Low End PC

More on Internet at the Low End

L Victor Marks - 2001.10.29

What is it with the Internet?

What is it with the Internet, and why are we so interested in running it on older machines? The best answer I come up with is this:

There are applications for computers that are so compelling that we call them "killer apps." From 1977 to 1984, the killer apps were primarily productivity software: word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and light BBS work. The notion that you could have a typewriter that allowed you to make endless corrections was revolutionary! Add a printer, and you were able to publish your own work, however plainly. From 1984 on, computers added graphical interfaces to the mix, and publication became even easier.

Today's killer apps are email and the Internet. Communication has become easier than picking up a phone or writing a letter on paper, because email is more casual than a formal letter and doesn't impose on the recipient like a telephone call. For whatever reason, we just don't give up at getting older machines on the Internet. There's even a Web server running on a Commodore 64 - some people are truly determined!


Anyhow, I've been scouring the Web for low-end PC resources. The first requirement of a low-end PC application is that it ought to be tiny. Our first stop is, appropriately, TinyApps.org. TinyApps.org organizes the applications into categories: Internet, Text, Graphics, System, File, and Misc. Many of the applications work only on DOS, and require some form of Windows, but the key is that all of these applications are less than 1.4 MB in size and are either entirely self-contained in one file or have an .ini file in the same folder as the application. None of this "installing files in multiple other directories outside the program directory and many excessive .dll files" nonsense. Tiny apps are truly tiny.


NewDeal is another interesting product. It's an Internet and office suite with small system requirements. NewDeal has minimal system requirements to operate. Those requirements are:

* NewDeal can also run as a DOS application from Windows 3.1, 3.11, Windows 95/98, Windows NT, DOSEMU in Linux, and from several versions of OS/2.

NewDeal consists of

NewDeal sells for $70 as a single bundle of operating system and applications. Bulk discounts can drop that as low as $25 per station for schools and other large installations.

Last Resorts

Moving away from the Internet (but not entirely), there is a collection of applications that are nice, including tiny file managers and other valuable utilities, sold at Radsoft.net.

And lastly, Last Resort is an application that isn't specific to the Internet, but it is useful nonetheless. Last Resort is an application that records your keystrokes to a file on your hard drive - if you have a disaster (crash, power failure, forget to save a file) you can look in the Last Resort keystroke file and recover what you typed.

As a follow up to my article on licensing, I invite you to read this essay, The Ethics of Free Software, by Bertrand Meyer. Meyer goes into detail on why the word free is a difficult one to use in reference to software.LEPC

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