Android depending on requirements.
Advent Vega, hacked and running ICS.
The discontinued O2 joggler, hacked and which the kids use as an advanced clock/digital photo frame/games.
My eldest has a netbook that her younger sister uses for Minecraft
An AMD laptop for general stuff.
A chinese no name tablet with keyboard for android stuff (barely used now),

Then you have games consoles (3ds, vita, DS, Wii U, PS4, PS3 (kids room)).
Kindles, my keyboard edition and my daughters touch.
And as we go down the list it gets more specific.

I am intrigued that your poll “reveals that the majority of people (63%) use a traditional desktop PC at home. Laptops were just behind with 41% and tablets took third place with 36% of people reporting using a tablet at home.” Is that the majority of people full stop, or just the majority of those who have any sort of computing device? Like all surveys, it depends who you ask.

I visit a number of homes which I consider more-or-less typical and although in many cases one member of the family might have a PC or a laptop, use of computers is nothing like as prevalent as Which? often suggests. Admittedly, I haven’t been upstairs to see what might be there, and families with children at school and young people at college invariably have computers in some shape or form, but overall the time spent on computers is not significant. I would also say that most people do not have a printer. Smartphones seem to be sufficient for a lot of people’s communication needs. I met a couple recently who were only a little older than me; they had a new laptop that had been given to them by their daughter but they hadn’t got a clue what to do with it, or how to use it, and since they didn’t really want it they weren’t going to bother to learn. They got more enjoyment from doing their garden and I applaud them for that. A lot of the people I am in contact with don’t do e-mails, or buy things on line, or follow rolling news – but they bake nice cakes, keep their homes in good nick, and take pride in their appearance, which is more than I would say for the computer-bound generation perhaps [generalising atrociously there of course]. I just have a trusty desktop PC and nothing else, so when I go away, I’m out of it.

PeterM says:
21 March 2014

Feel sure it depends on socio economics as well as age group. I am in mid 50s, with 3 older (by 8-12 years) sisters. All use smartphones (Android, iPhone, Android) and have tablets (Android, Android, iPad) resepectively, from eldest. Middle and younger sisters also have family desktop though personally use laptops. Middle sister was a school head, and her husband before retirement was MD of Engineering firm, so had laptops individually for work. Younger sister’s husband retired 15 years ago so mainly used desktop but they will replace with a laptop.

Eldest sister used computers in different jobs, but never had internet at home, and only now (planning to move home) can see benefits (tablet can use mobile for internet access). All 3 sisters had children, all of them (+partners and children) high users of laptop / desktop /smartphone. Financially, eldest sister not as “well off” as the others, because of their (and their husbands’) professions.

Here in my locality (generally not well off, Liverpool L20), neighbours with young children have computer kit, as does a couple (late 70s/early 80s) but another couple (65/75) don’t (despite sons and grandchildren being users of technology). Very mixed bag, but based on number of wireless routers in vicinity, I’d say 75% or higher of homes have internet and therefore the tech to use it.

Several of my clients in NW have been using computers (desktops, laptops, and in some cases, more recently, smartphones) for most of 20 years and only now (at 70-ish) deciding to retire from consultancy work (but retain their computers). Most also have nice gardens, etc, but computers / tablets are tools they use for entertainment, e-mail, Skype, etc.

PeterM says:
21 March 2014

I won’t try to list them all in detail, it would be too time consuming! I don’t have anything running Windows 8 or Vista, but have a several laptops and small desktops/ nettops running Windows 7 or Windows XP. None of my Apple equipment was bought new – I consider their ‘off the shelf’ prices extremely high, my reservation against buying Apple kit ‘new’.

I have a couple of big Toshiba laptops running XP (good sound, HDMI output if wanted for connecting to 32″, 40″ or 42″ TVs). Those and 2 of the Intel based iMacs are my most commonly used systems.

Work from home, need variety to check website display on multiple browsers, and do other consultancy work on databases, networking, etc, so have to sometimes experiment to test solutions (had 4 CCTV systems here recently for comparison/ tests).

Other laptops too, mainly for dedicated to my different e-mail accounts, and sometimes used for viewing different CCTV systems (for clients) or remote control of client systems for problem solving, virus/malware removal.

A few netbooks and desktops running linux, 5 ‘recent’ s/h iMacs, 4 older Mac systems (G4, G3), Archos (Android) tablet, several Android mobiles (Huawei x2, Samsung x4, Sony x2). Shed has another 10 desktop systems (for when I get a 4 bedroom house and have 3 fast broadband connections!)

Like Anon the Mouse above, I have an old O2 Joggler, which I used mostly for the radio facility!

I plan to ‘fix’ it, as a (daft) O2 ‘upgrade’ wiped out the Pure Radio application. I’ll use some Linux OS and get it back to being radio and clock/alarm, I hope.

My favourite computer is a 15 inch MacBook Pro, which gets used throughout the day and usually goes on holiday with me. I have a 24 inch iMac, which is great when working on one document and viewing others, and doing design work. I also use it for financial records and archives, including email going back to the 90s – which is sometimes very useful.

I have an iPad2 that goes with me if I am travelling, where the long battery life is very handy. I have finally pensioned off my £50 Nokia phone and bought an iPhone, so the iPad does not need to go everywhere with me to keep in touch.

I have an old 20 inch iMac that goes to charity events to run photo displays. It may be old but the display is still bright and clear.

I have a ZX81 which I occasionally turn on just to marvel at it. It’s tiny so what’s the point of throwing it away?

Then there’s the BBC ‘B’ which I still drag out occasionally to play Elite. It’s still the best version.

An Acorn RiscPC. I bought it in 1991 along with a small printer and the Sibelius7 music processing software. It’s the last thing I ever bought on HP and it took me well over a year to pay for it. Good value though, we were into the next century before PCs caught up with it, speed wise. I used it for all my early surfing because it was pretty much unhackable. I still use it for music processing. Sibelius promised lifelong support. So much for that…

I built my first PC (All the previous being “Microcomputers”) in 1998 and I still simply upgrade it when the world gets too far ahead of me. Let’s hear it for AMD processors, they were leaving Intel in the dust until the Intel dirty tricks dept opened for business. It’s been running Linux since Microsoft’s ‘ring us for permission to use your computer’ campaign when it launched XP.

We still have my mother’s Mac OS9 which we upgraded to OS-X because Apple said it couldn’t be done. That one’s gathering dust now though. None of us could really get the hang of it although OS-X was way better than OS 9.

I finally bought a laptop (Acorn) when I noticed that the pink version of otherwise identical computers was now £100 less. About 4 months later with all the pink ones gone they reduced the grey ones… The black ones held their price though. I loaded Linux on it after XP refused to run after a reload.

I still have my Alien laptop. I threw tea over it from the other side of the room, a feat I couldn’t replicate if I tried for a year. Direct hit. I still intend to get it up and running again. One day…

Next I bought a fairly powerful Aspire laptop with Windows 8 on it. I was told I could roll it back to Windows 7 if I didn’t like 8. They lied. It’s running Linux now.

Then there’s the machine I’m now using. It’s another Aspire (They were declared the most reliable by Which?). It was a W7 refurb bought from the USA. It was cheaper to import the thing than to buy one over here. Ridiculous.

That’s it.

Unless you want to hear about my games machines…

Couple of cheap tablets for lounge use, four-year old desktop for serious use and a positively antediluvian AJP all-in-one (top of the range in its day) for all those peripherals and bits of software that only work with Windows XP. Windows operating systems have got steadily worse ever since!