Virginia Tech Requiring TabletPCs for Engineering Freshmen

Looks like my Alma Mater is riding the cutting edge of computing once again.  Incoming freshmen are being required to purchase a pretty heavy duty convertible TabletPC.  In my four years at Virginia Tech, I took programming classes that required Fortran90, C, Java, and C++.  They’re not afraid to evaluate the landscape and make choices that they think will give students an edge coming out.  I remember talking to some students that went through a few years before me, and they had to purchase DEC workstations.  My brother who went through 3 years ahead of me had to get a PC, a 386.  I had to get a Pentium (at least 60MHz).  They make decisions each year, and those decisions live for the 4 or 5 years until the incoming freshmen graduate.  It’s got to be tough to make technology choices based on what skills will be needed 5 years later, but instead of playing it safe, Virginia Tech tends to go out on a limb a bit.  Even if their crystal ball isn’t perfect, I think it breeds in the students a willingness to go out on a limb, try new technologies and see if they help you build better solutions.  Just my 2 cents, but I’m proud of my school for taking the chance on the TabletPC platform.

The article Loren links to is critical of the choice.  Students have always been critical of the computer requirements, so this doesn’t surprise me.  In Engineering especially, they require some pretty heavy specs.  Both my brother and I probably spent a good 50% over and above what a reasonable “family PC” would have cost at the time.  Looking back, it was a good choice.  After seeing how long Autocad would take to render simple drawings, I almost wished they would have required even more horsepower, but they do pretty good at keeping costs reasonable, while still giving you the tools you need to learn.