1. The computer lab
Way back in the early era of personal computing (late 1980s), simply having a home system wasn't necessarily good enough if you needed a computer to get work done. Even then writing papers by hand was a thing of the past as far as I was concerned.
The Atari 400 we owned had no printer or word processing software, so I had to slog over to the high school computer lab if I wanted to write a book report or term paper. I had to do the same in college until I finally got a printer for my Tandy system (which had only enough memory to store and print seven pages worth of material at once, forcing me to utilize brevity).
Going to the lab wasn't necessarily all bad since I might bump into friends, turning the visit into a social experience. However, that sometimes worked against me since interruptions and distractions were rampant. Waiting for a terminal to become available during peak usage times, dealing with the background noise and suffering the headache-inducing fluorescent lighting that seemed to be required in every lab I've seen made for a laborious experience. I was glad to finally achieve full computing capability from my dorm room, even on a system with limited capacity.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.