Antique Surfer

It cost over $3000 when new, at a time when laptops were expensive curiosities for corporate executives. It was obsolete the day it was built. Its processor is at least 4 generations away from leading edge. It is maxed out at a now pathetic 160 Mb of RAM.
In its heyday it was designed as a standalone workstation, running an operating system that had internet access as an afterthought. It did not feature an ethernet card, let alone a wireless connection.
It’s incredibly heavy, built like a tank. It has a great keyboard with a solid feel and a bright 13 inch TFT display. It’s my 1998 Compaq Armada 1700. And I’m typing and publishing this post right now using it wirelessly.
I found it a few months ago in a recycling depot near Almonte, sitting on a battered old desk and selling for $50. A close inspection showed that it had a nearly new hard drive and everything else worked. At the time it was still running Windows 95 with a few glitches. The modem didn’t have proper Microsoft drivers but I didn’t care. I brought it home and the transformation began.
A trip to Nepean later, I had a used 128 Mb RAM module which I installed in the machine. I also got an ethernet PCMCIA which I plugged into the Cardbus slot. Then I got rid of Win ’95, reformatted the hard drive and installed Vector Linux 5.8 Standard. This nifty operating system is perfect for old hardware – it even got an ancient ISA sound chip working. For a total of $100 I had a working notebook PC and a cable connection to broadband.
Later on I took a gamble that I could get the old Compaq to be wireless. I picked up an refurbished D-Link wireless PCMCIA card on eBay and after some configuration of Vector Linux, it works!
Now I can work wirelessly on an antique from the Clinton administration – a machine so outdated that Windows Me would have trouble running on it. Thank you Compaq for building such a quality machine, and thank you Vector Linux for bringing it into the 21st century.

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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