Just because the tech is old, doesn’t mean it is worthless, right?

So, it’s happened again. One more piece of technology I purchased is relegated to the dust bin. My HTC EVO Shift 4G is not only NOT listed on HTC’s current lineup for Sprint, they no longer support it! It is just at a year old (the phone, not my personal phone that is) and will not be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade to Android.  Worse, Sprint seems to be deprecating the phone as well. But, at least they will give me $68 (US) on the buy back program (compare that to the $18 for my wife’s Blackberry flip phone.)

So, once again, I find myself looking around at the technology that I have.  My Kindle Fire is the most current piece of tech in the house. EVERYTHING else, mine or a family member’s, is either no longer made, been replaced with a newer model or just plain old. BUT…just because something is old does not mean it does not have any useful life left in it.

For example, our original iPad is used everyday. I use it when I am home, my wife uses and my four year old step son uses (he probably uses it more than any of uPandigitals.)  The white 7 inch Pandigital tablet has been rejuvenated now that I got it’s Android update corrected. I found that using it in conjunction with a stylus from a Nintendo DS makes the abysmal touch screen actually work.  I installed the Go EX Launcher and an Ice Cream Sandwich theme to make it look fresh and put a 2gb SD card to store apps.  It is almost like new. Almost.

My old Palm Pre serves as a backup mini-tablet. It is no longer used as a phone, but it still works and the Wi-Fi functionality is better than the HTC.  Facebook and Twitter work fine and I have Boggle, Tetris and a couple of other games as well. Oh, Shrek Racing on the Pre works great and allows us to play two player – Pre and iPad. Works great.  Glad I did not rip it apart like I was going to do.

An old AMD Athlon based (single core, 1.8ghz) PC that was my son’s computer (with Vista shoehorned in) is still chugging along as a backup computer (currently on loan to my sister while I revive her much better computer).  It may be old and have outdated technology, but it got my sis back on the interwebs.

54647704My ZuneHD still works great, it is used everyday as my podcast player. I can also load it up with movies and, along with the dock, use it as a video player.  Throw it in a bag and take it with you on vacation.  No need for a pile of DVD’s.

My original Kindle (the funky wedge shaped one) still works and gets use. When we have no power, it doubles as an internet device since the browser will work on many sites (the ones I would need in such a situation anyway) and it just sips the juice.

That old Zenith CRT television is now the display for a slew of old video games.  An Intellivision, Odyssey II, NES/SNES combo thingy and two Atari Plug and Play consoles in addition to a raft of plug and play games that were popular a couple of years ago. And, since I have a VCR or two AND an old Laserdisc player, this set is still useful. Couple it with the government purchased digital converter I got in 2009, we can still watch local TV on it.  And, at 27 inches, you can see it too.

I have quite a bit more tech that is no longer in the desirable column, but it is mostly unused. Unused because the functionality is reduced to a point where it is useless, broken, rendered useless by a service (PEEK, I’m looking you) or just plain too slow to be useful (like the 1995 era Toshiba Laptop I have. It works great, but lacks an optical drive, the screen is terrible and it is SLOW. It does boot faster than anything in the house, though.  That’s some100_0862thing, right?

I hate throwing things away. Likewise, I hate looking at gear that used to be the hot thing but no longer is and is probably not worth anything.  Like the TWO Peek devices I have. They look great, the industrial design was fantastic and the screen was nice. Peek, however, is no longer around as a service (I canned it long ago anyway) but the devices, supposedly, can be hacked into little Linux handhelds.  Not sure what one would do with a hacked Peek, but it might be fun to play with. One day.

Yes, one day I will play around with some of this stuff. Like the Peek or the ZipIt 2. Yeah, ONE DAY.

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Retro-Computing: the TRS-80 Model 100 and old school coding

TRS-80 Model 100 Portable ComputerSometime in late 2010, I purchased a TRS-80 Model 100 Portable Computer. The computer, one of the first true notebook computers, was a marvel of its time: integrated keyboard and LCD screen, built in MODEM, up to 32K (yes, K…that’s THOUSANDS of bytes) of RAM and a host of software.  The computer ran off of AA batteries and was fully self contained. It had Microsoft Basic (THE standard of the day) along with personal information management software. It was a very popular computer and you can still see them in use today.

Recently, I dusted the computer off and took it for a spin.  I wanted to show my son just how a geek in my day had ‘fun’.  I sat there, while he played Call of Duty on the Xbox and wrote a crude space invader style game. Right there, on the device. NO development environment to speak of, just the line oriented editor.  Oh, and LINE NUMBERS.  Remember them?

100 Print”Hello, World”

Wow. I have not used line numbers in years…decades, even.  I don’t know, there’s something quaint about them…having to figure out a decent increment because, you know, you will, at some point, have to insert a line or two of code because you left something out or, more likely, figured out you needed to add or move something to fix something somewhere else.  Ah, the joys of spaghetti code.  Nothing like it.

So, in that hours time, I managed something that sorta kinda resembles a one invader space invaders game. My little invader, which was sorta animated, would go back and forth on the top line of the 7 line screen. My base was centered on the bottom of the screen and touching the space bar would ‘fire’ the missile at the invader.  Only a direct hit would score your ten points. The game continued until you press Q.  This version does not have the alien invader retaliating, only moving back and forth.  With only about thirty lines of code, there isn’t much there.  But, hey, not bad for such a crude little machine and hours worth of time. 

This little exercise reminded me that sometimes we don’t always need the most recent, hottest or best of anything to have a good time.  I was having a ball playing with the computer, figuring out how to do things without reading the manual (which I have.)  And, for this developer, using that old flavor of Microsoft Basic was a blast.  Line numbers, PRINT @, and the ever so enthralling ‘SOUND’, which makes high pitched beeps. Good stuff.  Makes me appreciate .Net even more.

If I can transcribe (I.E. feel like retyping) the code, I’ll post it here, if there is any interest.

One note about the computer: while the LCD screen is terrible, the rest of the computer, ergonomically, is superb.  The keyboard has a nice feel and the whole thing is surprisingly light.  The fact that it uses AA batteries is awesome. No cumbersome recharger, expensive batteries or funky adaptors. Just AA batts. Oh and the menu screen is easy to use, but, for some odd reason, you have to actually go into BASIC and issue a command to delete a file.  Weird.  Hey, it was the 1980’s. Hell, it’s easier to use than some newer devices today…like Pandigital’s e-Reader and the Kindle.

Update:

Here is a wonderful site full of TRS-80 information and nostalgia. Also, there is an emulator for the Model 100.  I won’t put a direct link here since the emulator contains copyrighted material, just use Bing or that other search engine.  Search for VirtualT.

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