I will start by outlining the major difference between laptops and buzzer systems.Brendan Byrne in the Buzzer Thread wrote:Bringing laptops to tournaments is another issue. I didn't want to start a separate thread for this, but it doesn't make sense to me to let someone else use your laptop for a 5 or 10 dollar discount.
- Laptops are usually significantly more expensive than buzzer systems. Correct me if I am wrong on the price points, but buzzer systems typically cost $250-500, whereas laptops are at minimum $500, and more likely between $1000 and $2000.
- Buzzer systems are more decentralized in what can break. While it is true that a problem in the central unit can doom the entire system, it is just as likely that an individual buzzer will break, a problem that can be temporarily solved by switching out that buzzer. With a laptop, if something goes wrong, such as spilling something on it or it is dropped from high enough, that laptop is knocked out for the day and perhaps longer.
- Buzzer systems are extremely simple devices, with very simple objectives. There is only one stated purpose for a buzzer system: to differentiate who buzzes in. Unless a thief has access to a buzzer or buzzer parts black market, has a buzzer fetish, or just enjoys terrorizing people who play quiz bowl, there is very little value in a buzzer system to a thief. But at the end of the day, if a buzzer system is stolen, it can easily be replaced.
A laptop, on the other hand, is a very complex device with many, many uses. This laptop also contains a lot of information, some of it necessarily to the functioning of the owner's life, such as school documents, and some sensitive information, like credit card numbers. The loss of a laptop is much more devastating to someone's life, even without the financial component figured in.
I think the last point alone is good enough to provide a major disincentive to bringing a laptop to a tournament, no matter how generous the laptop discount is. While bad things can happen whether it is someone else using or transporting the laptop or its owner, the negative repercussions of a laptop breaking or being stolen are such that the owner wants to be in as much control as possible.
It is for this reason that I am not willing to bring a laptop to a tournament unless I am the person who is going to use it or I am able to ensure that someone I know personally and trust personally is going to use it. I will not apologize for this stance.