Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Limits of Older Tech

I am a real fanatic when it comes to older technology; this goes without saying, considering the name of this blog. However, and I need to stress this here, I am more interested in practical applications for older technology than just a hobbyist approach.

In other words, making actual use of them.

The trouble is that older tech is prone to problems that simply cannot be addressed easily. Nowhere was this more apparent than in my attempts to update a 1993 era ThinkPad 500 to twenty first century standards. It just couldn't be done, and I have to admit a bit of heartbreak there, because it is such a nice, sturdy old machine. Recently, I managed to get a good, proper install of Windows 98SE onto my ThinkPad 760XD, only to glitch it. Sadly, this was even after installing WiFi and a fairly modern browser. But at 64MB RAM and a 166mHz CPU, there is only so much that can be done with it by modern standards.

That's not to say that the machine is doomed. It certainly isn't, as options still exist. But, with a RAM limit of 96MB, it is going to be a challenge.

Truth be told, they do reach a point where they simply cannot be modernized any further. They are victims of age. My ThinkPad 500 runs Windows 95 beautifully, and the 760XD does the same with 98SE. There are Linux and other open source distros out there that could aid both machines, but even they have limits, and in many cases development has simply ceased on them. You may end up with a more modernized operating system, but in the end, they get left behind by the steady march of technology.

At least surplus technology is moving ahead as well. In 1999, a typical surplus laptop might have been a 386 or even a 486 equipped machine (or, in Mac parlance, a 68030 class). Today, Pentium III's and Celerons are frequently found, as are G3's and 4's. They are far newer than the two aforementioned ThinkPads, and subsequently more usable.

The notion, however, that older machines should simply be neglected bothers me. Perhaps in the end, you reach a limit, and once you run into that wall, you simply cannot go any further.

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