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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

From Typewriters to Pentium 4s: Today's Designer Dorms


For students 20 or 30 years ago, moving to college did not involve hauling computers, refrigerators or high-tech stereo equipment, but what students today consider bare (non-electronic) necessities - and, for the lucky few, a personal typewriter.

Today, student rooms are packed with televisions, CD players, radios, alarm clocks, computers, printers, DVD players, game consoles, telephones, answering machines cellular phones and countless other gadgets and gizmos.

"In my room, I have a 27-inch TV, a stereo receiver, DVD player, VCR, surround-sound speakers, computer, printer, video camera, Playstation and Nintendo 64," said Steve Paul, a sophomore media studies major. The estimated value of Paul's quad is $11,180 - enough to buy a new car.

Paul and his roommates are not unique.

"I have a big fridge, a TV and a computer and lots of posters," said Stacey Keiffer, a sophomore business major. "I am a person who loves having a cool dorm room and I go out of my way to buy stuff."

Keiffer estimated she spent $1,500 in the last two years to equip her room.

Rosemary Feal, UB Spanish professor and chair of the modern languages and literature department, illustrates the widening gap between the relatively unadorned dorm rooms of previous generations and the techno-dorms of today's college students.

"I bought a desk lamp, area rug, reading pillow (the kind with arms), a pitiful 'stereo player' that must look like a Fisher-Price toy to today's college students, a hot pot (has nothing to do with 'pot': it's a little metal pot that heats water!), and that's it," said Feal.

"My son went off to Florida State this fall with: computer, scanner, sound system, DVD player, TV, cell phone, desk phone, ResNet connection, printer, you name it," said Feal. "Oh, and three credit cards, an ATM card, a check book, online accounts galore ... none of which I had."

Vice President for Student Affairs Dennis Black reinforced the contrast.

"Bill Gates was barely born, let alone all these computers [available]," said Black.

One of the most expensive aspects of equipping a student room, the computer, is fast becoming a non-negotiable commodity. UB requires incoming freshmen to either purchase a computer or have access to one, and many colleges across the country require students to have personal computers.

Iconnect@UB, part of a UB student's introduction to technology, includes recommendations for computer specifications. Among other things, UB recommends that student computers include an Intel Pentium III or Celeron processor, 466 megahertz processor, a Zip drive, 64 megabytes of RAM and either Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, NT 4.0 or the Windows 2000 operating system.

A computer with an 800-megahertz CPU, a 40-gigabyte hard drive, 128 megabytes of RAM and Windows ME sells for $599 at UBMicro, $658 with an Ethernet card. Add in a printer, DVD drive, CD burner or Web camera, and the cost of a computer can easily surpass the $1,000 mark.

"I think in general, students have more [than before]," said Thomas Tiberi, associate director for residential operations. Items such as televisions or stereos, Tiberi pointed out, can be shared by roommates to conserve space, although many students choose not to do so.

"We have a total of four computers, four printers, a scanner and digital camera," said Paul, who lives in a quad in Ellicott. "We also have the ability to hook up one of the computers to the stereo system to play computer video and audio for movies and sound."

"[All this stuff] isn't necessary. We could probably get along with the computers on campus and a 13-inch TV and a crappy '80s-style boom box, but since electronics is what we like, we already have this stuff," added Derek Heck, sophomore media studies major and Paul's roommate.

"It's entertainment, not study tools. I'm using my computer for digital art right now, so I don't have to go to the Mac lab. [I use it] usually for games ... but it saves a walk."

It has become easier for students to comply with professors' requirements that papers must be typed due to the increasing number of on-campus computing labs. Still, many students prefer to use a computer in the privacy of their own rooms.

"Computers are definitely necessary because you need them to do homework," said Lisa Vanderwols, a sophomore psychology major. "A lot of classes are dependent on a computer in one way or another. Plus, they are good for entertainment."

In her room, Vanderwols said she has three computers, a TV, a VCR, refrigerators, toasters, fans and a stereo.

Black remembered back to simpler times when he was a UB student, when "high-tech" meant an electronic typewriter and a "pocket" calculator that cost $100.

"You didn't need an extension cord with 40 things to plug into. ... You weren't buying anything new to go to school," he said, pointing out that moving to college in the 1960s generally included little more than packing up clothes from home, a backpack and maybe a portable typewriter, if the student was especially fortunate.

"If you were really lucky, you were dating someone who could type really well," said Black. "I was really lucky."




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