Sunday, April 1, 2007

On Cutting-edge and Decadence

Someone asked me the other day if I felt as though technology is passing me by, given my predilection for older computer hardware.

I answered him with a story.

Three years ago, I was a paid contributor to an internet-based "magazine" dedicated to older computers. I also had a fairly busy social life, and couldn't be at my desk in my home office at all times, so I bought a Powerbook 160 so I could write on the go. I paid $15 US for the thing, and brought it with me everywhere I went.

One particular lunch hour, one of the outside salespeople at work saw me with my "ancient piece of crap" (as he put it) and decided to show off his new PDA. "I can grab my email, surf the web with Avantgo, view JPEGs, and even play video clips!", and proceeded to show me a grainy b&w video clip downloaded from some porn site. I looked at him, smiled, and said "Well, I can get my email, usenet news, surf the web with iCab, view JPEGs, and even play that same grainy video clip (which I did - it was an old quicktime clip!). And I only paid fifteen bucks. How much did you pay?"

Needless to say, the exchange ended there.

Since then, I've been able find the things I need to make my older hardware somewhat capable of doing "modern" things. I've had my Powerbook 5300 online with a wifi card, I've edited and redesigned my website several times over, and even experienced "Web 2.0" on my older machines. And done it all inexpensively.

But really... is it worth the effort? Instead of all that aggravation, random/unexplained crashes, and incompatibilities, wouldn't I be better off with something newer, more contemporary? Something that works right out of the box?

In the long run, yes. In this respect, I really miss Nadia, my Powerbook G3 "Lombard". I had OS X running like a top, and was blogging, editing my page, and surfing wherever there was an internet connection/hot spot. Despite being a couple of generations out of date (as Macs go), using Nadia felt like I was on the cutting edge. It was hard going back to my older Macs... but I managed.

I'm in the process of upgrading my newly acquired slot-loading iMac (G3/400) so I can run OS X again, but this leaves me without a comparable Powerbook...

While I can use my older Powerbooks quite effectively, sooner rather than later I'm going to need something more. I'll most likely pick up a new(er) Powerbook, but there's a slim chance I may pick up a Sparc-based Tadpole laptop or a Linux-based laptop.