The Old Computer Challenge pt1.


I stuck my head out and saw the proposed challenge. Since I have the perfect match in the form of IBM's T42 and I do enjoy the occasional self-flagellation, I hopped on board. I see it as a useful experiment as far as monitoring of one's usual habits goes and re-evaluating the things that will undeniably be missed due to hardware limitations.

The play is simple: A single core processor and 512 MB of RAM for a week on a personal computer that is not used for work, as the project does not aim to decrease anyone's working output. Nevertheless, all personal and free time activities that one performs on a usual machine are to be performed, and possibly substituted, on the Old Computer.

While the experiment, or challenge, does have a playful ring to it, as solene notes in her description, certain feelings are bound to arise. Not only will the bloatedness of the modern web become ever more apparent, as most popular websites simply desire far more than the proposed limit of 512MB of RAM, moreso will the habits that one takes for granted, ie: social media, video watching or playing (recent-ish) video games, come to reveal their addictive nature as one attempts to mitigate the lack of access to the usual stimuli of the computer world. While the rules state that the use of a smart phone is allowed in full extent, and even encouraged specifically to record personal needs for learned behavior, since I have recently drowned mine and have not bothered to procure a new one, I will be forced to make due with the elderly machine. One may certainly argue that there are those, who are either forced to use old hardware due to necessity, or who willingly retain such hardware in working condition as it suits their needs. But to the modern digital citizen the experiment may very well reveal just how much their use of free time is dictated by sufficient hardware.

The setup:

Today I gutted the T42 and swapped its entrails for a 512MB stick. I have previously upgraded it to its maximum capability, just to see how far I could push the old machine, nevertheless turning it into a glorified digital typewriter and a book reader.

It is running OpenBSD 6.9 on an Intel Pentium M at 1.7GHz and a 40GB PATA HDD. I do not use a wi-fi and I have already noticed an issue with ethernet, which refuses to work after resuming from suspension. I'd rather put the computer to sleep than power it off, but I expect there will be a plenty of time to look into the problem during the course of the challenge. The screen has a resolution of 1024x768 and even though the machine is pushing the legal drinking age in the USA, looks still crisp. I will post a photo once I figure out what to take a picture with.


Since I fall into the category of minimalist degenerates (not to be confused with minimalists) and the majority of my work-flow is already bound to the terminal prompt, most of the software I use on a daily basis should have no problem running on the Old Computer. I will update the list of software I will be using as the challenge progresses, but as of now here's a list of several programs that I intend to use. May it provide fellow challengees with inspiration.

As for the window manager, I will be staying with my favorite cwm, but I might explore other options, since I doubt I will have dozens of windows open.

Good luck!

My previous post might come in handy