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home :: tech :: obsolete

Nov 13, 2005

Obsolete Hardware & Software

At the moment this is just a place-holder for my interest in 'old & quirky' equipment.

For example the Apple Newton, 3Com Audrey - both failures from a commercial stand-point but both remarkable technologies for their time. Both also have strong user-communities working to enhance the platforms.

Permalink | 2005.11.13-04:42.00

Oct 04, 2005

Cobalt Qube 2 NetBSD

With this NetBSD Restore CD I managed to shoe-horn NetBSD 2 onto my MIPS based Cobalt Qube 2.

Details on the NetBSD Cobalt port are here.

Now I just need to dig up a serial cable or setup a dhcp server so I can assign the thing an IP address and start messing around with it.

Its certainly quite a leap from the standard Qube 4Gb disk containing the old Cobalt Redhat-based Linux Kernel v2 (current in 1999 maybe) to the 40Gb disk containing NetBSD 2 (which is current as of 2004/5). Cobalt stopped updating their MIP's based OS when they moved their line of Qube and RAQ hardware to x86 which was much easier to keep in synch with advances in the Linux kernel.

For now it will probably go back into its box and storage until we get our study sorted out.

Permalink | 2005.10.04-20:37.00

Mar 22, 2005


I have an Acorn PocketBook II - essentially a rebadged Psion 3a.

Even though Psion got out of the PDA business a couple of years ago it is interesting to see that they are still held in fairly high regard and still seem to sell well on the web.

Psion devices fall into three broad categories

  • 1. Basic Organisers (Organiser/OrganiserII)
  • 2. SIBO Devices (Series 3/3a/3c/3mx/Sienna)
  • 3. EPOC Devices (Revo/Revo+/5/5mx/NetBook)

Of which the EPOC devices were the last and most powerful. In fact EPOC still exists via the Symbian collective and features in a few cellphone operating systems.

A comprehensive history of Psion PDA's is available here.

Eric Lindsay has a nice roundup of Psion PDA's, software and links.

The Psience5 site has more links to articles and discontinued software for the Psion range.

Permalink | 2005.03.22-05:53.00

Sep 28, 2004

Debian for the Qube

This looks like a nicer alternative to the NetBSD option - Debian on a Qube2.

I like the idea of using it with a sound card as a jukebox . . .

Permalink | 2004.09.28-02:42.00

Cobalt Qube

Next to the Netwinder, Cobalts Qube was perhaps the first of the 'internet appliances' that you could drop onto the network and use without having to be an IT Guru.

Cobalt had a range of pretty cool products starting with the MIPS powered Qube and Qube2 to the ISP friendly RaQ range of servers.

The Cobalt products were headless - you configured everything (user admin, email, web hosting, ftp, file serving) via a simple web interface.

The distinctive blue cubes preceeded the introduction of the Apple G4 Cube by a few years. Their compact size, idiot-proof admin interface and queit operation meant they were a good choice for small organisations needing to get online or requiring basic file/web services.

Newer machines (eg the Qube3) used an x86 based processor - which made it much simpler to keep up to date and current with Linux kernel and software updates rather than having to wait for MIPS specific ports.

Cobalt was bought out by Sun who didn't really do much with their product range (though there is a selection of SUN RaQ gear).

Fans of the Cobalt product have managed to get the web-interface open source'd - its now maintained by BlueQuartz.

Another lifeline for owners of the older MIPS based Cobalt gear is via the NetBSD/cobalt project. An interesting look at NetBSD in action is available at Project gigaQube. There is now a Netboot CD to take the pain out of installing NetBSD on the Qube - it runs on a standard PC, sets up a netboot server which the Qube can connect to for installation.

Permalink | 2004.09.28-02:41.00

NeXT Color NeXTStation Turbo

The first time I saw and used a NeXT machine was in Canada around 1994 - they seemed horribly cool even if they were starting to show their age. Merging cool hardware to a rock solid OS and a great GUI made NeXT the OS X of its time. In fact back when Apple was floundering around for something to replace the (Classic) MacOS - Apple bought NeXT (and Steve Jobs). Many thought BeOS was a better match for the Macintosh Way but while BeOS was a fantastic technology it was still immature whereas NeXT had been through several production iterations already (from NeXTStep v1.0 to 3.3 and then making the jump to OpenStep 4.0 to 4.2). OpenStep was an attempt to abstract the OS from the hardware and would run on top of Solaris, HPUX and on Intel x86 hardware as well as the older NeXT hardware which was eventually discontinued in 1993.

The NeXTStation 'slab' reached its zenith with the Color Turbo workstation - it featured a Motorola 68040 running at a whole 33MHz. The more distinctive NeXT Cube was also available in a Color Turbo configuration (although I suspect due to the increased price for the cube people stuck with the slab configuration).

In terms of performance the black hardware was a little underpowered - NeXTStep 3.3 or OpenStep 4.0 on Intel hardware ran rings around the old Motorola chip.

Some information about NeXT hardware is available at LowEndMac. Some OpenStep screenshots are available at GUIGuidebook.

Of course the most important thing of all is that the NeXT heritage continues to live on in Mac OS X.

Permalink | 2004.09.28-02:38.00

Sep 15, 2004

Apple Newton

The original Apple Newton was introduced in 1993.

There is an excellent Newton timeline at the Newton Gallery.

What set the Newton apart from all other PDA's (past and present) was 'Newton Intelligence' - pervasive information sharing meant that you could enter 'meet john for lunch on thursday' and the Newton would enter the event into your calendar with Johns contact details from your address book.

Apple unfortunately discontinued the Newton in 1998.

A supportive community (revolving around the NewtonTalk List has kept alive the Newton platform.

Modern developments include wireless, PCMCIA ATA, Bluetooth support.

As the hardware starts to show its age efforts are being directed into emulationand/or Newton work-alikes. Examples include Green, Gnuton and the new Einstein project. Of these projects only Paul Guyot's would appear to stand much chance of moving beyond the prototype stage.

Permalink | 2004.09.15-21:03.00