Posts tagged ‘old technology’


Ancient Tech – Graphics Tablets, the Wacom Intuos series 1

This is a follow up from a post made a few months ago, when I received one of my favorite gifts ever.  An awesome PC which came with a wonderful new peripheral, a version 1 Wacom Intuos.  Now I had played around a few times with the idea of getting myself a graphics tablet, but when it came down to it I simply couldn’t afford one.  Even secondhand they do tend to be rather crazily expensive.  But here was one of my own and it didn’t cost me a penny.  So I think we should start with a quick review of what a graphics tablet is, and why they can be useful.

A graphics tablet is basically a surface that matches your PC monitor 1 to 1.  By which I mean if you bring the tablet pen into contact with a given spot on the tablet the arrow on the screen goes there.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I usually think of it as just a different sort of computer mouse, because it really is just another way to move your cursor around.

Now as for what it’s good for.  Well you won’t be playing any games with one that’s for sure, unless it’s a really simple mouse controlled flash game.  And it’s far too awkward to use while word processing. I do find mine a wonderful aid to comfortable internet surfing, no awkwardly cocked wrist for me. But what it excels at is in the name, graphics tablet.  That’s right load up your favorite graphics editor, plug in your tablet and you have a really potent combination.

You see what a graphics tablet gives you in combination with a graphics program is something a mouse simply can’t give, flexibility.  Imagine being able to draw on your computer screen in precisely the same way you would with a pencil and paper.  You can do that.  Or paint with watercolors, you can do that too.  Crop and edit photos, with a tablet it becomes an easier, more intuitive task.

Recently I’ve found myself messing around with video editing software, and again the tablet proves itself to be the best tool for the job.  No repetitive mouse movements.  Just drop the tip of the pen onto the frame you want to move, click the side button and drop the frame where you want it.  But because it feels almost precisely the same as working with a normal pen and a stiff A3 pad on your lap it feels far more natural.

I’m not really going to review a piece of equipment that’s been obsolete for at least a decade.  But I am going to say this, if you come across a working one in a car boot sale, or a relative offers you one, take it.  They’re simple to use, once you get past what I found was a very shallow learning curve, they’re pleasant and have a very natural feel to their use.  But most of all a good graphics tablet makes a wonderful alternative to a mouse, at least for those computer based chores that don’t require a keyboard.

So thanks again Claire.  Best present ever!


Ancient Tech

Like any geek worth their salt I rarely throw away anyting thing that once upon a time had electrons running through it.  For example each of my three main bookshelves each has a  large drawer built into its base and all of those drawers are filled with spare components from old PC’s and laptops.

I have one drawer filled with spare power supplies, another has six or seven old IDE laptop hard drives with such small storage capacity that my e-book collection on its own would fill two of them.  How about a spare LCD screen for a laptop?  Or enough IDE data cables to bind a lover quite securely to a kitchen chair?  Seriously I throw away nothing that may have a use at some vague undefined time in the future.

This extreme technological thriftiness extends much further though.  I’m writing this on the very first model Asus EEEPC, the 701, which I’ve had now since about three months after it was released.  Where’s the thriftiness in that?  Well I have another one hanging in a case in my wardrobe for when this one finally gives up the ghost.

My HP Ipaq which I use for everything from writing notes to reading my aforementioned ebooks was released in September 2005 and I fully expect to get at least another three or four years out of it.

So what about my PC you ask?  Well two thirds of it’s components are from a PC that was already severely outdated when my partner owned it six years ago.  Yup that’s right the motherboard comes from a time long before SATA drives.  Hell it only has two RAM slots and occasionally has really nasty shit fits when I try to install complex programs, you know like the built in Windows calculator.  But for all that it still runs World of Warcraft at minimum settings and those ancient creaking components did save me from a fate worse than death for a PC gamer…not having a PC.  For the record the newest component in a real Frankenstein of a PC is the graphics card which comes in at a remarkably young age of 4 years.

No my PC isn’t quite this ancient, although it does call this one uncle.

My mobile is a 5 year old Nokia, my cordless drill was involved in the construction of the Ark, my epilator (if you have to ask, ask your girlfriend and watch for the pained expression on her face) was built using Brunellian techniques and my MP3 player still uses AAA batteries.

So why write about this?  Well soon one of my dearest friends and an adopted lil sister of mine leaves this septic isle for brighter shores and she has promised to gift me her PC which due to weight constraints she can’t bring with her.  This will mark the first time ever that I have had an even vaguely up to date piece of tech in my possession and I thought it was a good time to take stock of what I have used and just how much fun and functionality can be gotten from something so old.

Old of course is a very relative term in electronics.  But when I see someone throw out something as wonderful as a working Apple Newton (one of the great granddaddies of handheld computing) or insist on having a new mobile every six months it makes me sad almost beyond words.  Not just because I tend to anthropomorphise technology (my PC has died so many times I call it Lazarus) but simply because people tend not to stop and wonder if anyone else would not just use but love using what they’ve cast aside.

Look people just because it’s old enough that it has to run on Windows 95 doesn’t mean it’s worthless.  It’s just worthless to you.  Instead of throwing it out how about finding it a loving home with a hardcore geek who will lovingly restore it to and beyond its former glory?  After all a pupp….I mean a piece of technology is for life until it dies in a cloud of ozone filled smoke not just for Christmas.*

Oh and Claire thank you for the future Daniel Jackson so to be named because you just know I’ll still have most of your PC running in one form or another in ten years time.

*refers to one of the ancient beliefs of electronics, that all eletronics run on smoke, hence why they stop working when you see that smoke escaping from your PC/dvd/television.  This belief always superceeds emergency repair proceedure number one, as once the smoke that makes something run has vanished no amount of beating it up with make it run again.

%d bloggers like this: