So, here I am, suffering gadget envy. Half the team at work has iPhones - the things seem to be like some kind of disease. Every time I turn around someone else has one. What with the iPad, the rumoured new HP slate, netbooks of all kinds (including netbooks based on Windows CE) and the allure of Windows Phone 7 Series, I’m overwhelmed with an excess of choices.

The key is, of course, what would I use the new gadget for? Much as I’d like to buy one just for the geek factor, I’m not going to buy one without a clear use.

I don’t need a new MP3 player - the one I have is working fine and I’m too stingy to replace it while it’s still working well.

What I do need is a way to write - to write blog entries, articles, perhaps even some fiction - while on the move.

A friend at work opined that the keyboard on the iPhone, while good for tapping out a twitter update or text message, isn’t really going to cut the mustard for larger pieces of work. I suspect this will also apply to the iPad, though I’ve yet to get hands one one to try. A netbook would be good – though the vibration on a train or a bus would likely kill it unless I go for a solid state drive, and the small size of most netbook keyboards is a turnoff: I want to type, not hunt and peck.

(Image credit: Sinclair Research)

Then, inspiration hit - tucked away in on a shelf at home, I have a Cambridge Z88 - perhaps the first laptop computer. With some fresh batteries, a custom serial adapter and some luck, everything came up and is now running again. Being solid state, I can use the Z88 on the train or bus without any worries that vibration will cause it to fail. Better yet, the keyboard is full size and as near to silent as any that I’ve ever used.

I think I’ve solved my gadget envy with a gadget that’s twenty two years old - and still going strong.

In fact, I wrote this post on it.

What’s the oldest piece of kit you have that’s still in perfect working order?


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May 2010