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What's the oldest computer you've seen in use today?


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#26 bigbee99 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:46 AM

I hate to side track much more from this topic, but I never used Mac outside on the Macs that were in my high school and my wife's Mac Book Pro. I ran across an older iMac for $25 today. Somewhere around the 333 MHz neighborhood. I really want it just to check it out a little better but for one, I really don't have the room for it right now, and 2, what would I do with it? Maybe next time. I doubt it's going anywhere fast. Found it at a hole in the wall flea market. I ask my wife when I got home if she thought she might wanna give it a run. Why not get to know your roots right? She had no interest in it. Maybe I can come up with another excuse to buy it before next weekend. :twisted:

B

Edited by bigbee99, Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:48 AM.


#27 supercat OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:54 AM

I think I may have you all beat; about 12-15 years ago, I saw a company using a punched card sorter. Those things are pretty amazing; the cards move so fast one can't actually see the individual cards flowing through the machine. Instead one sees a blur of flying cards as the source stack gets shorter and the output stacks get bigger.

I don't know precisely what the company was doing with the cards, but it looked as though each card had a roughly 2"x2" hole in it within which was mounted some sort of optical film. I'm not sure how the company kept the films from getting scratched, but it did seem a somewhat clever use of an antiquated technology to manage physical films (I'm not sure what was actually on the films, but nowadays digital archiving would probably be more common).

#28 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:46 AM

I think I may have you all beat; about 12-15 years ago, I saw a company using a punched card sorter. Those things are pretty amazing; the cards move so fast one can't actually see the individual cards flowing through the machine. Instead one sees a blur of flying cards as the source stack gets shorter and the output stacks get bigger.


Punched cards, heh, data storage for Real Men!! When I was a kid in first grade I learned to edit them with a razor blade and tape.

Edited by Keatah, Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:52 AM.


#29 Streck OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 8:37 AM

I think I may have you all beat; about 12-15 years ago, I saw a company using a punched card sorter. Those things are pretty amazing; the cards move so fast one can't actually see the individual cards flowing through the machine. Instead one sees a blur of flying cards as the source stack gets shorter and the output stacks get bigger.

I don't know precisely what the company was doing with the cards, but it looked as though each card had a roughly 2"x2" hole in it within which was mounted some sort of optical film. I'm not sure how the company kept the films from getting scratched, but it did seem a somewhat clever use of an antiquated technology to manage physical films (I'm not sure what was actually on the films, but nowadays digital archiving would probably be more common).


Remarkable! I was recently watching this video of a card sorter in operation. The aesthetics alone are amazing (those buttons!):



I have to say, I'm pleased at this thread's success. Vintage technology in the wild, still being used for its intended purpose by people who don't care how old it is, just that it works, is sort of organically fascinating. Us retro enthusiasts are outside the mainstream, with our unlikely hoards of ancient things, but out in the real world we can still find some naturally-occurring islands where time has more or less stopped. It's delightful and maybe a bit self-validating. ;)

Here are a couple of additional data points.

Dartmouth College is apparently still using an Apple II Plus in labs for its lower-level physics classes:

http://www.dartmouth...all.spring.html
http://www.dartmouth...ile.motion.html

Well, as of 2004, anyway, when those pages were last updated. Identified in the equipment list:

1 Apple II+ computer
2 monitors
1 video camera
1 imagewriter printer/paper
2 AppleStrobe software disks


In 2005, a researcher at the Trofimuk United Institute of Geology in Novosibirsk, Russia sent this to the ISOGEOCHEM listserv:

http://list.uvm.edu/...GEOCHEM&P=R6818

We have some troble with Apple IIe computer which is operating of MAT Delta mass-spec. Only symptom is blinking of all leds, including leds in floppy slots, in keyboard and power on led inside the computer. Power unit was checked and is Ok. Any advise will be highly appreciated.


Apparently the Apple IIe was the standard controller for the MAT-251 mass spectrometer that he was using. Six days later, he fixed it the old-fashioned way:

http://list.uvm.edu/...GEOCHEM&P=R8422

On case anybody still playng with such old machine. Symptoms: nothing working. All leds are blinking. Screen is also blinking. Power unit looks Ok. Live looks horrible. Solution: do not believe to your tester!!! Replace ALL electrolytic capacitors in Power unit.


It's gratifying to see that level of repair being carried out. I'd bet money on his Apple still being in use.

