Posted by: Rob | January 15, 2009

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

For the past couple of weeks a colleague on my hallway has been essentially cleaning out the office next to his. The former occupant worked in his group and transferred out down south late last year.

Since their function is R&D I gather that he’s been going through files and binders and determining what should be kept and what can be discarded. Despite our employer’s position on managing records of any sort, there continues to be a tendency on the part of us technical types to squirrel away and save anything that might be useful in the future.

In the course of his exhumations, my colleague happened upon some idle hardware that had been left behind. He elected to offer this surplus “equipment” up to the first takers with the condition that it be used for company business as, presumably, the company had purchased this equipment.

The items on offer were:

  1. A portable calculator. Manufactured by Hewlett Packard (an HP-30C, I believe)
  2. A portable external computer storage disk drive. An IOMega Zip Drive. (Remember them?)
  3. A personal data assistant (PDA). A Palm Pilot M105.

When I read the e-mail I figured I would go and check the items out. Never know what might be useful, eh?

I was mostly interested in the Palm Pilot. When I first joined this company back in the mid-‘90’s the gold standard for time management was the Franklin Dayplanner. I got my binder with a stunning green leather binder in the medium size. The binder zips closed and so is great for keeping all sorts of papers and doo-dads in.

Over time, though, the company has decreased the size of the annual refills until they are little more than dated tab dividers and so I don’t even bother with those. I still have the planner and it does contain valuable information. Just not information I use daily. And I never did really cotton onto that whole planning thing.

But back to the Palm Pilot. It was old. May have almost been a first series or so. I looked at the computer connection cable. Nine pin serial connection. Antique by today’s standards. Yep, it would take more time than it’s worth to press this device back into service.

I looked at the calculator. The batteries were dead so I couldn’t even tell if it worked. I already have a company issue HP 19B II that I only rarely use. No sense in grabbing the 30C if someone else could use it.

I only glanced at the Zip drive. I can remember when this technology was cutting edge. IOMega was all the talk and everyone figured their stock was a hot buy with nothing but upside. Are they still in business today? I don’t know.

The drive itself was good for disks of about 100 MB capacity. Compared to the USB memory sticks (or thumb drives, if you like) of today that come in sizes now in the GB range, the Zip drive seems pretty archaic. Between its clunky size and the rat’s nest of cables accompanying it, I quickly decided that my interest in it was pretty much zero.

I checked back today, just out of curiosity, and noted that a couple of optimists had grabbed up the calculator and the antique Palm Pilot, but that Zip drive continues to gather dust.


  1. The Pre will bring Palm back from the brink. It’s BETTER than the iPod. You’ll see.

    I salute the Curious George wink.

    The Pre? Is that the latest model? According to my kids, the Apple iPhone is probably the current best bet. It, apparently, does everything. They both wish they could afford one.

    Um, Curious George? I don’t get it…..

  2. I still have a zip drive. Because I still have information on zip disks. I had to go out and buy a recycled USB zip drive when I got this computer so I could access it. Too lazy to download it and burn it to disks I guess. Cost me all of $20. Iomega is still in business, now they make external hard drives.

    I still have a Colorado Systems Jumbo Tape Drive at home. Somewhere. Those tapes were good for 120 MB of back up. And it only took like a couple of hours to do that back up.

    Nowadays, I’m pretty much in the “Back up? What back up?” camp.

    I have a raft of floppies (the 3.5″ 1.44 MB ones) to go through and see if there’s anything I need to keep off of them. That’s assuming they haven’t de-magnetized themselves already…

  3. I don’t think I go back as far as zip drives. i pretty much came upon the pc landscape around the time of floppy drives, and Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS. Remember the old 286’s? And how awe-struck everyone was by Windows, which was going to revolutionize the world as we knew it. Yah well, Vista kind of destroyed that prediction …

    Oh Miss P. You go back further than zip drives. If memory serves, they were in between the largest of floppies, after tape drives but before writable and re-writable CD’s.

    While Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS is not the dawn of personal computing, you might be able to see it from there. 🙂

    I remember Windows 3.0. As someone who started with Dos 2.0, I remember thinking “This’ll never work.”

  4. Oh dear. T’was only 1990 odd. Just as well as I kept my remarks about your age to myself then, isn’t? 😉

    Well, I’ve always figured age was just a number anyways. I never could understand why people kept telling me “Act your age!”

    BTW, I do recall the old 286’s. My first home pc (in ’88) was a clone based on the 8088 chip. Normal clock speed was 4.77 MHz, but it had a “turbo” mode and would run at 8 MHz. Whew!

  5. I can’t believe with all the things we have that are in need of good homes you almost brought more stuff in.

    Oh, it would have stayed at the office dear. Honest!

  6. I’ve got a box full of IOmega Zips, as well as some 8″ floppies (the big ‘uns) that we used for data acquisition back in the 80’s and 90’s (the Zip was BIG CHUBB when we got those!)…

    i suppose if i ever wanted to see what was on the disks, i’d need a reader. quite likely? i’m going to send them to the shredder truck at the next opportunity… if i haven’t looked at the data in 10 years? not likely i’m gonna need it at this point!

    I think we still have some of those big floppies around here at work. Our DCS hardware and software is all in-house developed but, apparently, you can’t get any of the hardware components anymore. So the IT guys have become adroit scavengers.

  7. In my company there’s no need for anyone to clear out a recently-vacated cubicle or office. Within hours of someone leaving, the vultures descend and pick the place clean. It’s quite horrific to watch.


  8. but surely you can reconfigure them in parallel to create some new device that would have awesome powers? it happens all the time in the movies! and you KNOW that’s real…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: