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back to article El Reg's contraptions confessional no.2: Tablet PC, CRT screen and more

Before wandering to pastures new, Bill Ray revealed he is definitely of the mind that, if it still works, why chuck it? His old kit isn't sitting in a box in the attic, he uses it all regularly. Hantarex, HP and Motion Computing Hantarex hails from Italy but established a UK operation in 1981 and is still going strong. The CTM …

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Bronze badge

Ancient laptop.

Sharp with a Japanese language keyboard, a built-in ethernet port and a Netgear PCMCIA wireless G adapter is my weapon of choice for fixing friends' wireless woes.

Pentium (P2 at 600 mhz ?) and early XP. Slow and heavy, I'd say it's best-finished laptop I've laid hands on -- perhaps because it was actually made in Japan. Personal import by neighbour who donated it when she upgraded.

The Netgear adapter has the best wireless survey/signal strength software. Unlike modern laptops with Win7, will display two routers that happen to have the same name.

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Re: Ancient laptop.

Even the crappiest Android device running Wi-Fi Analyzer can show unique APs with the same SSID. Why carry around that old junk?

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Model M

Prosaic though it may be by comparison, I just want to put in a word for the IBM Model M keyboard (I doubt I'll be alone in that either).

This particular beast has been serving me well for longer than I care to remember, and the mechanical keys are still a typist's delight. Cherry MX keyswitches are apparently all the rage with the kids these days in their fancy new mechanical keyboards, but have you seen the prices they charge for those things?! Besides, there's not a one of them that can hold a candle to either the build quality or the charm of the original.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Model M

A truly excellent keyboard, may I also put in a recommendation for the Compaq rack mount keyboards from the 90s, I don't use the built in trackerball much, but the action on the keys is great.

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Re: Model M

I'm typing on one right now, plus 11 of them over in the closet... Plus some sort of I-think-its-84-keys mini keyboard with buckling springs and 3 tiny LEDs.

I don't have room for things, so I've tossed all my junk. The most satisfying was an HP printer that kept falling off the USB bus, until one day it fell off the back of my bike in front of an SUV that was tailgating me in the right lane.

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Re: Model M

Oh yeah, gotta agree with the compaq rack keyboards. While not a mechanical, i still use the old compaq desktop keyboard KB9860 , which has a very similar feel to those rack keyboards. I can't use another keyboard, when this one finally goes again, i find em on ebay or amazon with the model number. Also the mouse, the logitech mouseman wheel M-CW47 big ergonomic, comfortable and has a 'back' button . PS/2 rules. :)

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Re: Model M

Cherry switches may well be mechanical, but they're shitty plastic bendy mechanical — not the glorious buckling spring.

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Re: Model M

B**t**d! Sell one to me, I.'ve only got two (in daily use. ) had to rewire cable on one as all tje insulation cracked and fell off. Still the best - just dont drop it on your foot. Mine are 1987 vintage made in Scotland I think from label on th back.

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Re: Model M

Made in Scotland from girders. Still in daily use in my place. One I'm typing this on dated 1990.

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Re: Model M

"until one day it fell off the back of my bike in front of an SUV that was tailgating me" - which came off worse, the SUV or the printer?

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Van

Re: Model M

I salvaged a couple of model Ms from the skip at work in the late 90s, when they lobbed 30 or so PS/2s, what a crime that turned out to be. It was the only keyboard I used throughout many DIY PC builds because it was free, I was unaware how good it really was until buying a couple of pre-built systems. Didn't realise they had a cult following amoung coders until I sold them both on ebay in the end, as my PC was moved to the living room and they were just too noisy and a bit to big to sit on the lap in my easy chair.

Elonex did a version that looked and felt very similar, only not as deep, quieter and had a windows key.

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Re: Model M

I have a little project on the back burner, hacking up an old USB keyboard to provide a separate custom keypad as an adjunct to my Model M, with plans to include a Windows key in the array. I've still got a box of old Cherry keyswitches somewhere I salvaged from a dead keyboard way back when...

