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back to article Five amazing computers for under £100

Many men are facing a dilemma in the coming days. Thanks to the Royals, a great, great, yawning maw of consecutive weekly Bank Holidays looms large. With enforced downtime, this means a stark choice: either face the family, or retreat to the Garden Shed. To help you make this choice, here are some suggestions. My desk at Vulture …

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: San Francisco

Only it isn't £100.

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LOL

All of the technologies developed at NeXT are in the iPhone.

Mach kernel, display postscript, Objective C libraries. Cocoa touch is based upon Cocoa which is a continuation of the work done at NeXT.

Fast is relative, I imagine it is faster than many of the original desktops NeXT ran on.

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Orange San Francisco

http://direct.tesco.com/q/R.210-0058.aspx still lists it at £99.97

Might be more once it's back in stock though....

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@The First Dave

Anbd iOS is very much based on Mac OS X. So what?

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@TomH re still not a NeXT handheld computer

Some parts of NS/OS have survived in Mac OS X and iOS but that doesn't make it a NeXT handheld. With the same justification the author is using you could as well say the iPhone is a great IBM handheld or Sun handheld because they were capable of running a BSD with Mach kernel, too.

The fact is that the iPhone is neither made by NeXT nor does it run NeXTStep, OpenStep, or any applications developed for these operating systems.

If the iPhone is a "NeXT computer" then any cell phone running Android is a "SGI mobile Workstation", as Android knows many things (like OpenGL) that were available on the now long dead SGI MIPS workstations running IRIX and which have been released into OSS.

And by definition every car made by FIAT is now a Ferrari.

One could get the impression that the item is so poor that such ridiculous claims are necessary to make the item look good.

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Bronze badge

San Francisco - not £100

Sorry - mine was considerably less, didn't realise the price had risen.

http://shop.orange.co.uk/mobile-phones/san-francisco-from-orange-in-grey

Phone itself is £94.99 at present but out of stock (online - I haven't checked any shops) and with the mandatory top up being £20 now even if you could buy it you'd be right to suggest it didn't fit this round-up unless perhaps you could bring along a public sector payslip to get Orange's generous discount.

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@Davidoff

It's a question of measure and degree. The iPhone libraries meet probably 80% of the OpenStep spec, which was a pure API effort and was explicitly meant to be vendor neutral. So it's very closely OpenStep related. And OpenStep being explicitly for multiple-vendor implementation, provenance isn't relevant while you're willing to conflate OpenStep and NextStep. Which also nullifies your FIAT/Ferrari comment. OpenStep is a framework, not a company.

Android phones, like iPhones and others, implement probably 40% of SGI's OpenGL (since ES 1.0 cuts a very large amount of extraneous stuff and 2.0 culls almost the entire fixed pipeline) and almost none of the rest of the old SGI APIs, along with none of the design patterns.

If you look inside OpenStep source, you'll see NSArrays, NSDictionaries, NSNumbers, target/action patterns, delegation, key-value observing, the same protocols (in the NSCoding, NSObject sense, albeit largely informal), notification centres, a run loop, selectors and fully dynamic dispatch. If you look inside iPhone source, you'll see all of those same things. So it's the same fundamental base objects, the same fundamental design patterns and mostly the same higher up objects.

Summary: your "some parts" is a massive understatement; I don't consider it so incorrect to suggest a single lineage as to maintain the article's author was wrong. It's not just that the odd API has survived and it's nothing to do with the legal name of the company involved.

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San Francisco now £70

Plus a one-off £10 top-up from Orange.

http://shop.orange.co.uk/mobile-phones/san-francisco-from-orange-in-grey

So the £100 budget would stretch to some good apps too.

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Psion 3MX

Going to have to see if I still have my sync cable. If so then a trip to eBay is on the cards for me. I really missed mine when it died and the 5 was just too large to be a replacement resulting in me going Palm (Vx then Tungsten T2).

I do agree with the comments about thing dumbing down over time. Post my MX I kept having to get more and more 3rd party apps to perform tasks that were standard on it and to be frank, the latest smart phones are probably some of the dumbest PDAs we've ever seen (so far).

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Forgot to add

That with the sync cable and the included terminal software, it made a rather usable console when plugged in to the back of a server or switch ;)

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Go

@Dapprman

Indeed. Nothing like having a serial terminal in your jacket pocket when you have to climb ladders to reach some misbehaving piece of network kit way up in the bowels of a production plant.

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Yeah...

I used my S3a, with the 'soap on a rope' serial adapter, a null-modem cable and finally the dedicated cable belonging to whatever type of device I was messing with.

Usually, the cables took more room in my backpack than my Psion. ;-)

Incidentally, the 'PC-side' part of the serial-adapter cable also fits the MC series laptops, and the connector on the workabout Dock.(Don't have a HC dock, so don't know about those)

(The only other use for the plug is old 'Bus-mouse' rodents from about the same time)

The serial cable for the S3c/S3mx is the same as for the S5, Revo and netBook.

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Anonymous Coward

Wonderful article

I spend more time than is reasonable dragging an extra couple of years out of "outdated" or "obsolete" hardware.

The x20 is still the best laptop I've ever owned. Little larger or heavier than a a netbook - and yet was able to withstand my son using it to stand on to reach something from a shelf. I can't really justify getting a new one it until I've dumped at least one or two of the other machines cluttering up my shed.

I agree about the NAS comment above. I got an old buffalo linkstation that is hackable *and* as hard to use as mapping a drive in your OS of choice.

Difficult to justify an iphone over a cheap new android handset for tinkering.

(anyone out there want a kaput compaq aero ? It was a netbook before they even existed - it might even have taken off if the OS wasn't so rubbish - WinCE by name)

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Stop

Blimey...

Slowest news day ever. I used to suffer tech nostalgia, but frankly the realisation hit me that no matter how attached I became to such devices, they are still old, unnecessary and only serve as clutter. This is a fact we just have to accept.

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Anonymous Coward

re: blimey

Yes a lot of it is clutter. But a lot of the devices mentioned still retain a fair amount of functionality. This might take some effort on the behalf of the user, but that's part of the fun - and you learn while you're doing it.

Once you've got the thing up and running - you can give it away.

"We" don't have to accept anything of the sort.

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Stop

yup blimey.

To who? the kids? They'd look at you like you have 2 heads. There isn't any effort required - these machines served a function and did it well . Odds are the laptop batteries don't get past 20 minutes either...

A computer without internet access while typing = no spell/facts/facebook checker (the first 2 being the important ones of course).

I have been down the old laptop route installing all manner of Linux flavours and even Windows 2000, but the experience was just not worth the hassle. I have tried keeping old tech relevant (even adding a vibrating motor to a Nokia 3210 wayyy back) and have hit the point of its not worth it.

Except for the Dragon 32. I still go in for the challenge of seeing if the games will load:)

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Anonymous Coward

god blind me

I was thinking the other direction. Parents/Grandparents.

You're right. The battery will be screwed. But I've not seen any laptop built in at least the last ten years that couldn't be gotten online with a *very* cheap USB or PCMCIA card.

I suspect that a using the thing as a dumb facebook/google/wikipedia terminal you wouldn't see a lot of difference between a P4 and a i3.

Lets face it - it's more about the "fun" of getting these things working rather than the actual use. You could always throw a bit of excitement into grandma's life by buying a cheap chinese battery of ebay.

A good insurance policy and it could be win:win

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Boffin

Dragon 32

Blimey - the software barely loaded when the thing was new!

I have happy memories playing with SpriteMagic though :)

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FAIL

So wrong

Anyone who used a psion PDA would confirm that their PDA functionality has rarely if ever been bettered since.

I still mourn for my revo. Had the ir modem and everything.

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Cobalt Qube 3

...loved mine, and I hear of people who say the Qube 2 was even better. I assume they are less than £100 on eBay by now, but the wonderful work firewall won't let me check!

Dad still has two on the shelf (he was a reseller back then) and I keep looking at them and thinking how much easier it all was than the home NAS I am using now.

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Alert

Service manuals

Dell still publish the service manuals for their business laptops, so it's not just Lenovo. And what's more, they're pretty good

(eg: http://support.euro.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/op780/en/SM/SM_SFF/heatsink_processor.htm)

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Stop

Tie Tull

What, you put a phone in the list and manage to miss out anything by Palm?

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I miss my Pismo..

I managed to get a Pismo off ebay for £90 3 years ago, still boxed and with all disks and manuals. Sadly some lowlife scum broke into the house and stole it, along with some other kit (Including my iMac G4, but they left the intel iMac, they must have been Apple purists) but I remember setting it up with OS9 and using it on battery for 9 hours straight without needing to connect to the mains.

While I got a unibody MacBook pro and a 20 inch iMac out of the insurance, I still long for my old Pismo G3 laptop...

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FAIL

actually

This started back in the mid 90s, thieves work to a list of things they will nick, and if it's not on the list - it's not going in the back of the lorry.

The reason being was back in the mid 90s the thieves were big time after Apple kit. And whilst the Quadras had been on the market for a good long time, they kept nicking MacIIs (eg IIcx, IIsi, IIcis) and even worse Mac Plus/SE/SE30s etc.

