RTW Computer

Our RTW Trip » RTW Computer

U50Part of getting in the travel spirit was buying a travel computer. Janet was very much opposed to bringing a computer at all because, she thought, if it didn’t get smashed or damaged by water, it would most surely get stolen in a matter of days.

Therefore, she conceded to taking a computer only if it met several mandatory criteria:

  • the computer must weigh less than three pounds and preferably under two;
  • the computer must not be greater in size than a piece of 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper folded in half;
  • the computer must not bend or fold in any way;
  • the computer must be affordable and reasonably attainable;
  • the computer must be able to play movies, manage our iPods, download books and files and be able to easily access the internet;
  • the computer must have more than 1hour’s worth of battery life;
  • the computer must be fast, be able to connect to the internet and be user friendly;
  • the computer must slay the Nemean Lion and the Lernaean Hydra, obtain the Girdle of Hippolyte and clean the Augean Stables.

Foolishly, she thought such a computer did not exist and would thereby free her from her obligation. She was wrong.

After bidding on several items, we ended up buying the Sony U50. Other considerations were the OQO, X505, and the Fujitsu P8210. The U50 is the second smallest computer available after the OQO.

Many people will say we are crazy to weigh ourselves down with something expense. Janet would agree but she cannot reneg on her ultimatum, even if it didn’t meet the criterion of being a Mac. Here’s everything it can do:

  • Replace some travel books
  • Update our iPods
  • Update our blog
  • Store our photos and publish them to Flickr
  • Book tickets and hostels
  • Play movies (stores about 5)

Of course much of that requires an internet connection. I’m sure there will be many points when we are not able to find WIFI or need to resort to an internet cafe.U50 Keyboard

The screen is only 5 inches, but it seems big when you’re holding it in your hands. It also includes a remote which interfaces with iTunes so it can be used as a music player. The primary interface is the stylus/pen, but it also comes with a folding keyboard with some keys which will forever remain mysterious:


Recently, all the gadget sites have been agog over the UMPC. This is essentially the same form factor as the U50. Considering the U50 didn’t find a significantly large market niche, I’m doubtful of the success of this next generation. They do have a few improvements, which may make the difference: a curved onscreen keyboard can be used to type with one’s thumbs, a simplified interface allows access to basic media functions, and – a feature I particularly envy – a kick stand. However, I doubt they will meet Bill Gates’ vision of a $500 system with 8 hours of battery life.

Update: 10.23.06: I cannot imagine travelling without this computer. It has been utterly invaluable for all the uses listed above. Plus, it has taught us how to play backgammon, found numerous maps of public transportation, confirmed flights, and allowed us to maintain our blog. There are many more wireless connections than I expected and in places where I would not have thought possible (i.e. suburban Kaohsiung, Taiwan). As yet, we have not found a reasonably comprehensive list of Wifi hotspots for the world.

An example of how we set up the computer enroute.