The rules of speed docking vary by region; but the Ackerman canon is generally considered acceptable for tournament purposes — with the following caveat: when these were written, “docking” still involved loading large mainframes off the backs of freight trucks. While we have to recognize the great speed docking heroes like Jack “Big Iron” Chickering who competed during this era, the sport is such that it is tied to advances in technology. Thus, some of the rules have necessarily been modified since Ackerman’s time.

Here are the most important, along with a bit of commentary for the newcomer.

1) Equipment and Objectives

The goal is to a) remove a laptop and its power supply from a carrying case, b) connect the power along with an external monitor and keyboard, and c) power on the laptop in the least amount of time. The goal is complete when the laptop is ready to accept input.

2) Expected Obstacles

The laptop and power supply should be secured behind suitable fasteners — usually zippers or velcro flaps. The laptop should be in a standby or sleep state (not powered down, which would make boot time too large a factor). Power supply cabling should be tidy and secure.

Note — maintenance of the laptop is still important as you want the wake-from-sleep time to be as short as possible. It’s no coincidence that the last seven speed docking world champions were all Mac users.

3) Rule of Ordinary Workspace

The work area used in the attempt should not be excessively optimized for speed docking — “as you left it” is generally the rule here. Loose cables may be left on the desk surface; desk chair should be positioned under the desk.

Note — always be on the lookout for seeming innocuous protrusions in your workspace that can suddenly turn deadly in the heat of a docking attempt. Don’t forget the Richard Dunlevy incident of ’82 — poor guy still eats through a straw.

Regarding the timekeeping device: Obviously regulation speed docking timers are available at many sporting goods retailers, but for the docker just getting into the pursuit a standard stopwatch or mobile phone stopwatch feature will suffice.

Hopefully these rules will help you to safely and legitimately set some great speed docking times.


April 21, 2008