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Re: Model M

I know I keep shilling them, but Unicomp bought the right to the Model M and are still making them and some minor variations, see http://pckeyboard.com/

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Re: Model M

The only trouble with the Model M is that if you use one in an office environment, you do eventually run the risk of being beaten to death with your own keyboard --- they're not quiet. I have heard it's possible to get variants that don't have the Incrediclicky(TM) sound, but I don't know if they're any good.

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Re: Model M

I grew up on DEC terminals, not IBM. I have a nice LK250 keyboard, which was the PC-compatible version from the VAXmate. It does work (briefly) via a PS/2-USB convertor, but I think it's drawing too much current -- it either just stops, or keeps rebooting. I've always meant to rig up a separate power supply and use it full time.

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Re: Model M

Lovely things. I had a Mattias Touch Pro on my office Mac which had the same microswitched keys - accurate, fast and it even had all the character accents printed on it - and then they moved us to an open plan office.

I would have happily kept it, but the rest of the building didn't like a sound akin to the skeleton fight from the Jason and the Argonauts soundtrack.

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Thumb Up

Re: Model M - David Given

You won't be getting a buckling spring for that but the Cherry MX browns are rather nice and can be very quiet (dependant on how much of a ham handed typist you are). They have a nice tactile "bump" without the audible click you get from the blues. Much appreciated in my office as my coworkers are less inclined to use my keyboard as a bludgeon on me.

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Re: Model M

'I know I keep shilling them, but Unicomp bought the right to the Model M and are still making them and some minor variations, see http://pckeyboard.com/"

Unicomps are great except that they are completely destroyed with even a little spill of liquid. I went through two, one was a replacement, in about eight months due to spills during drunken gaming,

Model Ms can be washed in the dishwasher.

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HP 4L

From the time of the dinosaurs and still running through some jigery pokery and my 6 year old synology NAS.

As said before my IT kit is in desperate need of upgrade but as it just keeps working I can't justify it.

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Silver badge

Re: HP 4L

I'm still using my HP 4M. Postscript and network port (bnc and RJ45) so likely to still be of use until the end of time :-)

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Anonymous Coward

I have two immaculate apple newton messagepads

Quite amazing whilst being almost unusable! Still, with the right cables and software, they can sync address books and calendars with my iMac. But by god, hasn't screen technology and high precision mass manufacturing come on in the last 15 years?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have two immaculate apple newton messagepads

I loved my Newton, I think Jobs made a big mistake cancelling it.

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Re: I have two immaculate apple newton messagepads

Me too. I actually bought on when on a trip to SF and I was given the other one by an old colleague in a clearout. They haven't been turned on in over a decade :)

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Silver badge

Re: I have two immaculate apple newton messagepads

Well I'm not sure if that was a mistake, however the Newton was essentially one of the few sensible mobile computing concepts. If that concept would have been given a chance, it would have been a serious replacement for PCs. Pen input is, when properly done, close to as efficient as keyboards.

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Trollface

WIndows 200 on wife's computer? She told you that?

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MrT
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IIRC...

... that was the version where the logo was in stained glass...

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Anonymous Coward

HP 995c on Win7?

Other people seem to have it working.

http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Other-Printing-Questions/Windows-7-Windows-Vista-amp-deskjet-995c/td-p/166872/page/2

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Linux

Re: HP 995c on Win7?

"Works perfectly" under Linux, too: https://www.openprinting.org/printer/HP/HP-DeskJet_995C

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Anonymous Coward

HP have always been bad for providing updated drivers when a new OS comes along -- I had to pass on a laser printer with years of use in it to a friend when Win 7 turned up. Non-green behaviour which I have penalised by never buying -- or considering buying any HP product.

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Silver badge

"HP have always been bad for providing updated drivers when a new OS comes along "

HP have been bad on printer support, full stop (and generally the most expensive to run)

Thankfully $okrplace has listened and theyr'e no longer on the allowable purchase list.

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Bronze badge

I never buy HP because their printers won't print in black-and-white when they run out of colour ink.