Edited by Streck, Sun Jul 17, 2011 8:43 AM.

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#30 Streck OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 9:14 AM

People have become acclimated to rapid upgrade cycles, and I've been in the business long enough to have seen several of them: reluctantly switch to the latest new thing, run into a bunch of new headaches, install updates and create workarounds until you mitigate most of them, and hope the next upgrade fixes the rest of them. Wash, rinse, repeat.


I work at a company that offers a proprietary suite of software on a remote-hosted basis: massive farms of Windows servers running Citrix, through which our products can be accessed. Windows, Citrix, and our software are the three main upgrade points we run into every few years. The additional functionality that's afforded by the new versions is enough by itself to justify our rapid upgrade cycle, but we're also quite fortunate in that we have a very, very thorough testing environment that alleviates most issues in advance. It's the only way to do things in an industry where technology speeds ahead as quickly as it does, but I try to stay conscious of the fact that most companies and other organizations aren't big enough to have those kinds of resources available.

A friend of mine was using a Windows XP machine of about 2006 vintage up until a month ago, when its RAID controller failed. He'd been wanting to get back into PC gaming for some time, so instead of fixing that computer, I spec'ed out a new one for him on Newegg and watched him assemble his very first homebuilt. Luckily, we had a decent budget to work with (~$1500, since that's what his wife's iMac G5 cost), so I was able to set him up with quality components, and he's gained some valuable experience that will help him troubleshoot should anything go wrong.


The upgrade habits among Macintosh owners are interesting to me, because with each major upgrade cycle, that platform has made much more radical transitions than you almost ever see on the PC side: from 68K to PowerPC to Intel processors, and from the classic Mac OS to the Unix-based OS X. Modern PC hardware can still trace its ancestry directly back to the IBM PC, and it still isn't too hard to get many 16-bit Windows and DOS applications to run natively under Windows, but the Macintosh is an entirely different machine now. I had assumed this level of technological turnover would have made Mac users less eager to upgrade, but maybe that's because I'm observing this from the mindset of the PC, where early adopters so often get burned by the glitches in new technology. Perhaps Apple has succeeded in making the upgrade process so seamless (relatively speaking) that Mac users don't have the same kind of trepidation about upgrades.


I know only a few tech enthusiasts, but I know many more "regular" folks, and for the most part they care about one thing: their data. Photos, documents, e-mail, whatever. To them, their computer is merely a vehicle for that data, a utility with as much sentimental value as a gas main or water faucet. They only care about upgrading when it breaks, or when it can no longer effectively do what they want. My mother has been using the same P4 1.4 GHz machine running Windows XP for the past six years, but my father upgraded to a new dual-core Dell running Windows 7 because he decided he wanted to get into photo and video editing. My friend's wife has been using her iMac G5 without complaint since 2005. As far as I can tell, for most consumers, necessity is the ultimate dictator and everything else is the domain of obsessives like ourselves. ;)

Edited by Streck, Sun Jul 17, 2011 9:55 AM.


#31 Shawn OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:43 PM

There is an Apple IIe running a metal lathe at my old high school that is still in day to day use.

#32 VectorGamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:56 PM

There is an Apple IIe running a metal lathe at my old high school that is still in day to day use.


That's awesome!

I temp'd at an electronics plant that used some old IBM 386s to program the machines that made circuit boards

#33 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:37 PM

While I still have my original Apple hardware I don't use it for simply the reason I want to keep it as nice as possible for as long as possible. I'm sure it would function just perfectly.

Anyways,

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The internet in 1969 -

#34 akator OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:15 AM

While it's far from ancient, I still use my Palm IIIxe. As long as it keeps working, I see no reason to replace it. Over the last year I've found myself really enjoying the retro-simplicity of the interface. It runs for months off of 2 AAA batteries.

Admittedly, I get a lot of strange looks from people when I use it in public ;)

#35 awhite2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:18 AM

I don't know precisely what the company was doing with the cards, but it looked as though each card had a roughly 2"x2" hole in it within which was mounted some sort of optical film.


These are known as Aperture Cards. The film would contain a drawing or some other image stored using a process similar to microfilm or microfiche. The "punch card" portion would contain information such as a drawing number or other identifier.

http://en.wikipedia....#Aperture_cards

#36 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:33 PM

While it's far from ancient, I still use my Palm IIIxe. As long as it keeps working, I see no reason to replace it. Over the last year I've found myself really enjoying the retro-simplicity of the interface. It runs for months off of 2 AAA batteries.

