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"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester

Desk (Personal Computer)  
  A computer for students.  

Each student had a "desk", a small computer that was used for performing exercises as well as communicating with other students. The desks were also used for Free Play, a game environment that doubled as a psychological evaluation tool.

Ender doodled on his desk, drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to display them in three dimensions from every angle...

The bell rang. Everyone signed off their desks or hurriedly typed in reminders to themselves. Some were dumping lessons or data into their computers at home. A few gathered at the printers... Ender spread his hands over the keyboard near the edge of the desk and wondered what it would feel like to have hands as large as a grown-up's... Of course, they had bigger keyboards - but how could their thick fingers draw a fine line, the way Ender could...

From Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.
Published by Tor in 1985
Additional resources -

The desk computers came in different sizes; student lockers at Battle School came with a compartment for a small desk.

The precise shape and configuration of the desks is not made entirely clear, but it seems likely that they had a tablet configuration and a touchscreen display that students could manipulate with their fingers similar to an iPad but with a physical keyboard attached. In an October, 2010 interview, Steve Jobs expressed the opinion that a 7" tablet computer is too small, remarking that "This size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size."

For some historical perspective, Texas Instruments came out with its "Speak & Spell" toy in 1978 that had a small text screen combined with a physical keyboard.


(TI "Speak & Spell" toy circa 1978)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ender's Game
  More Ideas and Technology by Orson Scott Card
  Tech news articles related to Ender's Game
  Tech news articles related to works by Orson Scott Card

Desk (Personal Computer)-related news articles:
  - South Korean Students Go All Tablet By 2015
  - Desktopography Makes Virtual Desktops Real
  - SynergyNet Multi-Touch Classroom

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