A Christmas Story, Part 1

Dennis Faas's picture

This is a Christmas story. It is also a tale about the extension of the life of a computer. I suppose you could say that this posting is a good example of what you can get for the new computer user.

This saga starts with a phone call from a good friend describing her desire to purchase a computer for her husband. He was sharing her system that was in use most of the time for business purposes and it was difficult for him to have the use of it. Therefore, the need was real. Her problem was that funds were extremely tight and she did not have the money to buy a computer. "I only have $100 to spend, what can we do for that?" With prices in the $400 range, it was obvious that a new system was not going to work. Therefore, it became a hunting expedition to find a $100 computer that would work. The Handicapped Computerist got busy and started looking around to see what might be available.

Around here, where I live, we have a thriving used computer marketplace. There are several computer engineering and manufacturing companies around that recycle older computers. I had to find out if there was anything available in her price range. Fortunately, there was. One outfit had a consignment of Dell GX1 computers! Now, the GX1 is NOT a speedy machine. 350 MHz compared to the 3 GHz systems available new. Nevertheless, theGX1 was a nice stable system that should provide several years of solid performance. The price? $19. Yes, I said $19! What did we get for that? 128 Mb of memory, a CD ROM drive, and a 3 GB hard drive. Future expansion of the GX1 Could be accomplished with 256 Mb SDRAM sticks for a total of 768 Mb. Quite a respectable amount of memory! The 350 MHz Pentium II processor could be replaced with a 500 MHz processor later on so the whole system could eventually upgraded to become a solid performer for a home PC. Since the system was going to be used to write documents, play old Win 95/98 games, and do some web browsing, the older system would be fine. We also had to build a two node network to share a cable modem so that meant we needed a small hub and router. Fortunately, the vendor that had the system also had the rest of the parts we needed.

Those decisions made, the next step was to find the funds to purchase everything? In today's job market, at least around here, jobs are hard to come by. If you do get a job, it is short term and does not pay very well. Therefore, she had a problem. Her husband had been looking for a long while, unsuccessfully, for paying work. My friend was working, but her income was taken up by household needs and bills so there wasn't anything left for a computer. The solution was rather surprising and, as it ended up, rather annoying. The husband found work delivering telephone books. Several hundred telephone books, and corresponding Yellow page volumes later, my friend had lost her temper because of the mess and high traffic in her home, along with a very sore body due to having to handle the phone books. Stuffing one copy of both White pages and Yellow pages into a plastic bag, stacking them where they could be picked up for delivery and then stuffing them into their car was a lot of work. To top it off, my friend is disabled! The result, after working seven delivery routes, was enough cash to have a nice Christmas for the whole family, including the computer.

She gathered what she had for the computer and sent it to the Computerist, who then went shopping. The store was entered and after looking around at all the treasures, I got to work. The Dell GX1 was stacked with several dozen others, so I picked one from the stack. The salesperson was extremely helpful since I too am disabled. (I am one handed and cannot lift and carry) He grabbed the system I pointed out and we started picking out the additional parts needed. A 20 GB hard drive, additional 64 Mb of memory, and we were well on the way of getting what we needed. Next, we needed networking equipment and cables, a keyboard and mouse completed the list and so, it was done. The vendor had a suggestion when it came to the router and hub. He walked to the back of the store and came back with a single box and proceeded to show me a 4-port hub/router in a single unit. I was surprised when he told me it cost $19 which was a savings of $30. We now had everything we needed. How much did we spend for all that 'stuff'? $99 was the total including tax. Not a bad deal to be sure. Now all that needed to be done was the final assembly, software load and testing. The Computerist's favorite task!

Installing the hard drive was simple on the Dell system. Remove a single screw and the drive cage lifts out. A few screws later and all that was needed were to replace the drive cage, connect the power and data cables and that was done. . A final check of all the various cables and cards and we were ready to be powered up and start testing the system

In Part 2, Oh oh! Trouble!

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