Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

Taking a Walk Back in Time

Posted by susabelle at 7:46 AM on October 28, 2009

The other day, a staff member brought me a laptop they had found in a closet. “No one is using this anymore,” I was told.

I opened up the tiny carrying case to find a Winbook XP5 circa 1995 or so. I’m not even really sure, actually, as I could not find any information on this thing online. I booted it up to find it was loaded with a corrupted version of Win95, that had been installed by diskette. It has no CD drive, no USB ports, but it does have two PCMCIA slots, an LPT port, a COM port, a modem, and external monitor port. The PCMCIA slots held two cards, one a modem card (not sure why when it already had an on-board modem) and a network card. Both work. It has an 850 mb hard drive and 16 mb memory, plus 1 gb of video memory. The unit itself is pretty small, about 12″ wide by 10″ tall. The screen is about 8″, and when the unit is closed it is about 2″ thick. It weighs about three pounds or so, lighter than my current Dell laptop. From what I could tell, the unit hadn’t been turned on since about 1998. But the corrupted Win95 just wasn’t playing nice at all, and after getting it to boot twice, it finally told me it was corrupted and would no longer boot to anything but a c: prompt.

None of that mattered. I was in love anyway. As I played with it, I realized it had the sweetest keyboard I’d ever typed on. The keyboard is tilted at what looks like a strange angle. The bottom row of keys is millimeters higher than the second-from-the-bottom row, which are higher than the third-from-the-bottom row, etc. The keys are slightly tilted, as well, being lower in the back than they are in the front. A test run with Notepad indicated I could type like a demon on this thing. And as a novelist and blogger, being able to type fast is an advantage. A huge advantage.

I want to make this thing work. I only need a minimal operating system and word processor, access to my home network for backing up files, and a couple of USB ports. I don’t need the Internet although that would be nice. I’ve looked at Linux, but the video RAM is not enough on this unit to support most of the Linux installs. And without a CD drive, it is going to be virtually impossible to load anything on this unit to begin with. I’m currently trying to locate Win95 on diskette, without a whole lot of luck. May need to make my own set with the Win95 CD I have, which isn’t hard, just time-consuming, and I only have one computer in the house that even has a diskette drive and I’m going to have to scrounge up some disks, too. It seems like an awful lot of bother, but the truth is, the keyboard is absolutely perfect. This keyboard is what netbooks should have. Flat keyboards tilted towards you are the worst possible thing you can do to your hands/wrists/arms/shoulders, and those awful netbook keyboards are the only thing keeping me from investing in one for regular use.

Any geek suggestions are welcome as I plow into this project.