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Bronze badge

HP have always been bad for providing updated drivers when a new OS comes along

Not always. Win7 still has drivers for the LaserJet 4-series printers, and I expect so does Win8.

But of course the LaserJet 4s were good printers, built to last, not disposable junk like all consumer-grade inkjets are.

In another thread last month, I mentioned that I'm still using my 21-year-old LaserJet 4 - which I manually upgraded to the equivalent of a 4p by opening it and sticking in the Postscript board I took out of another LJ4p; try that with a crap inkjet printer.

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Psion netBook

The original and the best. Put a 'Pro' battery in mine for longer life (the Win CE Pro is not match for the original)

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XP tablets

Think we've still got a couple of the clunky Compaq ones with the stand and attachable rotating keyboard that are now on lots of skinny convertible tablets. They were abandoned very quickly as they weren't responsive and by Christ they were heavy!

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Re: XP tablets

Sounds like the TC1000 model which I still have one of I use if I'm going on holiday, as I'm not that worried if someone nicks it. The reason it was so slow was it used a Transmeta processor, which emulated x86 instructions. Good in theory, but in reality it was a bit of a dog, I think when I benchmarked my 1000Mhz one it was only as fast as a 600Mhz PIII.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmeta

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Still happy with my Samsung Q1 Ultra, running Windows 7. I put 2GB RAM in and tried a cheap SSD until that failed. It doesn't get used so much, but it's great to play music on, running Foobar and with a USB DAC.

My Lexmark C510 laser printer still works well. Bought a set of extended toner carts for £40, which should keep me going for years!

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Silver badge

And what exactly is old with that?

I mean monitors last for ages, particularly the video ones. At my parents place I have a Commodore monitor set up. It's a great video monitor and works great (though with slight sync problems) on the RGB output of most satellite receivers.

Other than that, 11 years is no age for a printer, not even for an inkjet one. There's lots of people using old HP LaserJet 4 printers. Mine is from 1992 as far as I know and still works like a charm for what is now probably just fractions of cents. And no, there are no problems getting it to run, it just works, just like any proper printer does since it uses open standards written down in the manual... just like you'd expect from any printer.

Laptops of that age also aren't unusual, particularly tablets.

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Anonymous Coward

There's old hardware, and there's good, old hardware

I'll upvote you for the monitor (like a light saber, an elegant device from a simpler time) and the tablet (curiosity) but the printer surely should be relegated to the dustbin of history. As should pretty much all soho inkjet printers, with a special place in hell for Windows GDI printers.

As for the IBM mechanical keyboards, they were a classic. Any records of it being used as a weapon? Maybe near IBM Greenock? Begbie characters and a 10lb keyboard = "tha's a greet bat, ya hoor".

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I kept my Apple Performa 637CD Money Magazine Edition from 1995 on my desk until 2002 when my mom forced me to donate to the church. The machine had a 33MHZ 68040 in it and a 40 MHZ version was the last naturally occurring 68040 in the mac line. It was upgraded from 8MB ram to 40MB ram, and used SCSI internally and externally. I was pissed too despite having a decent AMD K6-2 333MHZ Windows 98 machine with a Voodoo 3 card in it, I still used the Mac for writing, creating, page layout and awesome Mac games. I know there's more professional options than Claris Works 4.0, but I've never found anything as cohesive, logical and Maclike as it. (I've yet to try Appleworks and it's successors) I still run Claris Works 6 on Windows when I need to do some layout, for this or that. It's amazing what you can do with that program if you know what a well laid out document should look like. Plus I had lots of extras for it, a high quality 300DPI Mustek scanner, an "Epson Stylus Color" printer (No model number because it was the first with that name), and a SCSI Iomega Zip 100 drive. It's a shame Iomega didn't conquer the world, and has been reduced to rebranding flash drives. Coming at the end of the 68K line and being a Mac there was a timelessness to it. I do love Macs even if I don't own one at the moment. I'd still use that computer if i could.

