Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy birthday to my old PC:

Ten years ago I purchased a Compaq Presario 5240 (400 MHz chip, 10 Gig disk, 64 Meg ram - since upgraded to 320 Meg). It's still doing useful work. Though not for browsing much anymore. I have to block Flash in Firefox and it's hopeless with some heavy webpages, but it's still where the mail client resides, Open Office apps are run, along with some other tools (PaintShopPro, very primitive FrontPage 2.0 for basic webpage development).

It can barely manage to play an mpeg, and there is no way it can edit anything but the smallest A/V files. But it's still a productive member of my office PCs (I have four other more capable units with up-to-date O/S and apps; no Macs though).

Interestingly, it was the first PC that I purchased. Being a programmer using more powerful units in the office, PCs in the 1990's were definitely inferior to those I had access to at work, so why bother? Why get a Windows 95 PC with a 25 MHz chip? Or 90 MHz chip? It wasn't until 400 MHz and other improvements - plenty of disk, USB, ethernet - were all in a box that it seemed worthwhile to get one. Hence, the wait until April 16, 1999.

For about four years, it was "the box" that did all the work. Then, gradually activity shifted to the faster units with more up-to-date applications. I probably could have migrated everything over to, for example, a better PC running Windows 2000 Pro. But there have been times when Old Faithful has been just what I needed when the other units were doing other stuff or down for one reason or another.

I guess this is a rambling post that is trying to address the notion of why it's rare in the computer world to have any functioning "classic" equipment. With cars, you can still drive something built 50 years ago. Some audio formats and equipment still work adequately (e.g. vinyl records). But with computers it's hard to see how anything but a stand-alone unit can survive. Whatever is connected to the Internet requires upgrades. The higher volume of data is one reason, but another is that many websites demand use of newer browsers, and lots of security software won't support a Windows 98 machine anymore.

So how much longer will this old unit be used? Who knows? At some point I might just as well pack it up and replace it with a netbook. It's not a good idea to stay with an old computer for reasons of nostalgia. But damn, it's still able to do a reasonable amount of work. So maybe it'll still be around five years from now.


I guess this is a rambling post that is trying to address the notion of why it's rare in the computer world to have any functioning "classic" equipment.I've got a '99 grape iMac that still works great. It's in the closet, though. I wanted more features, so I replaced it with a G4 iMac in 2003. It's still going strong after six years. Meanwhile my brother's gone through two Dells since '04.

By Anonymous Screamin' Demon, at 4/16/2009 10:57 AM  

I occasionally start up my long passed away Dad's Mac SE/30. Says built in 1988 on the back. Play some games we used to tinker with for old times sake. He replaced the hard drive in the late 90's, otherwise it has had no problems. When I see one in a movie or old TV show I get excited and my wife groans.

Kind of makes me sick thinking about all the electronic trash I have produced over the years. How come there is no law requiring all chargers to have the same plug for all machines? I have a big box of transformers. We are the planet gobblers.

By Anonymous Mart, at 4/16/2009 5:43 PM  

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