Ramblin' Hamblin

It All Began With a School Dropout

Garry Hamblin - 2001.10.05

I was making a number of business trips, and while my company had "loaner" laptops, they could only be signed out for a couple of weeks or so. I wanted a computer to check my email and websurf from my hotel room. A laptop seemed the obvious choice, so I began to look around to see what might be available.

At the time, new notebooks were in the $1,500 (Canadian) and up range, and budgetary constraints dictated that I look further down the feeding chain for something suitable - much further down. My goal for this project was to procure an Internet capable laptop for $300 or less. I didn't care much about the overall spec, as I felt I would probably have to upgrade it a bit, but I had to have at least a 486 processor and a color LCD screen. I own both Windows 95B and Windows for Workgroups 3.11, so a machine that would run either would be acceptable.

I did extensive checking on eBay and the local newspaper, but nothing suitable turned up that really struck me as good value. My brother-in-law heard of my search and mentioned that his school board was surplussing some computers, which included a couple of different laptops. I duly attended their surplus warehouse, and there was indeed a choice of two different units. One of the two units was an NEC Versa V/50, which featured a 486 DX2 50 processor, 8 megs of RAM, and a 240 MB hard drive. The other was a Toshiba 1950C which came with a 486 DX2 40 processor, 12 megs of RAM, and a 270 MB hard drive.

While both machines had AC adapters, only the battery in the NEC worked. Neither machine had sound, a CD-ROM drive, or modem. Both machines had PCMCIA card slots, 9.5" dual scan color screens, and credit card type memory expansion. I knew from checking around that the cost of a replacement battery would be far more than the cost of the laptop, so in spite of the greater RAM and hard drive size in the Toshiba, I went with the NEC.

And the price? Take your pick - $35 for either one. Did I forget to mention that the NEC came with a fitted NEC branded leather carrying bag? I was well on my way to achieving my goal.

Next article we saddle her up with hardware upgrades. A budget of $300 might have been too much! LEPC

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