From my cold dead hands

I recently attended KansasFest 2008, a convention that celebrates the endurance of the 30-year-old Apple II computer. The new applications for old hardware continue to astound me; many innovations, such as the 17-CPU "AppleCrate" parallel processing machine, are obvious demonstrations of how much these hardcore geeks enjoy using old hardware not because they have to, but because they want to.

Old technology isn't limited to geek conferences like KFest.  There are countless tales in Shark Tank and Shark Bait of staff being forced to use inferior equipment. It's inevitable that technology progresses faster than IT's budget to keep up with it.

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But some people don't want to give up their tried-and-true methods. They'd rather stick with what they know than learn the new toy that's swayed everyone else with its bells-and-whistles. In other cases, there is no modern equivalent for a classic solution. The Apple II, for example, had an expansive library of edutainment software from MECC and Scholastic that was hard to beat when the Apple II started to be phased out of classrooms in the 1990's.

For many people, these old computers are a point of pride, not shame. It shows resourcefulness and determination to continue using software for a fraction of what it's cost everyone else to upgrade to do the same job. I myself am thinking of installing an Apple IIGS in my Computerworld cubicle and putting it on the corporate network with an Uthernet networking card. I used an emulated Apple II earlier this year to write a Computerworld news article; how cool would it be to have the actual machine right here, where I can do such work in an extremely and unmistakably retro fashion?

It'd be worth the trouble just for the first time I put in a helpdesk support ticket for it.

What about you? What's the oldest hardware or software you're happy to be using — or wish you still had on your desk?

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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