Trouble was that all that old kit was worthless. So one day they wised up and started lifting the Quadras and leaving the older gear alone.

I know of a design shop in Soho that had had a break in, and every bit of old kit had been lifted, and they literally left 15 brand new PowerMacintosh machines that had only just been delivered a few days earlier.

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Quibble re: service manuals

"Lenovo is the only manufacturer to continue to supply hardware maintenance manuals"

Not so; Dell continues to supply service manuals on their website as well. HP, despite their general dissipation over the last decade, still offers them for some equipment (including some laptops) as well.

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WTF?

@Aaron Em

HP? Good luck finding what you need, and not end up ending up in the ink and toner section.

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ZTE Racer

is now 50 punjabs!

nextgenservers will provide a free PUK and modaco will provide a decent upgrade.

OK battery life (and size) is a joke but for a singing and talking phone you canot beat it.

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FAIL

Windows 7?

While I quite agree with your assessment of the X40, it's rather disingenuous to talk about its performance with Windows 7 -- which alone will set you back a great deal more than the £100 price that was the point of the article! Fortunately, Thinkpads have always been excellent Linux machines, so there's no reason to have to pay Microsoft to get the most out of one of these little better-than-netbook beauties.

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loved the article...

the psions really were are great. i sold 2 3mxs; a organiser II lz64, and a 3a with a broken hinge and got really good money for them. I was pleasantly surprised at the strength of interest. Still have 2 5mxes though, partly for nosgalgias sake.

Also bought a pogoplug from PC Worl.d the other week for approx fifty quid, and it's running various web and file serviices on debian. stunningly easy to do and is a wonderful cheap bit of kit for anyone wanting any form of home server on linux. only puls 4Watts too so really green too.

would have liked a mention of cheap android tablets (possibly aren't any worth the money), and the nokia internet tablets are available on ebay cheaply now and are really handy devices for tinkerers and linux fans, especially the N810

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Happy

Couple of other submissions....

I'm surprised that no desktop PC made the list, so I guess I'll suggest not just one, but two, potential entries.

First off the bat, how about Compaq's Deskpro EN...available in desktop, tower/desktop convertible and SFF cases. They're dirt cheap ($5-20 or maybe less), still somewhat common, will run about any OS (my testing covered Windows 95 through 7--and 7 actually ran passbly well--OS/2, Linux and PC-BSD) and appear to be extremely reliable. (Only one of many I have quit, and an cheap-n-nasty PCI video card got it going again.)

After that, how about the Dell OptiPlex GX620? There's a huge supply of them on the secondhand market with SFF, desktop and tower versions available. Shop around and you can find them for less than $100 (or its equivalent), sometimes a lot less.

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Bronze badge

Compaq Deskpro EN, SFF?

Yup, until a couple of weeks ago was my main machine. Now replaced with a TP30. Ubuntu 10.10 /11.04 respectively, but the Compaq had two faults - one fixable, one not. Bloody noisy fan, the missus hated it, and max. 512M RAM (unless someone had a hack - the BIOS got in the way.)

TP30 seems (in a cradle, at least) seems to let the USB '4-port hub' go AWAL with Ubuntu from time-to-time. Pesky fix, delete the Wifi modem from network manager, and add it again. Minute's work, but..Methinks the TP's single USB (in a cradle, that's all you've got...) hasn't got enough 'grunt'.

But then, as I was given both machines, can't really argue...

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Silver badge

What about .....

the Amstrad NC100?

OK, it was made by Amstrad; but you can program it in BBC BASIC, you get serial and parallel ports, and a nice, non-WYSIWYG word processor based on the WordStar concept of embedded codes. It can also be used as a dumb terminal.

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Anonymous Coward

NC100

The Amstrad NC100 was indeed a rather neat machine. While no match for the Psion Series 3, it did offer a decent keyboard, long battery life and RS232.

My only gripe was they included BBC Basic rather than one of the derivatives developed for the CPC or PCW (Locomotive Basic and Mallard Basic respectively). As the machine was a part of the Amstrad family of machines this was a big disappointment.

Also another vote for the Z88 for being so far ahead of its time that nobody recognised its potential when it was released.

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Jobs Horns

Re: iClassic

The Clickwheel was WRONG. The touchwheel of the 3G iPod was the nadir!

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Stinkypad

Good call. I paid £200 for a T43 last October and it's been solid as a rock.

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Happy

More hardware nostalgia...

Mark me down as another fan of the Psion 3MX; I had one for ages (followed by a not-quite-as-good Revo) and have been watching out for something with a similar level of "thumb-typing" friendlyness ever since. Some of the XDA PDA-phones have come close, but nothing's claimed the cigar yet.

