Old Computers

by Kdulcimer, mag at mypclinuxos.com


I love my old computers. Honestly, there's nothing like holding a laptop on your lap that does what you want it to. I mean, come on. What is the number one frustration people have with computers? The stupid things don't do what they're told. Why computers are stupid things will be my next blog. Or maybe the one after. But I digress... The laptops I have in mind are the ones lovingly known as "Model T" laptops. They are the TRS-80 Model 100, Tandy 102, and Tandy 200.

I have come up with lists in the past as to why I love these old computers. None of those lists has made publication before, so I'll put up a few points here. First, these computers run on AA batteries. Yes, you read that right. They use double-A cells. No, keep reading; these aren't some cheap 50 cent toys. Not only do they use AA batteries, I have received as much as 35 hours on a single charge of NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) batteries. On regular alkaline batteries one can expect 16-20 hours of operation. With the best new laptop you might get eight hours. Eight hours of what? Typing? (See next reason.) And if your laptop battery goes dead, can you pop into a store and buy four replacement AA batteries, like the 100? Not only does it run for a long time on cheap batteries, when you run out of that, you can just plug in a barrel adapter, 6 volts, tip negative, and keep typing.

What's more, this computer has been run as a webserver for

How cool is that?

There's more to the Model T.

It's durable. There's no fragile hard drive to destroy. Somebody once said that the Model 100 is as fragile as a bowling ball. I heard a story that one guy accidentally dropped his computer onto concrete from 30 feet in the air. It still worked fine. The screen was cracked, but the rest of it was undamaged. Presently you can buy a new screen for $20. Try that with a brand-spanking new Hewlett-Packard or Dell.

It's simple and easy. It's more intuitive than Windows. Which means it's a whole lot better than MS-DOS, or even the Mac. Trust me.

Okay, so BASIC isn't simple or easy, but you won't need to know BASIC to use the 100. If you ever need to use it, I will guide you through it and tell you exactly what to type. The rest of the computer couldn't be simpler as computers go.

It makes today's smallest laptop seem cumbersome by comparison. It's smaller and weighs less. It's more like an oversize PDA. But unlike either a PDA or laptop, you don't have to worry that much about dropping it because it doesn't get its feelings hurt easily that way.


Exceptional battery life.Battery life is 16-20 hours on alkaline batteries and you can expect 32+ hours from 2300 mAh Nickel-Metal Hydride rechargeable batteries.

It's fast. You can type just as fast with this computer as with any other.

It's too ugly to steal. Even if somebody did steal it, the monetary loss on the computer would be small and it's easily enough replaced from eBay.

It's harder to tick it off. There's no blue screen of death. Because it's simpler, fewer things will make it mad at you and stop responding.

It's possible it will outlast a brand new computer. If you've ever bent a wire back and forth fiddling with it, you know that it'll eventually break. If you've never experienced the joy of this, take a twisty-tie and bend it back and forth until it breaks. Ain't that fun?

When you start a new computer up, electricity flows through its guts through tiny wires. The effect is that the wire heats up and expands. The way they make computers faster and faster is to make the wires smaller. When you shut your computer off, they cool and shrink. It's the same thing as bending a twisty-tie back and forth and back and forth. After so long, it will break- error messages galore, if it even starts up. The wires in the old laptops are larger, so they'll last longer. I would not be surprised, if my 100 is around in ten years.

It won't burn your lap. It doesn't get one little bit hot, unlike a laptop PC with a 2Ghz processor. If you need a lap warmer, use a blanket.

Full-size keyboard. You won't get that in a PDA without shelling out too much or more.

Easy to read display. It's not lit, but you can buy one of those little book-reading lights that should do fine.

You never have to think about saving a document. If the document's on screen, it's saved!

It's a go-anywhere machine. Combine the battery life, durability, small size, low weight, full keyboard, and why shouldn't you be able to sit out in the woods all day and type? Now most people won't need to do this, but for a college student it makes a lot of sense to have something with which you don't have to worry about your battery life.

It's low-cost. Anybody paying $200 for one of these is out of their mind, even if it has every doodad. (A Model 102 with a Tandy Portable Disk Drive 2 (extremely rare) on eBay recently went for over $105.) Why buy a $600 new PC laptop if all you're going to use it for is typing? Save your money- buy a PC desktop for $400 and transfer your stuff. This is probably my favorite feature:

Instant on. With other computers you have to wait a while before you can work. Not so with the 100! You flip the switch and go to work. No waiting. Not bad for ancient technology, is it?