Getting a new computer! (from China)

Eight days ago, I went online and ordered a new learning machine (computer) from Lenovo. It was assembled in China, and should arrive at my door, via UPS, any time now…

Here’s a six-minute Google Earth video I made that shows the route my computer has taken to get half way around the world:

Thanks to UPS, I can track my computer on its journey from China — apparently, it was assembled at a Lenovo plant in Shanghai. I wonder what the working conditions are there — and I wonder how much the workers who assembled my computer are paid per hour…

My computer was ready for shipping on Oct 8, just four days after I ordered it. The computer has a processor that runs at 2.4 GHz — a speed that I presume is way faster than the computers that landed a rocket ship on the moon in 1969 — let me check on that…

Here’s some information from a Lonely Planet travel forum website — it sounds good, but I’d want to corroborate it:

1 MHz = 1 Million Clock Cycles per second
1 GHz = 1 Billion Clock Cycles per second

Apollo 11 had a 2.048 MHz CPU, these days you can get ~4 GHz in many home PCs. At a guess 2.048 MHz would be equivalent to what a modern graphical/ scientific calculator would run on…

So let me wrap my head around the idea that after one mouse click, I am about to get a computer — from China — that is more than 1,000 times faster than the computer used to land a space ship on the moon. We live in amazing times. What a great time to be a learner!

My new computer arrived in Durham, NC, where I live, just before 5 a.m. this morning, and went out for delivery at 6:40 a.m.

Here are the details from the UPS website:

As you can see above, my computer shipped on October 10. What’s fun to see is that it made its way to Alaska about eight hours BEFORE it left China. My computer left Shanghai at 9:06 p.m. and arrived in Alaska the same day — Oct 10 — at 1:44 p.m. That means it arrived roughly seven hours BEFORE it left.

How is that possible??  Well, there are these things called time zones…


With students, this could lead to a fun discussion about why time zones originated. They started in the late 1800s, shortly after trains were invented.  Before trains, people never traveled great distances in short periods of time, so there was no need for time zones. You woke up with the sun, did your work (mainly farming), and went to bed when it was dark. Travelers from foreign lands were few and far between.

While I’m on this diversion, here’s what my iPhone has to say about time zones:


If you look at the top, you can see that I use Verizon and that I took a screen shot of my phone for this blog post at about 6:33 a.m., Durham time. When it’s 6:33 a.m. in Durham, NC, it’s 2:33 a.m. in Anchorage, AK, and 6:33 p.m. in Shanghai.

If you didn’t watch it already, here’s a link to the 6-minute Google Earth video that shows my computer’s journey from Shanghai to Durham.

It’s mind-boggling to think that we live in a world where, at the click of a mouse, I am able to order a new learning machine from a company in Shanghai China. My credit card is charged, and soon after that, my computer gets assembled in about four days (I wonder if they work weekends?  If not, it was assembled in one or two days).

Then, my computer gets on an airplane in Shanghai and arrives in Durham, NC, after traveling for just two days (by way of Alaska, Kentucky, and Greensboro).

As I install new programs on my computer, I’ll describe some of the learning tools I use regularly, such as Twitter, blogs, One Note, and Google Earth. I probably should start using Evernote — perhaps this new machine will be the impetus I need to learn in new ways…

My next blog post will explore how students at TLC (including the life-long students, such as myself) will take care of our learning machines and get the most out of them. I’m very excited to get to know my new machine.

Note: For the past year and a half, I have been working on a used computer I purchased from Cary Academy, the school where I taught from 2007-2011. Students at Cary Academy are all issued state-of-the art computers, and every three or four years, the school spends more than a million dollars to buy a new fleet of 700 computers (there are about 100 students per grade and Cary Academy runs from 6th to 12th grade).

The computer I’d been using was one of the old student computers that the students handed back in so that they could be issued new computers. As employees, we were offered the option of buying an old student computer for $100. That seemed like a good deal. It’s an HP that’s running the Microsoft XP operating system. Here’s a picture:


I honestly don’t know what model it is. I do know that it converts into a tablet (in the picture above, it’s about to convert from one to the other — the screen spins around) and I can write on the screen with my stylus. I have, in the past, been too busy to pay much attention to how my computer works. That’s going to change starting today.

When we use our computers — our primary learning tools — at Triangle Learning Community, we will be thoughtful about how (and when) we use them.

The battery life of my current computer is down to about an hour and my wife thinks the machine is about to burn up any moment because it runs hot and the fan does not seem to cool it off. But it’s worked pretty well for my purposes. One annoying feature is that the machine often crashes, and sometimes takes a while to get started. As I look forward to opening a new school (on the 50th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech — August 28, 2013), it’s time for a new learning machine.


About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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