Nothing is obsolete

By Robert Currier, ITworld.com |  Tech & society, Tech & society

I'm writing this week's column on a 1950's-era Olympia manual typewriter. Surprised?
I'll bet you are. I know I am.

I started out using my Toshiba Satellite 1625CDT laptop, as I do every Sunday
morning. Just after I fired up XyWrite -- yes, I still use XyWrite -- the laptop went
into its "ain't got no more juice" routine and shut down. I had been using it for less
than thirty minutes -- the battery was supposed to be good for at least two hours. And,
of course, I had neglected to bring my AC power adaptor.

I do most of my writing at our lake house, and I don't have a desktop computer
there. Fortunately, I keep my Olympia SM-3 manual typewriter stashed away in my office
closet. After dusting off the manual, I was able to continue working. Thank you, Miss
Marshburn, for the typing lessons I hated so much. I'm glad you taught me to use a
manual typewriter.

My point, in case you were wondering, is that keeping seemingly obsolete technology
around isn't always a bad idea. Even items that seem to have outlived their usefulness,
like a manual typewriter, a shared Ethernet hub, or a 10Mbps
switch, may not be completely worthless. Those old repeaters and switches make great
emergency spares when the fancy new hardware kicks the bucket. Better to drop from
switched 100Mbps to shared 10Mbps than to drop completely off the network.

And don't forget about those who aren't operating at the bleeding edge. They might
be happy to take those old repeaters and switches -- and perhaps a router or two -- off
your hands. There are many school districts that can barely afford a new computer, let
alone new networking hardware. Check out href="http://www.assistintl.org/index.htm">Assist International if you're
interested in putting old hardware to a good use.

Am I going to leave my column in its current typewritten format and snail-mail it to
my editor? I don't think so. I'll key it into Microsoft Word and email it as I always
do. But I would be running several days behind schedule if I hadn't had my trusty
manual typewriter available for backup duty.

I'm not advocating a return to href="http://xavier.xu.edu:8000/~polt/typewriters.html">typewriters and shared
Ethernet, though there are a surprising number of folks who still use a manual. I'm
just asking you to think before you dispose of that old hardware. It just might save
your net some day.

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