Saturday, May 10, 2008

We've Come a Long Way, Baby



I was digging around in one of my "junk" rooms (what, don't you have one?), and found this little beauty. I wasn't even sure it would fire up. It sure needs a battery, but I'm thinking it ain't gonna get it, not when I can plug it in and fire it up. Yeah, I have to reset the time in the BIOS and in Windows, but so what. It may be another five or ten years before I check it out again, and a new battery would be toast by then.

This is a Digital Equipment Corp. HiNote CS475. It sports an Intel 75mhz 486DX processor, 20 megs of memory, and a 540 meg hard drive. It has 219 megs of free space at the moment. The BIOS dates to 08/19/94. This little powerhouse is running Windows 95 A. It takes about five seconds to boot up, if you are johnny on the spot to skip the "extended memory test." And, it is little. 8 1/2" x 11" little. 9 1/2" diagonal screen small. The laptop to the left is a WallyWorld Acer special with a 15" screen, 1800mhz dual core Turion, 2048 megs of memory, and a 180 gig (180,000meg for comparison) hard drive.

The HiNote has two (yes, count 'em, two) whole PCMCIA slots, one floppy drive and one PS/2 keyboard port. Oh, and one power switch. Notepad and WordPad are included in this version of Win95, so this hotrod could be used as a word processor if the keyboard wasn't so tiny. It's 10 1/2" x 4", compared to the Acer's 12" x 4 1/2". It can go online with an older Linksys 10/100 card, surfing with IE 5.5.

For a while, I collected old laptops off eBay. I brought 'em home, cleaned 'em up and got them to work. I updated everything on them I could find - and this was in the days of dialup. I had shotgun modems running through two phone lines, and used ICS in Win98 - woo hoo! IE 5.5 is as high as Win95A can handle. It might be interesting to see if there is some old Mozilla browser that would still work. IE has bitched about not being able to display some page elements, so I suppose flash and other goodies are right out. I'm not even sure there would be enough disk space to store flash, Adobe Acrobat, and other net visual aids. Besides, there is only a bios beeper - no speakers, no sound card and no sound jacks. And before anyone says it - yeah, I know I could probably run Linux on it. I'd hate to lose this old version of Windows, and I really don't feel like running down all the oddball drivers I'm sure it would need. I've tried Linux on a different laptop in the past, and I'm not gonna run it ever again except on the most generic machine I can build or find.

Another thing I thought was kinda cool is the trackball mouse. It's actually very intuitive and easy to use. I like it far better than the pointing device stuck in the middle of the keyboards of many laptops from that era. I think IBM Thinkpads had them forever (guess that's Lenovo nowadays) and still do - yep, just went to Lenovo's site and they have 'em. They can keep the dern things.

I don't even want to try to network this puppy with Vista and XP on the same network. I fear any file transfers I might want to do will be done with floppies, if I can actually find a functional blank one somewhere in my pile 'o stuff. It's funny how my little Sandisk Cruzer holds about sixteen times the data that this hard drive can hold. This version of Winders doesn't support USB, even if I had a PCMCIA USB card. But, I really don't expect it will do anything but gather some more dust and serve as a wayback machine. It doesn't have the juice to surf the net these days, and it's ergonomics pretty well rule out mobile word processing. So, I'll just keep it around to show the kids how I had to haul the thing to school barefoot through the snow, uphill both ways.

1 comment:

jed said...

I have not one, but two junk rooms. Of course, one of them is the bedroom, and the other is the dining area.

As for Linux, when was the last time you tried it? Hardware support has gotten significantly better over time.

As to connecting the old HiNote up on the network, it shouldn't be an issue at all. TCP/IP hasn't changed since then. And while I don't recommend it in most cases, you could use FTP for file transfers on the network. Could be that Windows file sharing could be gotten to work too, but it'd likely be easier to put an ftp server on your main box. Of course, I'd make sure the FTP server was well secured, and there are ways to do that.