Once upon a time I had a wonderful Toshiba Portege. It was a lovely little ultra-portable notebook computer, lightweight and tough as hell. Constructed entirely of titanium, it could withstand all sorts of day-to-day rigors, including being thrown in an unpadded messenger bag, getting dragged to and from various boats, and frequently supporting 16 pound cats who thought it was an ideal heating pad when the cover was closed. Sadly it had limited memory and ran Windows 98 (I told you it was years ago!) and though after eight years of relentless use it ran perfectly, it could no longer meet the demands of newer programs.
Every notebook I’ve owned since that Toshiba has seemed flimsy in comparison and none have survived nearly as long. I’m not abusive to my computers, but they do lead active lives. I realize there are there are true ruggedized notebooks, but they are excessively expensive. The only other computers built as well as that old Toshiba are the Apples, which are lovely indeed, but even if I was remotely familiar with the Apple OS they’re not exactly cheap. And after repeated cat-applied pressure caused the demise of the display on my latest notebook I needed a computer and I needed one fast. Fortunately I had an old HP running Windows XP that I used aboard the boat for running a single GPS-linked chart-plotter program. Being that navigation is presently low on my boating priorities I borrowed that computer. However, I was concerned that it too might succumb to the same oversized-cat induced damage, and since keeping the cats off has never worked, I decided some ruggedizing was in order.
The old Toshiba’s strength was in its metal case. And while I tossed around the idea of grabbing some sheet-metal and the welding tools to build the HP an armor case, I glanced around for a faster, simpler solution. And there it was, hanging on the garage wall… an old license plate. I traced the cover’s width with a sharpie, then placed the plate in the vise along the marked line. A few taps with a rubber mallet, flip, repeat, and I had a perfectly fitted, lightweight but rigid laptop protector. It’s attached with a few 3M Command strips so it is removable if necessary. It can now withstand the sustained pressures of snoozing cats and has turned an unremarkable old notebook into a distinct and amusing conversation piece wherever it’s seen.