September 18, 2007:
in time for Christmas, here's something for those of you who have a platoon
leader or Special Forces type guy who's hard to shop for. Computer makers are
now creating laptops for combat (and industrial/police etc) users. Ruggedized
laptops have been around for over a decade, but they are getting really, really
rugged, and small. A good example of this breed of computer is the GoBook MR-1
rugged Ultra Mobile PC. This is a two pound unit with a 5.6 inch (1024 x 600
pixel) display, optimized for outdoor viewing. The unit comes standard with an
40 gigabyte hard drive and half a gigabyte of RAM memory. But you can upgrade
to an 80 gig hard drive and a gig of RAM, as well as an all RAM hard drive.
Batteries are available to provide three or six hours of use. There are plenty
of commo options, including wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS. External video provides
2048 x 1536 resolution, making it easy to plug into one of those 30 inch
displays back at headquarters. There is plenty of I/O ports for common military
The MR-1 is seriously
immune to bad treatment, dust, liquids, and even chemical weapons, like nerve
gas (and the chemicals used to decontaminate equipment that has been gassed.)
The standard installed operating system is Windows XP, but Vista is available.
There is a three year warranty. The base model is $4,500, but you can load on
several thousand dollars of extras. But it's small, 1.6 inches high, six inches
wide and 4.3 inches deep. That means a lot on the battlefield.
Most commanders now use a
laptop on the battlefield. Orders, including maps, are often received
electronically, or via a thumb drive. Lots of documents that used to be on
paper, are now on a laptop. So a compact, and rugged, laptop is very appealing
to combat officers.