My Daily Driver, IBM t43
One of the most fantastic reasons to move into Unix based operating systems is to restore the usability of older hardware. There are certain versions of Linux and BSD that will run on systems that have been “put out to pasture” for many years. Adding this to the fact that the operating systems are free makes it totally worthwhile to not only be able to boot older computers, but to make them a staple in your office.
My personal favorite is a older t43 thinkpad that I have hooked up to a 2nd 1024×768 monitor. We’ll probably discuss later why 4:3 is how God intended a screen to be laid out on a laptop, but for now we can focus on the fact that for a small quantity of cash (comparatively to other laptops) you purchase one of these little guys. They’ve got an amazing stock keyboard for a laptop, a case that you could possibly use to stop bullets, the synaptics touchpad is recessed into the casing, and have the little red “nipple” for mouse control in case you hate touchpads (as I do) but don’t always have a mouse hooked up to the system.
Sure, the 2GHz Pentium M isn’t quite as amazing at the Quad-cored i7’s and A10’s out on the market…but due to the fact that I don’t generally need that much processing power, it does marvelously well. The only time that I find myself wishing for more is while recompiling a kernel. For simply running a text editor and gcc with smaller programs, it does very well. Plus, driver support for them is actually very high.
I will tell you that they don’t seem to like coffee. I spilled a cup of espresso directly into the upper-left corner of my last one on accident. This can apparently cause some issues as it’s where the AC adapter plugs in, but I’m pretty sure that most laptops don’t like coffee. For what it’s worth, I bought another one that was practically identical as a replacement.
Still, there are a lot of really great aesthetic and financial reasons to use an older laptop. They’re really fantastic little pieces of hardware, and I don’t believe that just because the requirements to boot up the newest “Super Awesome OS” have increased, that they should simply be thrown out, especially when Unix-based systems run amazingly well on them. I have booted DSL-Debian on a 466 with 32M of RAM, so you can technically go very far back before totally doing away with a system. Those system around the P4 era run like a dream as long as you’re considerate of how your build the environment.
So, take the time to at least use older hardware to experiment on, should you have it to use. There’s something especially satisfying about breathing not only life, but high productivity, into a piece of hardware that many people would simply throw away.