Thinking From the Box

More Things To Do With an Old PC

Roger M - 2002.05.03

There are many uses for an old PC; more than you might think. Say you have a 386. You probably know you can run Windows 3.1 and maybe even Windows 95. You probably feel you will have to run text-based DOS programs unless you use Windows. However, this is not so. Even with a 386 there are a number of other interesting options.

To start with, there is NewDeal Office. This is a full GUI based office suite made by a company called NewDeal, Inc. All that is required is DOS and a 286 with 640 K of RAM, although a 386 is recommended. The office suite is similar to most on the market and should meet the word processing, spreadsheet, and even Web browsing needs of most people. It allows a $15-40 computer with a 386 or 486 to become a useful working computer again, providing a great option for the person who may not be able to afford a computer otherwise, or to provide a second computer in the family, maybe for the kids' homework.

Another option is to seek out older GUI software. In the mid 90s companies that made mainstream word processors and spreadsheets offered DOS versions that were actually GUI/WYSIWYG programs. Even it you didn't have Windows on your old 386, you can still have a program with a modern GUI interface and WYSIWYG capability. Older software can be found at computer fairs, garage sales, and on the Internet. If you live in a city of any size, you should be able to find a store that legally sells old DOS and Windows programs or resells used software.

Finally, you could turn your PC into an emulator. Interestingly, an older PC can be used to emulated another OS that had a GUI interface. Search the Web and you will find emulators for most of the 1980s 8-bit computers, along with GUI based computers like the Atari ST and the Macintosh (a 486 may be required for these). The Atari ST ran a number of games that many users will find entertaining, even in 2002. The Atari ST also had word processing and spreadsheet type programs. The Mac had various word processor and spreadsheet applications written for it, including Microsoft Office.LEPC

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