Outdated computers that still do the trick


If your old computer equipment is enough for you to accomplish all your tasks, do not hesitate to continue saving your money by using it for a few more years, against the backdrop of a sluggish economy.

In January, for the tenth consecutive year, I took my little Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) Jordana laptop computer to a trade show held in Las Vegas. The entire tech industry gathers there every year to attend a conference, which this time takes place at the Consumer Electronics Show (better known by the acronyms CES). As an industry analyst, I go there to visit it with clients and potential clients, as well as to learn about the latest technologies. And I like to take notes. The Jordana was a demonstration unit presented during an HP group press conference held in 1998 in Grenoble.

As I warmed up the battery of this very reliable machine, then twitched it off while meetings went on, I was once again amazed at how practical it was. Although obsolete by definition, the old Jornada remains (year after year) exactly the right tool for the task that occupied me then, namely taking notes during appointments scheduled one after the other in rooms located all over the city.

Every time I open this device, I obviously have to suffer the mockery of my colleagues. But at the same time, I am struck by a large number of principles.


You have to get used to the longevity of technology. Indeed, this device could easily serve for another decade. However, like the automotive industry before it, the IT market has accustomed its customers to planned obsolescence, which satisfies the requirement for suppliers to continue to develop and sell new technologies, whether we have need it or not. Examples of this business imperative include the replacement of Microsoft’s (MSFT) branded Windows XP with its own Windows Vista, the ongoing changes in the structure of Intel (INTC) computers, or Sony’s recent invention ( SNE) and other manufacturers introducing Blu-ray technology to replace older storage formats. Well, I admit it: it is obvious that in a certain way, products have improved. Yes, that’s right, they come with more accessories. But they don’t always become more reliable.

A second principle has a lot to do with the meaning of the expression: “it performs well enough”. This term requires specifying the context: what is efficient enough, and how is it? Obviously, the performance of the Jordana is seriously compromised. But it is very efficient when it comes to word processing. Indeed, all the writers and journalists will affirm that on this point, it has been since the mid-1980s that old computers have been quite efficient. It is equipped with an Intel StrongArm processor at 190 Hz. Admittedly, its memory lacks capacity, since it boasts a simple 16Mb RAM. But these 16 million megabits are more than enough for me to take my notes.

Rather than being provided with a hard disk, the computer has a flash memory of 16 Mb (a considerable luxury at the time when it was designed), which allows it to function quickly and silently, while using little of energy. Since the data displayed on your screen is actually stored in flash memory, there is no need to save the work: it is automatically saved when you type on the keyboard. In reality, we look at the saved version at all times. The 20.8 cm wide screen is barely colorful, and the fonts are sketchy, but do you really need, to type, a multitude of fonts as colorful as those of the brochures? agencies, or fun? The system used by this computer is that of the very first version of Windows CE from Microsoft,


The mere fact that I still use the Jordana is a testament to the durability of solidly engineered tech products. These Mars Rover robot-like machines are still roaming the computer market a lot, much longer than everyone expected. And what really makes the Jordana stand out is a lot of its longevity. Its battery is incredibly autonomous: this is the result of a high-performance battery associated with the low energy requirements required by its components. The advertisements for this product claim that its battery, made up of lithium ions and rechargeable, has an autonomy of 10 hours. But I still plugged it in for a long time before I got on the plane, then I took notes for three days, I took my flight home, and finally I transferred all my notes five days later, all without having once reconnected the battery.

Additionally, the battery rating still indicated 62% remaining battery life (i.e. between 6.5 and 7.5 hours). The trick to make the two parts that allow the backup last longer is to remove them from the device and put them back in the bag with it until next year. In this way, we can increase their lifespan by almost five years. The trick to make the two parts that allow the backup last longer is to remove them from the device and put them back in the bag with it until next year. In this way, we can increase their lifespan by almost five years. The trick to make the two parts that allow the backup last longer is to remove them from the device and put them back in the bag with it until next year. In this way, we can increase their lifespan by almost five years.

Another great blessing brought by the old technology is its instantaneity…and what instantaneity! Not like the five seconds required by today’s computers. No, a “hop! » : we turn it on. Then “hop! » : we turn it off. Much of the battery saving is done by simply shutting down the computer when it’s idle, which is achievable thanks to its instantaneousness. Its keyboard is small but usable. And despite the relatively sizable battery size, the device is as light as a (thick) paperback. What can you blame him for? Plus, it fits perfectly in my backpack when I’m cycling from meeting to meeting on the Strip (a famous boulevard in Las Vegas), as well as when I’m strolling on the floor of the exposure.

Transferring data from Pocket Word to a PC modem gets a little more sophisticated every year, as the interfaces get more and more complicated over time, but I still manage to figure it out. By the way: The Jordana isn’t the only piece of old technology that still does me a favor. Indeed, I still use a printer, also an HP, which I bought around 1992. I have therefore been using it for 17 years. Only, the connector of this device anchors this one in the past.

This year, while heads of IT and financial companies wonder how, given the current economic situation, they will be able to increase their income for another year by selling PCs to the few customers they have left, it would not be silly to revisit the principles of useful life. A good tool should serve for a long time.

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