Egg Freckles
Notes from my Newton


The following interview was inspired by The Setup, a collection of nerdy interviews, asking people from all walks of life about the hardware and software they use.

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Thomas Brand. I dropped out of art school to spend time behind the Genius Bar. Today I work at MIT and run marathons for fun.

What hardware do you use?

In 2014 I sold my Mac and began building my own PCs running Fedora GNU/Linux. After more than a dozen hardware upgrades I wouldn’t come back to the Mac until 2018, when I purchased a base model MacBook Air to use during my commute. I enjoy the freedom mixing and matching commodity PC parts gives me, but appreciate the precision hardware in my Apple portable. I tried using an iPad as my travel computer, but I am hopelessly addicted to the keyboard, command line, and filesystem.

  • I traded in my Apple Extended Keyboard for a white Magicforce mechanical keyboard by Qisan with blue switches.
  • I have a refurbished iPhone 7 in my pocket connected to T-Mobile’s “legendary” $30 a month unlimited data plan. I wear an Apple Watch Series 2 on my wrist when I am running, and a Omega Seamaster 2531.80 Chronometer on my wrist when I am not.
  • My Newton MessagePads don’t get much use these days. Too bulky to keep in a pocket, hopelessly disconnected from the modern world. Still Newton’s make a great portable longhand writing device if you are into that sort of thing.

And what software?

I write everything in in Vim; email, code, and prose. Through the power of MOSH and a hosted server I can take my writing environment with me everywhere I go. Vim’s persistent undo feature is my poor man’s version control system.

I read email in Alpine, RSS in Fever°, and HTML in Firefox. Everything else I send to Pocket.

What would be your dream setup?

I started my career in graphic design because I wanted to use a Mac. Today I value the freedom to choose my own computer. Choice is what keeps me interested in technology.