- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

Pity the laptop that goes on vacation.
And yes, laptop computers do go on vacation with owners who feel, well, naked without them on the beach. For better or worse, 45 percent of us tote a laptop along on holiday, according to a recent University of Maryland survey.
But the laptop is not quite ready to replace the trashy novel as the accessory of choice on the world's beaches this summer. Among other things, they sunburn, drown and even get inebriated during those warm-weather reveries.
Take the case of one Angus Leeds, an Englishman who recently brought his mysteriously ailing laptop in for repairs after a few days oceanside. Why, he'd only lounged in the sand and e-mailed his girlfriend, Mr. Leeds told technicians at The Computer World, Britain's largest computer retailer.
Technicians opened the unit to discover several small hermit crabs, a few rocks and sand on the hard drive.
"I couldn't believe I'd been so stupid," Mr. Leeds admitted.
The incident prompted the repair technicians to take inventory of leisure time laptop woes. They found the units had been burned on the beach, baked in a car, sunk in the ocean and even subjected to "alcohol abuse," as one technician delicately described it.
"Some have been left too long in the sun, some have been dropped in swimming pools and others have had booze spilled on them," company spokesman Colin Middlemiss said.
After tallying their repair orders, the technicians found that 40 percent were made on laptops that had been taken on vacation by their e-mailing, plugged-in, news junkie, workaholic owners.
"Surfing the net and e-mailing can be addictive," Mr. Middlemiss said, adding that his company now offers a brochure called "Top 10 Tips for Stopping Technology Disasters on Holiday."
They may have something there.
Annapolis-based travel writer Christopher Elliott has reported that laptop owners indeed subject their machines to unusual stresses while in transit. One woman's laptop "died at the paws" of an amorous Welsh corgi, he notes. Another businessman accidentally dumped a glass of a "nice Burgundy of particularly good vintage" into his laptop keyboard.
"My little pal wasn't really able to hold his drink," the man sadly recalled.
Meanwhile, others cater to laptop devotees. Several companies offer decorative laptop "disguises" to help counter the estimated 10 million laptop thefts that occur each year.
Oregon-based Diversify Communications specializes in clip-on sun shields and glare guards for those who simply must pack an iBook with their sunscreen. The company also offers privacy screens, guaranteeing "no more airline passenger peeping."
Then again, there are those who can't go laptop-less.
Out in Hawaii, the John Piatt Co. offers the "Stand Alone Laptop Computer Harness," which allows the diehard user to wear a laptop "in the park, on the beach or during exercise."


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