Well to be totally fair, this one was not particularly Simon’s fault! This one had more to do with Mr Michael Dell!
My first laptop
I carried on with the story of my personal (technology) journey between 1992 and circa 2003 in Part IV. As a quick reminder, here we are now, in 2003 with me arriving in Sheffield and starting a new chapter in my life, my PhD journey. University of Sheffield where I did my PhD was and still is great in providing a second to none environment for nurturing PGR (postgraduate research) students and SSoA (Sheffield School of Architecture) was always on the top of the list. As first year PhD students we were all given a dedicated desk and a desktop computer but I thought I needed my own laptop to be able to carry on working at home, on the move or when I am away, and I was so over the moon remembering the “cool guy” with his Toshiba laptop! But it was not easy! I had a budget of £1200 which was a lot of money for a laptop back in 2003 considering that I bought my 1997 Micra for just over £300! Yes, the old story of cars vs computers! However, there were so many options and I was lost! I started a thorough research on brands and specs.
Mr Dell wins!
Back in late 90s I got my hands on an official CD issued by BMW. When I installed and ran it on my computer, I was fascinated. You could virtually build your BMW 5 Series (E39) and through a dial-up internet link send your order through to BMW so it could be built to order. Obviously the financial side of that including money transactions were supposed to be taken care of before the “build-to-order” process could have commenced on one of BMW production sites. It was amazing because it was almost fully and completely “customisable”; the term I had no idea whatsoever about there and then. It was in 2003/04 that while searching for my laptop I came across Dell. At the same time, I was also reading broadly for my PhD, what background reading or scoping study is all about. It was then that I came to know that Dell was pioneering the computer (and more specifically laptop) market by introducing mass-customisation to their production line since late 80s. And after that I realised that what BMW CD was utilising as a principle was along the same lines. You can imagine the rest of the story. (Mr) Dell was the winner in my book and I ordered my first fully customisable Dell Inspiron 5150 laptop (see the post image) for just short of £1200, of course with a specification which a school kid would not consider nowadays even close to what he or she would want to carry out his/her homework or join online classes on MS Teams or Zoom. In the 5 following years which my PhD took, thanks to customisability of my Inspiron 5150, I was fully and completely capable to literally buy and replace almost all components of my laptop whenever they broke except its LCD screen which probably is still in fully working order. The seed had been planted with my purchase and got only stronger over the five years of my PhD studies. This turned me into a firm believer, even an advocate, of Dell but even more so of the concept of (mass) customisation!
Yes, you guessed it correctly. The Inspiron 5150 had inspired me! I still wonder whether it would have inspired me the same way if I had stuck with the first laptop (a Dell Inspiron 5100) which I initially ordered, did not like, returned to Dell, and upgraded to a 5150 or not; probably it would! The fascination was so deep and contagious that I did my entire PhD for the next 5 years on “(Mass) Customisation in Design, Fabrication and Implementation Processes of Building Envelopes”; what probably was the first PhD on (mass) customisation in the building industry, but that’s a separate story for another time where I would spend some time to explain how technology and more specifically AR/VR technologies came to help the idea to some extent and how they can contribute even more.
If you are interested in knowing more about mass customisation in general you would be able to find tons of academic research in International Journal of Mass Customisation and if you are interested in knowing more about mass customisation in architecture and the built environment, my book published by Routledge in 2013 would provide you with some wider reading on the topic.
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