Admittedly, I get a lot of strange looks from people when I use it in public ;)

I get similarly strange looks when I use my Tandy 102 in public. I just love the simplicity and the immediacy of it: it's a portable computer designed primarily for writing, and it's got a very clean and unobtrusive interface that makes it so easy to turn it on and start typing almost instantaneously. It uses a battery-backed "RAM disk" for storage, so everything you write is automatically saved the instant you type it, and its serial interface makes it possible to connect it to just about any computer ever made, even through a USB adapter (which I carry in my bag with it). Plus, it gives me nearly forty hours on four rechargeable AA batteries, something that modern netbooks can't come close to.
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#37 toptenmaterial OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:36 PM

Yeah, I get some funny looks too when I use my SX-64 on the subway. :D

#38 GroovyBee OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:38 PM

If you want something small and compact then go for a Psion 3a/3c. It's a clamshell, monochrome display and rubber keyboard machine. It has has built in productivity apps with a programming language called OPL. Plus you get the 40 hours of usage from two AA's ;).

#39 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:43 PM

If you want something small and compact then go for a Psion 3a/3c. It's a clamshell, monochrome display and rubber keyboard machine. It has has built in productivity apps with a programming language called OPL. Plus you get the 40 hours of usage from two AA's ;).

You know, I haven't thought about the Psion 3 series in years, but I remember drooling over them when I first read about them in a 1991 PC Magazine article which compared different handheld computers (I believe the Atari Portfolio was also profiled). I used to use a Portfolio for writing, in fact, but the small keyboard was too limiting for me, and I think I'd have the same experience with the Psion if I were to switch to it now (I've gotten spoiled by my 102's full-stroke keyboard!). But, anyone else who's looking for a good classic handheld computer should definitely consider it.

#40 GroovyBee OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:48 PM

The Psion 3a/3c is a pretty usable machine. There is plenty of space between the rubber keys which helps a great deal.

#41 akator OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:58 PM

I get similarly strange looks when I use my Tandy 102 in public. I just love the simplicity and the immediacy of it: it's a portable computer designed primarily for writing, and it's got a very clean and unobtrusive interface that makes it so easy to turn it on and start typing almost instantaneously. It uses a battery-backed "RAM disk" for storage, so everything you write is automatically saved the instant you type it, and its serial interface makes it possible to connect it to just about any computer ever made, even through a USB adapter (which I carry in my bag with it). Plus, it gives me nearly forty hours on four rechargeable AA batteries, something that modern netbooks can't come close to.


I loved the Model 100 series, they were (and still are) remarkable machines.

Like so many others back in the day, I was guilty of using the term "trash 80," even though I had some great experiences with the TRS computers in general. I don't think anyone could ever talk smack about the Model 100 series, though ;)

#42 BydoEmpire OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:46 PM

I get similarly strange looks when I use my Tandy 102 in public. I just love the simplicity and the immediacy of it: it's a portable computer designed primarily for writing, and it's got a very clean and unobtrusive interface that makes it so easy to turn it on and start typing almost instantaneously. It uses a battery-backed "RAM disk" for storage, so everything you write is automatically saved the instant you type it, and its serial interface makes it possible to connect it to just about any computer ever made, even through a USB adapter (which I carry in my bag with it). Plus, it gives me nearly forty hours on four rechargeable AA batteries, something that modern netbooks can't come close to.

I've been thinking about getting a 100 or 102 as well. They seem like fun little machines.

#43 Seob OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:43 PM

Sometimes i still use my TI Avigo, because i have some games on it. It was my first pda.

#44 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:01 PM

In this 'day and age' of disposable tablets and phones I get funny looks from kids when I pull out my "oversize" laptop (10 years old) on the bus or train.

#45 Seob OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:09 PM

When our boss gave us all a qtek 2020 smartphone, years ago, everybody was looking funny at me using it. At that time the phone fashion was, small, smaller, smallest. Look now, (smart) phone grow bigger and bigger. I must have been way ahead of time.

#46 supercat OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:07 PM

...it's a portable computer designed primarily for writing


IIRC, it also had a decent keyboard, something that's just about impossible to find on portable machines these days.

#47 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:11 PM

I've been thinking about getting a 100 or 102 as well. They seem like fun little machines.

