And honestly, the situation has gotten better in the past year than it’s been in the decade-plus prior. There are a few reasons for this:
Improved battery life.
We finally have laptops that have enough juice that they can be used for hours on end without any concern about them going dead during a four-hour journey. The M1 MacBook Air
is a freaking beast, and while I’ve tried this with setups in the past as diverse as an iPad Mini and a Pinebook Pro
, the Air hits the perfect balance between battery life, energy consumption, form factor, and sheer power to make this process doable.
The invention of USB-C.
Back in the day, it was not possible to plug in a laptop without spending lots of money on a non-standard connector
. Now, it’s possible to plug in most smaller laptops with a USB-C connector alone, so you can actually plug in without losing juice in many cases.
The magic of tethering. When I first started road-writing back in the early 2010s, the available options for actually sharing my laptop’s connection with a smartphone basically involved jailbreaking. At first, this practice went unsanctioned by phone makers and mobile providers alike, but eventually they gave in. I also tried other setups in the past, like a MiFi device, but I’m just glad the phone-makers gave in. And while you will naturally run into the issue of networks going in and out as you flitter between towns, it’s nonetheless a way better experience than it used to be. (One thought: Write in an editor that is not tethered to an internet connection. Write outside the CMS—that’s a lesson I learned in my ShortFormBlog days.)
The addition of a padded laptop stand. The most useful piece of cheaply made Amazon junk I own, by a wide margin, is the padded laptop stand I use, which lifts the laptop to a viewable height. A little padding goes a long way, and being able to angle the laptop helps to minimize neck pain. I’ve typed on other surfaces in the past—most infamously, the top of a Chrome Industries bag. The only thing that would make it better, honestly, is if I could fold the stand down to a reasonable size when not in use.
Now, to be clear, writing in a moving vehicle as a passenger isn’t always the most convenient thing in the world. For one thing, if you end up off the beaten path, the laptop becomes a liability. And you need to make sure your wrists maintain a constant grip on the laptop as you’re typing, so it doesn’t move. And the wrong background noise—like a podcast, for example—can cause your train of thought to lead to disaster.
Plus, you need to be realistic—you can’t just type in a laptop for four hours and ignore the other people in your vehicle. Close the laptop sometimes and engage in a conversation sometimes!
But the truth of the matter is, I felt more comfortable writing this than I have writing stuff in a vehicular setting at any time in the past. Nice work, innovation.