The old laptop gets to work

I opened up a 1990s laptop of ours the other day – a Compaq Presario (1672 for you geeks). The screen had cracked (after several moves in boxes) and the power lead had to be held down a certain way for it to connect to the power board and run the laptop. But once the green light went on and I clicked the power button, up she span, running Windows 98. It was difficult to see the desktop with the screen cracked, but we were able to navigate to the various windows. The computer has a ‘massive’ 3.02 GB of hard drive memory. It’s so ‘old’ that it has a dial-up internet modem. But we used the old USB port and an old, compatible memory stick, to carefully transfer a wide variety of documents that had been previously backed up but corrupted by a virus some time ago.

The amazing thing is, when reviewing the documents I noticed how many activities and endeavours we had run, on multiple continents, using the old memory limitations of that machine. For all of the last decades’ vaunted advances in processor speed, hard drive capacity, connectivity and more, this 15-16 year old laptop still started up the desktop relatively quickly, ready to go to work. The old, animated cursor set was at work, Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man was on the screen and the rotating 3D text screensaver popped up within a few minutes.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, no mindless ‘news’ updates with endless gossip, no touch screens, etc. etc. etc. And yet, we managed to run great organisations, travel the world and innovate great ideas and engage in meaningful and impactful work. Do you remember doing that?

It’s true in this day and age of 24-month time limited mobile tech that “they don’t build them like they used to.” I bet my Dad probably still has a mobile phone from the early 1980s around somewhere (the ones that looked like WWII walkie-talkies) that would start up fine if you had a decent battery. Try doing that with your iPhone in a few years’ time (assuming it hasn’t already bent into the shape of a paper clip).

Too often, people and organisations employ the latest tech and the latest fads in an effort to be productive and ‘cutting edge’. Unfortunately, they spend so much time on the cutting edge that the main blade rusts, pits and falls apart. Or, they’re so busy fiddling with the latest tech on their GPS/mobile that they don’t see that they’re driving down the same track they’ve driven down a thousand times and should instead be admiring the scenery and anticipating better ways to enjoy their destination.

Now, I wouldn’t go back to the old ZX81 we had as kids – 1 KB memory really did hamper things. And it took half an hour for the tape drive to load a program that made a square brick move around the screen. It was exciting back then, but now…? Nor would I use that Compaq for my current computing needs – the bloatware we all use today wouldn’t fit at all! But remembering how we used some old-fashioned technologies to create great results is a prompt to being lean and creative.

Think about it: What could you achieve if you employed some old-style tech – maybe brainstorming via paper and pen, perhaps giving a client a phone call to see how you can assist them, perhaps sharing a coffee with an old mentor, or employing some of those common-sense ways you used to reward prudent risk-takers – in the face of your current challenges? What would you use and how?

Sometimes, old tech is still good tech.

If you have any stories about your old technology, feel free to share here …

© 2014 Peter J. McLean

Do You Need Some Old-Style Tech?

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