Other than that, a RAZR 2 v8m which has an opera web browser and can still render most web pages and stream internet radio, and stream Youtube videos. A fantastic phone for it's day. I want to brag about the old laser printers I have but I can't figure out what year they were made. I kept coming across laser printers for sale for $20 with a spare cartridge, and for $20 I couldn't say no. I now have 3 black laser printers and a sweet 1200DPI color one, and I paid $70 total. I shouldn't have to buy black toner for at least a decade.

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Bronze badge

>It's a shame Iomega didn't conquer the world

No, actually, it isn't. What is a shame, however, is that the market didn't crush the life out of Iomega posthaste, as doing so would have spared many, many people much grief. So many off-the-mark products it's difficult to begin the list of charges of crimes against technology...

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Luxury!

It might not be the oldest living thing in the game, but my one and only daily use machine has been in service since Y2K. Granted, the only actual original bits apart from the case are the motherboard, CPU, and for some reason the sound card (Asus P3V4X, P3-533B, and SB PCI-128, respectively), though I got the Sammy SyncMaster 750s just a year later and it's still jest foin. The original Quantum 15GB drive died three days or so after the warranty and was replaced c.2002 with an IBM 60GB IDE(still works okay and it was always noisy) but was swapped out for a fatter, faster WD a few years back. The ATI 8500 AGP card bought as an upgrade a year after the system was built crapped out last year, so I'm now seeing through the original Voodoo 3-3000, which is mighty sharp. PSU's come and go, of course, and memory and Ethernet cards get bumped up every so often, and a USB 2.0 add-on was necessary, but I have zero complaints. Can't play any games released since, oh, 2003 or so, but haven't really seen any that grab me, so who cares, it does literally everything else I want it to do.

Sooner or later the whole thing will dissolve into a puddle and I'll be forced to join the 21st and a bit century (and beyond!), but I'm not looking forward to having to rely on a tablet or similar. But, hey, I spent a lot of time researching components and paid a pretty penny for this thing, so I'll be damned if I'm going to "upgrade" every few years just for the sake of it.

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Silver badge

Motion Tablet.

I remember we used to use those for our engineers years ago. The main reason was due to them being about the only such device you could use outdoors which was quite important for such a device.

Back around 2006, we'd been using them for some time and I was organising getting in a refresh when one of the other IT guys who was managing a different fieldforce project stormed in and accused me of "adding another piece of kit to the portfolio of mobile kit!" Apparently he wanted to know why I was buying in these tablets when he had decided his guys were all getting Panasonic Toughbooks.

I simply said "Its not new tech as we've been using them for the past four years! Oh and I guess you tested the Toughbooks screen for outdoor use as well?...Cos these tablets are about the only device that works outdoors!"

He went quite pale and ran out of the office. I don't ever remember seeing any Toughbooks after that.

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Silver badge

Typing this in front of an AOC 5glr monitor. 19" CRT, runs at 1600x1200 nicely and you can push it to 2048x1536 if you don't mind interlaced flicker-o-vision. It's TCO '99 compliant, to give you an idea of vintage.

I have a G3 Power Mac sat on the floor with a bust PSU. Useless but at least it looks pretty. Right next to it is an Amstrad PPC640, which while in perfect working order, is only marginally more useful. Got two of those. One was bought from a Flea market, the other rescued out of a skip. Hefty buggers. Not so much "laptop" as "luggable", and two 720KB floppy drives on each one. Hard drive? Only if you've got an external to plug into the parallel port.

One working Megadrive and Mega CD (second edition), waiting for me to be bored enough to pull them out again. I always liked the original ones more, though.

Oh and a "domestic electrical test meter" that someone gave me, that seems to have come from the early days of the Roman empire. Just modern enough for modern UK plugs, but really not much more modern. I have no idea who it's made by. Neither the device nore the manual give any clue to that, just that it's called "The Mighty Meter", has a removable socket tester, and a socket built into its case for testing appliances, amongst other functions.

