Five amazing computers for under £100
Old-school gizmo gladhandling to cure the bank holiday bores
Many men are facing a dilemma in the coming days. Thanks to the Royals, a great, great, yawning maw of consecutive weekly Bank Holidays looms large. With enforced downtime, this means a stark choice: either face the family, or retreat to the Garden Shed. To help you make this choice, here are some suggestions.
My desk at Vulture Central is like many an attic – colleagues dubbed it the "vintage computer museum". I suspect many of you have got stuff that includes gear we're keen to get rid of, but can't get round to eBaying or even moving. And it never seems to diminish. Old stuff is replaced by even older stuff.
Here, I've tried to set a challenge. What's the best computing kit you can get for under £100 – preferably with some unique feature that modern computers can't replicate? In other words, it's not old for the sake of being old, or nostalgia. It has to have a bit of real utility.
To make it even harder, I've excluded hire-purchase deals. You can get a thoroughly modern computer in half an hour, if you pick it up from a mobile network or Carphone Warehouse. But, obviously, that's cheating.The cost isn't really £50 or £100, that's merely the first instalment. And there must be a word for that sinking feeling people have when they look at an Atom netbook purchased on a two-year contract that still has months to go, and is as alluring as a four-day-old kebab.
So here are five suggestions, and then a roundup of what didn't make the cut – and some of the absences are quite surprising.
Apple iPhone (2007)
The world and his dog now has a Jesus phone – or something comparably impressive. Nobody wants to know about the original 2G model, coming up to four years old. This means that they're very, very cheap, just sneaking in under the £100 threshold.
For that you essentially get a fast, open, NeXT handheld computer... once you've opened it up, that is, and why wouldn't you want to do that? Jailbreaking an iPhone 2G opens the device in three important ways. Firstly, it allows you to add features that Apple itself would only implement on subsequent OS releases, such as multitasking and a clipboard. Secondly, it allows you to add some unique features, such as a more flexible or sophisticated home screen, that Apple has yet to implement. And thirdly, it gives access to the powerful built-in Unix tools that underpin iOS, which you normally can't access.
The non-approved apps channel even has its own app store. Some are incredibly creative. Marvel at the iClassic app, for example, which brings the iPod's click wheel to the iPhone.
Naturally, given the age of the kit, there are plenty of things you won't be able to do. 3G network support only came in with the 2008 3G. And plenty of things will seem slow: the 3GS and 4 models improved performance enormously, and the additional memory in these phones also improved stability.
But everything that made the iPhone insanely great in the first place – seamless music synchronisation, general ease of use, a great browser – is still there. And the original iPhone was the best made and best-looking iPhone until the iPhone 4.
Released: June 2006
Why you should get one: It's an iPhone, it's hackable, it's (still) really quite good
Forget about: Recent AppStore apps
Expect to pay: a shade under £100 on eBay, less for one in poor nick
Next: a tweakable home server
The Psion was a marvel.
I would also recommend that people check out the Cambridge Z88. More Geek factor than you shake a stick at, and actually still usable today. It was years ahead of its time.
Loved my Psion3!
I loved the fact that I had a natty little screen and fully featured programming language in my pocket, with a usable keyboard, if only they'd been able to network it to the basic mobile phone network and allow data transfer, it would have been unbeatable.
Kids today with their iPhones and Android wotnots, bah! Don't know you born! / Get of my lawn! / Whipper-Snappers / etc!
iPhone 1 was unique
What do you mean the only thing unique about the iPhone 1 was it's interface???
It was very unique - when it launched, it was the only top-shelf phone that didn't do MMS, didn't have copy-and-paste in any form, and had nothing really going for it. Pretty unique asking price in my opinion.
Heck, even the current iPhone doesn't do Bluetooth beyond basic audio, and is one of a very very small number of 3G phones that doesn't do standard video calls. That's pretty unique!
miss my psion s3 :(
used my psion series 3 everyday when i had it - awesome machine and as the article says, the only machine to ever adequately replace the filofax.
replaced it eventually with a series 5
so strange that its only now with smartphones that we're getting back to being close to the functionality that these little machines provided us with back in the 90s
HP? Good luck finding what you need, and not end up ending up in the ink and toner section.