This week, Apple is expected to announce its new tablet computer. Will it be the iSlate? The iPad? With it include built-in 3G or WiFi? Beats me, Jack. As I write this, it’s a week before the announcement. So, let’s talk about something else.

While everyone is discussing the newest platform, let’s talk about some old ones—in fact, four old laptops that I prepared for our staff to use at the forthcoming SharePoint Technology Conference {} (Feb. 10-12).

These four laptops—from Apple, Dell, Fujitsu and IBM—have been kicking around BZ Media for ages, and long since have been taken out of everyday service. They haven’t been even turned on, I think, since spring 2009. What impressed me is that all four were brought up to speed with just a little cleaning and a bunch of downloaded software updates and security patches.

The Apple laptop is a 12-inch iBook G3, with a 900MHz PowerPC G3 processor, upgraded to run Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” with its maximum of 640MB RAM. The machine, which we bought in early 2003, runs like a champ, even with the latest Safari and Firefox updates.

Sure, it’s a little pokey, and its battery doesn’t last more than an hour, but that’s okay. It’s also slightly frustrating that its built-in wireless only works with 802.11b, an obsolescent standard (the iBook works with USB 1.1 devices). But for Web surfing or editing Microsoft Word documents, it’s a never-fail champ.

At least the iBook has built-in WiFi. The IBM ThinkPad R31, which we bought in early 2002, uses a PC-card WiFi card from Linksys. The ThinkPad came through with Windows 98 or Windows 2000, I think, but now has Windows XP. It’s definitely underpowered; with a 1.13GHz Mobile Pentium III processor, browsing is perceptibly slow.

On the plus side, the ThinkPad’s 14-inch 1024×768 screen is by far the easiest to read, and it also has the absolute best keyboard. Given that it’s eight years old and still runs off its original batteries, we truly got our money’s worth.

The fastest machine is the Dell Latitude D610, which we acquired in early 2005. It’s the biggest and heaviest laptop of the four, but also the most powerful, with a 2GHz Pentium M and a big, bright, 14-inch display with 1400×1050 resolution. That’s really a machine that takes a licking and keeps on ticking. The Latitude is the laptop everyone prefers to use.

The last is the tiny Fujitsu LifeBook T4010 tablet computer running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. We never used it much as a tablet: no killer apps, to be honest. Now it’s turned into just one of our conference laptops and occasional loaner. The tablet, dating from late 2004, has a 1.8GHz processor and a 12-inch screen that somehow seems smaller than the one on the old Apple iBook. It also has a funky keyboard that nobody seems to like, but it gets the job done.

Having spent a few days leisurely setting up and using these old machines, I was impressed to find that, old or not, they are still workhorses. Sure, they don’t have WiFi-N, or built-in Webcams, or solid-state disks or 3G cellular data modems. But while the whole world goes gaga for the latest toys, it’s great to know that computers running obsolescent software and hardware (Windows XP or Mac OS X “Tiger,” with old Pentium or PowerPC G3 processors) are perfectly fine and get the job done in style.

Alan Zeichick is editorial director of SD Times. Follow him on Twitter at Read his blog at