90s computer brands

90s computer brands

Some 90s computer brands are the same as today, but a lot more companies played in the field than now. Profit margins were higher then, so industry consolidation wasn’t the matter of survival that it is now.

Here’s a look back at some of the brands of old, including some famous PC brands, some not-so-famous, and some notorious. The 1990s were certainly a make or break time for many of them.

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Upgrading a Compaq Evo D510 for Windows 10 and beyond

I had an old Compaq Evo D510 full-size tower/desktop convertible PC, from the Pentium 4/Windows XP era, that I wanted to upgrade. The machine long ago outlived its usefulness–its Pentium 4 CPU is less powerful than the average smartphone CPU while consuming enough power to be a space heater–but the case is rugged, professional looking, and long since paid for. So I thought it was worth dropping something more modern into it.

I chose the Asrock Q1800, which sports a quad-core Celeron that uses less than 10 watts of power and runs so cool it doesn’t need a fan. It’s on par with an early Intel Core 2 Duo when it comes to speed, which won’t turn any heads but is plenty fast to be useful, and the board can take up to 16 GB of DDR3 RAM and it’s cheap. I put 16 GB in this one of course. I loves me some memory, and DDR3 is cheap right now.

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Don’t buy a “desktop replacement” laptop

I found this oldie but goodie Lifehacker article: When two computers are cheaper than one. It advocates buying a cheap laptop and building a desktop PC to meet your computing needs.

I think it makes a lot of sense. A few weeks ago, a coworker asked me what the most I would be willing to pay for a laptop. I hesitated, thought for a while, and said you might be able to convince me to spend $600. “Wow,” he said. “I’m considering a $3,500 laptop.”

I wouldn’t. Read more

A not-quite-heir to the Model M

So today I came across the story of a new Cooler Master keyboard, which claims to be very IBM Model M-like, but with modern styling and conveniences.

The verdict is that this keyboard is even stiffer than the Model M, which raises a question that not many are asking. Maybe I’m showing my age and everyone else is too young. But to me, the obvious question is how the Cooler Master CM Storm and its Cherry MX green key switches compare to the Model M’s predecessor, the IBM Model F? Read more

Teleworking on the cheap

As I’ve mentioned recently, my new job allows me to work from home one day per week. They provide me a laptop to take home, but that’s it. If I want other hardware, I have to provide it.

Fortunately for me, I was able to outfit my office on the cheap.

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Cleaning up a venerable and battle-worn IBM Model M keyboard

I scored an IBM Model M keyboard recently. Usually when you find 30 year old keyboards, they’re pretty dirty. Here’s how I clean an IBM Model M keyboard.

I’m notoriously picky about keyboards. My weapon of choice is an IBM Model M, also known as the battleship or by its model number 1391401, which went out of fashion sometime in the mid-1990s. You either love them or hate them, and I love them.

People keep trying to tell me that I won’t be able to use them with new computers, but USB adapters from Belkin and Adesso cure that. I’ve used Belkin adapters and can vouch for them, but the Adesso adapters are cheaper and some Amazon reviewers say they work better.

I’m moonlighting writing a contract proposal, and one of the terms of my agreement is that I can use whatever keyboard I want. So I brought in a spare Model M. But it was filthy, so I spent some time this weekend cleaning it up. Now the prince of keyboards is ready to party like it’s 1989.

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Living with a past-its-prime computer

I’m playing catch-up a bit. This weekend, Lifehacker ran a guide about living with a computer that’s past its prime.

I’ve made a career of that. One of my desktop PCs at work (arguably the more important one) is old enough that I ought to be preparing to send it off to second grade. And for a few years I administered a server farm that was in a similar state. They finally started upgrading the hardware as I was walking out the door. (I might have stayed longer if they’d done that sooner.) And at home, I ran with out-of-date computer equipment for about a decade, just this summer buying something current. Buying something current is very nice, but not always practical.

So of course I’ll comment on a few of Lifehacker’s points.

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I’ve seen the Windows 8 screenshots, and I smell panic

I’ve seen the Windows 8 screenshots. What I see in them reeks of overreaction. Pundits are predicting a post-PC era, so Microsoft is trying their best to make a PC look and feel like a smartphone.

Why does a PC need to look and feel like a smartphone?
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Saying goodbye to my Lexmark 4039

Today we hauled my trusty Lexmark 4039 off to recycling. Unfortunately its paper handling was shot, and parts and documentation for that model are nearly impossible to find. I found the alleged service manual, but couldn’t make sense enough of the documentation to fix it.

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The Western Electric 500

Another year, another cordless telephone/answering machine.

I bought a cordless phone to replace an aging and failing 2.4 GHz model this week. Our luck with modern phones makes me long for the old days.

western electric rotary phone model 500
The Western Electric model 500 rotary phone is as indestructible and reliable as it is iconic.

I like the old Western Electric 500 (also known simply as “The Bell Phone”) because it was specifically designed not to break.We own three. My wife and I both have a habit of picking them up when we see them cheaply at garage and estate sales. I see at least five a year, but I only buy if it’s cheap. Maybe there’s some book somewhere that says a Model 500 in a common color is worth $20, but I won’t pay that much for one.

They’re annoying to use for dialing, of course, since they’re strictly old-school pulse. But we can use the cordless phone when we need to dial, or the green Southwestern Bell Freedom Phone I bought for my first apartment, which somehow still works after 10 years.

When it comes to just answering the phone and talking on it, they’re just like any other corded phone, except the handset is a bit heavier.

The other annoying thing is that they don’t ring, but tonight I found a cure for that. Opening the phone up and moving one wire usually cures that problem. (Follow the link and scroll to the last section of the page.)

How reliable are they?

Well, tonight I opened up the one I keep in my office to rewire the ringer, and I found it was made in 1957. After 51 years, it’s still going strong.

We have one in the bedroom too. It’s a later model, made by Stromberg Carlson under license, dated September 1978. Although it looks just like a Western Electric, it feels a little bit lighter and less rugged to me. Nevertheless, after 30 years it still works fine.

Those are really good track records, in an age when we tend to think of things as nearly indestructible if they manage to last five years.

And I’ll admit I like the retro look they have about them. Although I’m not old enough to remember the days when it was illegal to plug anything not made by AT&T or a subsidiary into your phone jack, these are the phones pretty much everyone had up until 1984, when the government temporarily broke AT&T up. My parents and grandparents used these phones. And when my house was built in the mid 1960s, it was almost undoubtedly equipped with a 500 too, and I’d be willing to bet that 500 served as its primary phone well into the 1980s.

I wouldn’t want to trade everything in my house for 1949 technology, but just like my old IBM Model M keyboards, I definitely have a thing for those heavy old-fashioned phones.

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