Charles Petzold

Can a Notebook be *Too* Thin?

March 10, 2008
New York, N.Y.

Yes, apparently a notebook can be too thin. In this week's Newsweek, Steven Levy reports how he lost his review copy of the MacBook Air. The best that he can figure is that it was probably stuck in a stack of newspapers on his coffee table that were then moved to the recycling bin!

While I can certainly sympathize with the pains of losing an expensive piece of hardware, I actually took great comfort in Levy's column. It was a pleasure to learn that at least one other techie still lives in a New York City apartment cluttered with newspapers and magazines — this despite the opinion of all right-thinking and forward-looking people that we should abandon paper in favor of getting all our information directly off the screen in convenient 500-word nuggets.

Our household is very paper oriented. Deirdre and I get the New York Times delivered daily to our door, we also pick up The Onion every week, and we subscribe to 5 weekly magazines, 2 biweeklies, 4 monthlies, 1 bimonthly, and 5 quarterlies. Sometimes they tend to pile up not only on the coffee table, but also on the dinner table, and then to the floor when we need to eat meals.

We have a recycling pile in the apartment but it's not optimum: It's the top of a little step stool that we also use for reaching the top shelves of the bookcases. The little room outside the apartment with the garbage chute and recycling bin is only a few yards down the hall, but we tend to avoid that step because you never really know when you might need something that you prematurely moved to the pile.

I am proud of one innovation, however. For those newspaper sections and magazines that both Deirdre and I read, we avoid confusion by a simple technique: When I'm finished with the paper or magazine, I tear about a half-inch off the bottom-right corner of the cover. When Deirdre is finished with an issue, she tears off the upper-right corner. Anything that's been read by both of us is eligible for the recycling pile (unless one of us has tagged an article with a Post-It flag, which indicates something that needs to be removed and saved).

The system works fairly well — despite all the little triangular corners all over the place....