Carrying a Laptop: A Social Puzzle
I am writing this post on my newest acquisition, an 11” Macbook Air. It’s a lovely piece of machinery, very small and light and surprisingly powerful—it can, for instance, run World of Warcraft at respectable frame rates without my having to turn the graphics settings down low.
It is small, but not small enough to fit in any of my pockets. The obvious solution is to buy or make a carrier for it, a cloth or leather pouch big enough for the computer and perhaps its charger, with a strap that leaves my hands free. Which raises some design questions.
Given the size of the computer and the shape of the human body, the most convenient way to design such a pouch is lying over my chest, a reasonably flat area of about the right width, supported by a strap going behind my neck. Baby carriers are often made that way, with some additional straps—most babies are heavier than most laptops. WWI soldiers carried front packs as well as back packs; for all I know soldiers still do. But I do not think I have ever seen a case for a laptop, or papers, or anything similar designed to hang in front of the carrier’s chest. All such seem to be designed either to go on your back or to hang by your side. What I don't know is why.
Pursuing that question further, I try to imagine making and wearing a case for my new toy designed along what seem to be to be sensible lines. My response to the imagined scene is discomfort, embarrassment. I feel as though I would be doing something odd, violating some unspoken norm. People would look at me oddly.
Why I feel that way, and why carry bags are designed as they are, I do not know. One possibility is that it is because the most common such device is a woman’s purse and women’s purses normally hang at their sides, perhaps because women’s breasts would get in the way of a frontal design. But that is only a guess, and one made by a not very observant guesser; perhaps some women’s purses are designed in the way I have just suggested that they are not and I have just not noticed them.
My best evidence is inside my head, where I seem to have internalized a norm mandating bad design for the case for my new toy.