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PPC640 could be bought with an internal hard disk - my brother has one which I fired up about a year ago out of curiosity and it all still worked perfectly (well, I didn't test the built in modem but I'm sure it'd be fine!) Funny, when I regularly have to bin failed hard disks that are less than a year old - outrageously expensive "enterprise" grade SAS or dirt cheap SATA, they're all short-lived rubbish these days.

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Silver badge

Modern UK plugs

Came in about 60 years ago!

Inspiron 7500 PIII 450 laptop controls/GUI on Win2K for a valve curve tracer/tester (it had NT4.0) all its working life. Ethernet and USB 2.0 both via PCMCIA cards.

A Dell slimline 286 desktop for DOS and programming channels on ancient Motorola VHF & UHF mobile radios via a home brew dongle on serial port.

I have one piece of test gear from 1945 (100kHz to 21MHz AM signal generator) I actually use. A mechanical AVO in a box somewhere. Rarely needed except for Transmitter valve PSU measurements, a £5 DMM (if you are not killed) goes woof with a blue flash at 600V on the 1000V range!

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Silver badge

My old kit…

Sun GDM-5410 20" CRT which runs happily at 2048x1576 resolution. This is the monitor I use on my desktop (AMD Phenom IIx6)

Silicon Graphics Indy (R4600SC CPU at 133MHz, 256MB RAM). Still works, but the PROM battery has died, so one has to dig up the MAC address and punch it back into the PROM if it hasn't been turned on in a while. It has Gentoo Linux/MIPS on it.

I also have the Indy Presenter 15" LCD, with removable backlight (for placement on an overhead projector), and a SGI 20" monitor to go with it.

Silicon Graphics Indigo2 (R10000 CPU at 195MHz, 384MB RAM). No longer goes, but makes a good door stop. The hard drives also have Gentoo Linux installed. Fun and games, because the Indigo2 was never designed for a CPU like the R10000, so gcc and the kernel need hacks to work around the hardware bugs that arise.

Silicon Graphics O2 (RM5200 CPU at 300MHz, 128MB RAM). Still goes, I upgraded it from a R5000 CPU, then had fun and games updating the PROM to support it. It runs Gentoo Linux as well.

Silicon Graphics Octane (R10000 175MHz, 128MB RAM). No longer goes, I think I killed it trying to clean out the dust. One SCSI port was always bad, as the PROM used to sit there for 10 minutes trying to initialise it, then the machine would come good. I had it running Gentoo, which was fun because the power supply serial number wasn't recognised, so I had to go patch the kernel if I wanted the keyboard to work (don't ask). Being a 175MHz unit, I'm guessing this must've been one of the first Octanes released.

SGI Indy, Indigo2 info

SGI O2 info

SGI Octane info

Gateway Microserver (rebadged Cobalt Qube II; RM5231 at 250MHz, 128MB RAM). Still goes, although the hard drive is dead now (I have some spares). It too ran Gentoo, in fact was the main build host for the Cobalt stage3's during my time working on Gentoo. The RM5231, which lacked secondary cache, was agonisingly slow at times. The boot ROM doesn't like bigger hard drives (I tried a 160GB and it failed miserably).

Whilst nowhere near as old, I also have a Lemote Yeeloong netbook PC. I bought this direct from China during my time at university, and was a great little machine. Sadly, the original power supply died, and the replacement was nowhere near as good, so it didn't get much use after that. The battery has also died. It still goes, runs Gentoo Linux/MIPS.

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A lot of you chaps must have houses/offices that resemble the one in the IT Crowd. Anyone still using a Commodore PET?

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Anonymous Coward

Cynic

Those puppies lasted in many a scientific lab for years. I remember switching one out for a Mac as late as 2005 in a none-too-wealthy European country. Apparently PETs were badass at data collection. The Mac walked soon after, sadly.

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Silver badge

I still have a Sirius 1 and an Atari 2600 sitting in a cabinet in the shed. I also kept a pair of 12MB 3dfx Voodoo2s for the nostalgia value. None of this equipment is in current use, but it still works (or did last time it was used).

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Silver badge

I should add the 10+ year old Nokia that lives in my pocket.

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