RT Cunningham


What a Modern Workstation Might Look Like Today

workstation

I’ll go over the definition of a workstation shortly. Any definition aside, the primary purpose of a workstation is to get some work done. It’s not for playing games or watching videos for entertainment and it doesn’t matter if you’re at home or at a workplace.

With so many low-cost computers available, it doesn’t make sense to use a “work” computer for anything but work. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with listening to music on your workstation. Some people work better with music and some people don’t.

Workstation Definitions

The Wikipedia definition:

A workstation is a special computer designed for technical or scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by one person at a time, they are commonly connected to a local area network and run multi-user operating systems.

One dictionary definition:

A general-purpose computer designed to be used by one person at a time and which offers higher performance than normally found in a personal computer, especially with respect to graphics, processing power and the ability to carry out several tasks at the same time.

Neither definition is completely correct nowadays. Cheap laptops work just as well as the more expensive computers for most things. A graphics designer probably needs more but how many of us are graphics designers? Even then, most of us just need more RAM to do certain things.

With the cost of computers dropping all the time, a multi-operating system environment isn’t really necessary. You can do the same thing with multiple computers or devices at the same cost as only one a few years ago.

Connecting to a local area network (apart from the internet) is probably important in a business work environment, but not in a home work environment. The internet itself, a wide area network, is the only network necessary.

Components

The components of a modern workstation depend on specific circumstances. In a work environment, anything up to a hardware server component is a possibility. Not so much in a home environment.

At one time, a computer consisted of a separate case, monitor and keyboard. At least, as far back as I can remember. Today, a cell phone is also a computer. I wouldn’t make for a very good workstation without some added peripherals. Most people would probably get tired of tapping on a screen or an onscreen keyboard.

Although laptop computers came after desktop computers, they’re now called desktop computers as well. I suppose it’s to differentiate them from mobile computers like cell phones and tablets even though they can also be mobile.

I prefer a laptop computer because it’s portable — I don’t have to use it in one place — and because I’m a touch typist. Anything less than a complete keyboard is annoying. With some added peripherals, a cell phone or tablet could be used in almost the same way. With a USB OTG cable and a USB hub, a regular USB keyboard and USB mouse can be used. Bluetooth keyboards and mice are also available.

A Workstation Idea

If I had the money available to waste (and I don’t), I would buy a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combination and use it with my phone. Even if I could only use it for web development testing, it would be a pretty cool thing to have set up. I just checked how much it would cost to set up a tablet workstation at Walmart online by adding them to my cart.

I can get a cheap, seven-inch tablet for $35.00 and a Targus Bluetooth keyboard/mouse combination for $35.20. With tax, it comes to a total of $83.85 for my zip code (free delivery). So, for less than a single Benjamin, I could have the hardware to do everything I do today with my laptop computer. If I forego the tablet and just use the cell phone I already have, it only cuts it down to $47.20 because I would have to pay $12.00 for shipping.

The software, well, that’s another story. I’m sure I could work that out too, although I’m not familiar with the Android applications I would need to use to replace the ones I use on Linux.

Taking it to another extreme, I could buy one of the “compute sticks” and plug it into the HDMI port of any TV near me. I could still use a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse combination. The total cost could still be less than most desktop or laptop computers.

Replacing components in this scenario, or the one above, would be less expensive than all-in-one solutions. Someday, it may be the best way to do the things I’m doing today.

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RT Cunningham
May 10, 2019
Technology