Speaking of old hardware…

Every six months I go to the dentist’s office, and every time I marvel at the ancient computer that the hygienist is using for her scheduling software. The reason I notice it is because I used to have two of them myself. The other day, while looking for an old file, I ran across a Word document that contained product keys for Windows XP, one of which had been assigned to one of these computers.

Here, courtesy of Paul’s Computer Jamboree, is a picture of the ancient machine:

Digital PC 5510

Marvel at these specs:

  • 233MHz Pentium II processor
  • 64MB ECC SDRAM memory
  • 3.2GB Western Digital 23200 IDE hard disk
  • 32X Toshiba XM-6202B IDE CDROM drive
  • 3.5" floppy drive
  • 2MB Matrox Mystique video (on board)
  • Intel 21143-based 10/100 Ethernet (on board)
  • Crystal 16-bit Sound (on board)

Believe it or not, those specs (including the 3.2GB hard disk) actually met the original minimum system requirements for Windows XP Professional, although an upgrade to 128MB of RAM was recommended, as was a processor running at 300 MHz.

This 1998-vintage system was probably around three years old when Windows XP was released. I would love to give one of these to the Save XP fanatics and read their review.

5 thoughts on “Speaking of old hardware…

  1. Ed,

    What’s that square thingy in the middle? The one with that odd looking slot and push button! J/k

    Now, seriously, DO NOT attempt to see if it “works”. It will call out to you and beg to be plugged it. Don’t do it! Approach the device slowly and from the rear if possible. Using latex gloves (it may be contagious) grasp the device and raise it off the carpet. Hold device at arms length away from the body. Quickly take the device to the garage. Try not to pass or doddle near other electronics (again, it may be contagious). Deposit in large trash bin. Place lid on trash can and seal with duct tape.

    Obviously the trash can is a loss, but you can’t be too careful.

    Failure to follow these precautions can result in the following:
    Loss of color on color televisions
    Stereo receivers outputing mono audio
    Sudden decreases in hard drive capacity

    Obviously we pack rats find these older devices from time to time. Always interesting to remember the technology when an older, outdated, product finds it’s way out of the basement or closet!

    I’ve often wondered why those of us with the technology sickness keep old and unneeded items. I’ve decided it’s generally the “I might need this someday” syndrome. Bit, I will admit, when something old finds its’ way out of hiding it brings back lots of memories.

    Now throw it away, Ed. It will make your wife happy! 🙂

  2. I don’t think anyone will disagree that the “minimum” specs Microsoft uses when releasing new hardware are vastly underrated. XP on 64 meg would be painfully slow, I routinely upgrade folks who are using 128MB for XP and they are so pleased, and wonder why Dell sold them an underpowered computer to begin with.

    I do agree with Dave about the way to make your wife happy though – I have a similar problem, but they do make good Asterisk boxes, so I do get to use them occasionally.

    I have installed Windows 95 on similar machines, and donated them to charities who teach people how to type on word processors, etc.

    Most recently, I gave a slightly slower machine to janitor where I used to work, though in the process of setting it up, the hard drive died, and so I ended up using a Knoppix cd, and she was perfectly happy without a hard drive.

  3. n a cupboard I had an old (1998) Toshiba 4000CDT laptop with roughly the same specs (PII, 64Mb RAM, 4Gb HD) running Win98SE. Last month I tried using it again, after overheating blew up my actual (Vista) laptop’s IC so that one had to be returned for repair. You know what? The old thing still worked fine! All it needed was installing a wireless USB stick to connect it to a LAN router. The USB 1.0 slot is a bit slow of course, but it lets me work online (surfing, mailing, designing etc) without any problems (as long as I avoid streaming media or things like Flash). After a little system tuning, I also hunted for recent software that would still be actually usable with Win98SE and 64 Mb RAM. Some results: Opera 9.5, recent editions of CCleaner, WinSCP, MPlayer Classic, XnView, ClamWin antivirus, ProcessExplorer, PhotoFiltre image editor and several more all do work without problems. But some other formally compatible programs won’t work that well, which is very often caused by a bloated graphical UI conflicting with the machine’s limited video memory. Examples of that are Avast (does work, but verrrry slow due to its interface skins and the way it handles its database) or Windows Media Player 9 (ditto, takes about 3 seconds just to redraw the main window).
    In my view, there’s a conclusion to this experiment. It looks like much of the progress of the last ten years has gone into all kinds media-related bells-and-whistles, in better-looking and more user-friendly UI’s, in safer and faster OS core elements, in more graphics-intensive or bandwith-consuming formats, in extended software to better handle those demands, and in new hardware to meet all that development’s requirements. Very fine, let me tell you I’m really happy with the Vista system on my desktop PC. But I do find it amazing that when it comes to getting some normal daily work done, my antique 98SE laptop turned out to be still adequate. Maybe what changed over the past decade, had a little bit more to do with form than with content?

  4. This is in response to your CNET article on Windows x64Flash.

    The benefit of x64 for browsers is performance as x64provides:

    8 additional general purpose registers. x86 (32-bit) suffers from register pressure and x64 fixes this.
    8 additional vector registers for faster multimedia.
    64-bit integers for fast 64-bit integer math. In Win32, 64-bit arithmetic has to use slower instruction sets.

    My Firefox x64 builds are at my website.

    In the comparison of Firefox 3.0 x64 to Firefox 3.0 official (Win32), the reason why the 32-bit build is faster is Makoto (owner of the site referenced) compiles at a low optimization level and doesn’t include the jemalloc crt replacement code that was put in 3.0 as the code change only applies to Win32. I do plan to get jemalloc working on x64.

  5. Windows Vista is bloated because it can’t run on a ten year old computer. 😛

    Seriously though, I would use this computer as a “Guest” computer so people can use the Internet if they don’t have a laptop. Its a solution to that problem at least.

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