Other possibilities:

The Nokia N800: it may not have the GPS of the N810 - or the keyboard (which I consider a good thing, as I didn't find the N810 good for typing) - but it is a 400mhz machine running linux, with two SDHC slots, an 800*480 screen and excellent battery life, especially with an app installed to let you tweak the backlight down way further than permitted by the OS. I used mine as an ebook reader for several years, and could generally get 8-10 hours reading out of a single charge - and as it uses the standard Nokia charger, it's incredibly easy to find cheap "emergency" battery chargers for it.

The Palm T3: easily pocketable and virtually indestructible, thanks to a solid metal case and the "slider", which could be pushed up to hide 1/3 of the screen - and the T3 was fully usable in either mode. As with the n800, you could install apps to downclock the CPU and tweak the backlight, allowing you to significantly boost the battery life. The only downside was the lack of wifi; I dabbled with a Wifi SD card for a while, but it stuck out from the top and was prone to causing reboots when unplugged. I eventually moved onto the T5, which didn't have the slider but did have built-in wifi...

The IBM X41 Tablet-PC: these tend to sell for around £150, not £100, but hey: it's a 1.5ghz machine with a 12" 1024*768 touchscreen display, which can be rotated and laid flat to turn it into a tablet, making it perfect for reading documents. It's a bit too big and heavy to be carried around like an iPad (and the touchscreen only works with the stylus), but it's a full-blown PC which you can run linux on, so it's a lot more flexible...

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Silver badge

@juice

Given Nokia's recent behaviour I think you could leave it a few months and pick up an N900 for under £100, assuming you can't already!

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Anonymous Coward

SLUGs anyone?

No mention of the Linksys NSLU2 or SLUG to its friends...

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Stop

Updated NSLU2 = Plug computer

As an owner of an NSLU2, it pains me to point out that its best days are behind it. The plug computers are, in every way, their worthy successor (including their price point).

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: SLUGs anyone?

That's a good choice, and the going rate is £20-£30 too.

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Bronze badge

iPhone? You must be joking...

Why would anybody in their right mind buy an original 2G iPhone for £100 when the same amount will buy you a ZTE Blade (a.k.a. San Francisco) in any Orange shop on PAYG?

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title

Another thumbs up for the SF. Should definately have been on the list. It's £99 BRAND NEW. Cheaper if you already have an Orange SIM. It can be modded easily into a very capable Android phone for all kinds of tweaking, and you don't need to scour eBay for it.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: iPhone? You must be joking...

Probably not, but that ZTE Blade is a lot more than £100.

From the FA:

"I've excluded hire-purchase deals. You can get a thoroughly modern computer in half an hour, if you pick it up from a mobile network or Carphone Warehouse. But, obviously, that's cheating.The cost isn't really £50 or £100, that's merely the first instalment."

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Megaphone

Nope

It's available for £99.99 OR LESS on PAYG including a free £10 top-up. You don't ever have to use that SIM again if you don't want to.

You should check HotUKDeals more often. If you don't have a modded-SF and a giffgaff SIM then you aren't cool :)

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WTF?

Re: iPhone? You must be joking...

It's £99 in my local orange shop as of last week. And it is £99 on PAYG, no contract. It isn't a hire purchase, it is an outright purchase. SF isn't even available on a contract from Orange.

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Happy

Psion Series 3

Yes I agree - the 3 had a serial port which could be re-wired to be a DTE rather than a DCE - it was excellent as an emergency Cisco console to save me lugging the 5Kg laptop across Manchester city centre to reload a router.

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Happy

Five Amazing Computers

A fascinating article on still service able computers that while old are still worth buying and using and saving money in the bargin,

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HP palmtops

You forgot the HP palmtops such as the 200LX and the 1000CX. They have a great reflective LCD screen that they can be used outdoors and they will run for weeks on a pair of AAs. They will also run many MS-DOS applications - including custom ones. I still use a 1000CX.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_200LX

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Heart

HP 200LX Love

Ah, after reading this article I come now to praise the HP 200LX. Altis, thank you.

My HP 200LX was an invaluable sales tool when selling semiconductors. I'd sit at a customer and type in their requirements, especially the things they told me about my competitors. The guys at Delco used to hint that they would love to see the data I had. Together, me and my 200LX beat my competitors.

Today, my 200LX sits in a corner of my bedroom, forever charging charging, charging - preserving it's 10Meg of 15-year old data for all time.

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The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

I just remembered - I have one of those... I wonder where it is now?

Maybe I'll go try to find it

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