Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moving Right Along

Once upon a time, I wanted this blog to be dedicated to the notion of keeping and using older computers, to keep them from obsolesence. 
It turns out that obsolesence is mainly a state of mind.
Many computer enthusiasts continue using older machines for a variety of reasons, personal and otherwise. A friend of ours still uses an Amstrad PCW8256 for writing. Another uses their old game computer for gaming. Then there's a fellow in Pakistan who uses an older IBM for publishing a paper. 
As for myself, I use a number of older computers for a variety of reasons, though mainly for curiosity's sake. I have, once more, begun using my Tandy Model 102 (and 200) as well as my eMate for writing, since they are superb for that, with very minimal distraction. I also have a couple of typewriters, one manual the other electric, that I could use as well, and enjoy, but far be it from me to recommend that everyone follow my lead.
To say that I will end writing about these older machines and my adventures on them would be an untruth. Recently, however, my focus has been focused on not just what these computers are capable of, but getting them on the Internet. To varying degrees, I've found success. The rub is that while most of these computers can access the Internet, the results are less than satisfactory for most. The Internet has moved well past what these computers are capable of.
When I picked up a Newton 2000 for a song recently, it made me painfully aware of some of the problems I was facing. The only computer it can dock with was my PowerBook 5300c. This computer has been very cranky of late. A few years back I noticed that it would have an occasional bus error. The infrared port is basically useless, not capable of using the IrDA protocol, and the only way to move data is via a floppy drive that is becoming iffy. The painful truth is that the computer has become redundant, though I hesitate to say obsolete. It isn't alone. My first color laptop, my PowerBook 540c, runs beautifully but it can no longer write data reliably to the floppy drive, currently its only connection to the outside world. A lack of modern ports, namely USB, severely restricts both. 
As difficult as it is, both machines have lost their usefulness. They still work, mind you, even with their problems. Their utility, though, has passed. 
Ironically, a solution exists that will not only allow the Newtons to be used, but allow all my devices to be docked to one machine, incredibly my iBook Clamshell. While still old, it is far more useful. The iBook represents what may actually be the rearguard, the oldest machine capable of using the Internet, yet modern enough to have a USB port. 
Yes, we will revisit the older computers. But for now, there's plenty to do, doors to knock on, noises to make. 

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