Translation and Geekery Combined

I love computers with a passion. I regularly use three different computers for my translation work, whilst I know many only use one. Why use more than one? Well, this article will help to explain the different choices I have made, and where and why these are helpful to me in my profession.

I love each of my computers dearly. As such, they all have names, which also helps when referring to each one to my geeky friends. The names all follow a pattern of beginning with the letters “Al-”, because my first ever computer was given the name I would have been given had I been born a boy – Albert.

I will start with the most common (perhaps recommended?) initial set up: a relatively modern but not flashy laptop computer, then work through why my team has expanded and for what reason, summarised in handy bullet point pros and cons.

However, before I get started, I would like to contribute some general considerations when buying a computer:

  • As with any purchase, shop around for the best price and product. However, unlike other purchasers, we may have a linguistic advantage: remember to compare home and overseas manufacturers’ and online retail sites. You may find different hardware availability and prices, as well as a difference in service. For example, some countries’ retailers may be legally obliged to offer longer warranties as standard (e.g. Germany). See the comments on “Algernon” below.
  • Consider what your computer will be used for. Whilst a good graphics card is important if you are creating your own marketing and web materials, right down to the pixel, or for keeping up with the IT and games industries if this is an area in which you translate, you probably will not need such luxuries if you translate books on aromatherapy. Also consider that such an expense, if unjustifiable, may attract the attention of the tax man.
  • Consider your working habits. If you are a bit like me, and have a million and one browser windows open at once, a little extra RAM and processing speed in your CPU can come in handy. It won’t perhaps be your primary consideration, but it is worth bearing in mind.
  • If you are bilingual, your computer should be too. Whilst some translators might choose to have their operating system set to their source language, others may find it confusing. A more practical tip for translators is to consider purchasing a keyboard for your source language, or unusual target language, or both (depending on which has the most unusual alphabet). English can be typed pretty easily on a German keyboard, so, as a German to English translator, I use a German keyboard with my desktop, and my laptop and netbook have German keyboards. Similarly, I would recommend an English to German translator living in the UK purchase a German keyboard. Note: laptop keyboards can be changed, some simply, some with more difficulty. See eBay and Amazon for options.
  • What to do in the event of hardware failure. If you rely solely on one computer in the house, perhaps you should think about what you would do in the event of failure. Think twice, for example, before you throw away a working laptop because it has a broken screen – a tiny processor like that is a handy fallback option if your desktop PC fails – all you need is to attach a monitor and you have a working computer. You might also want to consider further backup options – like using “cloud” (online) storage (e.g. Dropbox), or a second hard drive. In my case, I have a second hard drive where my data is backed up onto, as well as a second working installation of my operating system – so I can literally plug it in and go.
  • What if the internet dies. In a similar line, it might be worth considering your backup options if your internet fails – can you connect to the internet via your mobile phone? If not, and you do not have a friendly neighbour you could call on, consider purchasing a pay-and-go mobile broadband dongle or mifi solution.

Source: The Translators Teacup