I bought mine from Rick Hanson at Club100, and he really did a great job of refurbishing and testing it. It was more expensive than resorting to eBay, but the product was much better and it was a way of supporting the users group at the same time. Sadly, Rick passed away earlier this year, so I don't know if Club100 is still accepting orders. If they are, that would be the first source I would recommend if you decide to get one.

When I ordered my 102, I added a new upgrade kit called REX, which is essentially a flash chip that can contain multiple option ROMs (think of these as "cartridges" for the 100/102) and "RAM disk" images. The onboard battery-backed RAM is limited to 32K, but with REX, you can swap it out to a bank in the flash chip instead of emptying it to a PC every time it gets full. This increases the effective capacity of the 102 enormously, so that's another option I'd recommend highly.


IIRC, it also had a decent keyboard, something that's just about impossible to find on portable machines these days.

Yes! The keyboard is excellent. I like my IBM Model M the most, of course, but the 102's keyboard still feels better to me than the ultra-thin scissor-switch keyboards found on most laptops, and even better than most desktop keyboards I've tried.

#48 toptenmaterial OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jul 20, 2011 3:14 PM

...it's a portable computer designed primarily for writing


IIRC, it also had a decent keyboard, something that's just about impossible to find on portable machines these days.

My Sony Vaio keyboard shit the bed after 5 months of light use.

It's a shame that older technology is disposed of because it is considered obsolite. The question should be, can it still perform its intended function?

#49 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 21, 2011 12:12 AM

...it's a portable computer designed primarily for writing


IIRC, it also had a decent keyboard, something that's just about impossible to find on portable machines these days.

My Sony Vaio keyboard shit the bed after 5 months of light use.

It's a shame that older technology is disposed of because it is considered obsolite. The question should be, can it still perform its intended function?



OHH GAWWWDDD YESS YESS Yessss yessss!!!! That so-called "obsolete" technology is only obsolete because someone, namely advertisers and marketing drones, tell you it is!!!! I can't emphasize this enough. emphasize this enough. emphasize this enough.Can't EMPHASIZE this ENOUGH-a-NUFF!!

I'm doing my part by not upgrading. Shit...man... M$ Word and Notepad, and Outlook and Office, and Photoshop and Paintshop, and Orbiter and X-plane and classic gaming works fine on what I have now. But because it is a 7 year old system should I replace it? It still boots in under 30 seconds, gets decent fps, doesn't crash, doesn't have a learning curve(anymore). And it gets 3 hours battery life on a 5 year old battery. Is there REALLY REALLY a need to replace it? I don't believe so. It is performing its original intended function with aplomb. And in some ways better (through optimization over the years) than when it was new. And notepad hasn't worn out or anything either.

I still, on occasion use my Apple II system, but it's really for nostalgia and I wanna keep it forever. So I don't want to wear it out. Same with my 8-bit Atari.

#50 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 21, 2011 12:47 AM

It's a shame that older technology is disposed of because it is considered obsolite. The question should be, can it still perform its intended function?

That so-called "obsolete" technology is only obsolete because someone, namely advertisers and marketing drones, tell you it is!!!!

I agree. As a general rule, if whatever technology you're using combines stable applications with a stable and reliable OS/hardware base, such as the Apple ][ desktops and the Tandy 102 portable that have been mentioned, there's no reason at all to upgrade as long as it suits your purposes.

As far as the applications are concerned, I sometimes divide mine into two categories: applications with a high level of turnover (such as web browsers and media players), and those with a relatively low level (such as word processors, spreadsheets, and text editors). The former are volatile, changing all the time because of new features and new alternatives, while the latter are relatively stable and can remain in use with few changes for years. Unfortunately, on modern systems, I find that the stable apps are often affected by all the churn of the volatile apps (and by underlying changes to the hardware and the operating system). I've had to move my long-term data around, increasing the possibility of losing something important, a lot more often than I would have liked.

These days, I try to keep my "stable" and "volatile" apps partitioned as much as possible, preferably on separate computers, to keep maintenance and downtime to a minimum. The "volatile" machine is the one I use for Internet-centric purposes, and I can wipe and rebuild it fairly quickly without losing anything important, while the "stable" machines never need to go online and can be just about anything I want (my 102 falls into this category). Sometimes I get the urge to try to use something really old and stable, like a DOS machine with a solid-state drive, which I can theoretically keep in place for a decade or more.




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