The College Perspective

31 01 2008


Hi, I’m Matt Hamilton, and I have joined as a contributing writer. I am a first-year at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation College of Engineering, and I have been paying much attention for many years to first the Apple Corporation and later the new web start-up boom we currently find ourselves in. Mainly, I’ll focus on how new developments in both the Apple and overall technology sphere affect me and my colleagues here in New York City, but also general advancements and controversies in the technology and web industries. The first topic for me is how Apple and other technology products help out college students. To me, one of the best tests to determine whether a product is actually useful or necessary and fashionable is if college students use it, or really want it. Full article after the jump!
My experience with technology here has been both satisfying and frustrating, be it the slow wireless speeds or the clumsy library computer system. Around campus, I see people using technology all the time, yet not as much as you would think. Sitting in my 100-person physics class, I seem to be the only one using a computer to take notes, or even having one out just in case I want to look something up. In most of my other classes, students also seem to stick to notebooks for note-taking, except for the rare person with a tablet PC. Mostly I see people using iPhones to call their friends, and laptops for watching YouTube videos or playing music.

Columbia itself is not the best proponent of technology, however it is improving slightly. First of all, the email program Cubmail is one of the most annoying and clumsy programs I have ever used. The interface is HTML based, Developed by IBM, it is the program used to process all applications for Columbia admissions, and it works all right. The real flaw is in the interface for entering information, a program called none other than QWS3270. In working at the Columbia School of Engineering Graduate Admissions Office for a semester, I can tell you there are more bugs in that program than the first version of Windows Defender.


Believe it or not, it looks even uglier than this.
The most common use of tech here is for entertainment. Walking down any of the hallways in my residence hall, I can hear music blasting from speakers(most likely not an iPod HiFi), people playing Mario Kart or Halo 3, or someone watching ESPN for the latest sports news. This semester my suitemate brought along a 37″ HDTV, which has certainly been integrated into our lives. Playing Wii games is common, watching people wildly swing the controller around(no one has accidentally thrown one yet) along with watching some random movie like Deja Vu or Lawrence of Arabia.

As for the Apple versus PC debate, it seems to be taking the same trend as the entire US in that market share is going up. In terms of my circle of friends, the split is about 50-50, which is much more than the current 92-8% split everywhere else. I think my friend Dan sums it up best by saying “I mean, it’s not about the name, it’s about the quality of the service, and Macs are just easier to use, faster and simpler”. I have to say I agree with him, and Columbia seems to be too. Columbia’s biggest and most advanced computer lab, Botwinick, switched over this year to all Mac Pros with huge 21″ Cinema Displays from a bunch of Dells. Professor Jack McGourty, who runs the Engineering Design class even tells all of his classes that since switching over to Macs, they have had absolutely no technical problems, as opposed to 2 or 3 problems a day, whether it was incompatible files or random errors(we all know how those can be).

So as you can tell, technology is seeping into many aspects of the college life, although who knows when laptops in the classroom will be the standard. As for me, I have tried to integrate technology into my study habits more and more, using my laptop for notes and a great voice recorder for notes (XtremeMac’s Micromemo Digital Voice Recorder for iPod Nano 2G if you’re interested).Who knows what next can be useful and cheap enough for me to actually use here in college, but I do know that considering the technology or lack thereof surrounding me, it will be a welcome addition.

Here are a few things I thought to be interesting around the web:

– wondering who to vote for? here’s some help:

TechCrunch’s Tech Candidates

Celebrating LEGO’s 50th Anniversary

– in an amazing move of engineering genius, some Londoner decided to make a rubber band cannon that is really cool:

The Disintegrator

– Great article on the state of men and women in the 21st century:

The Child-man



One response to “The College Perspective”

1 02 2008
Bernard Ramsey (02:41:05) :

Excellent write-up. I’ve been in school since the earth’s crust started cooling ( a long time), and I was surprised to hear that most students weren’t taking notes or looking up info on their laptops in class. As a doctoral student and professor, I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed my early geekiness. I can go back to 2000ish on my mac and pull up notes, lectures, ramblings…you name it. It’s invaluable and when you take that next leap to grad school, you’ll be glad you kept all that info. I look forward to your future posts!

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