New Old Laptop Explores the Appeal of Classics

New Old Laptop Explores the Appeal of Classics

Classic computer fans rejoice, a new laptop based on the Windows 3.1 era is arriving to take you back to the past. Called the Pocket 386, this roughly $200 computer boasts a 386 processor, 8MB of RAM, and the ability to natively run Windows 3.1.

Backed by fresh new designs on older limitations, this system could be a perfect fit for retro computer fans, running all their old favorite programs and tools. It may not be for everyone, and most people today might not even know how to use it and its MS-DOS operating system, but it still raises some interesting points about the eternal usefulness of classic experiences.

Not Everything Ages

While the appeal of this Pocket 386 might seem inscrutable to outsiders, we need to remember that some interests transcend time. One of the most popular examples today is illustrated in entertainment with the free bingo at Paddy Power. Famous for a century in physical games, the digital versions of these titles on desktops and mobiles maintain major appeal for players across the world. Of course, being playable for free six days a week doesn’t hurt either. The same is said for older hardware systems that are more than just computer relics of a bygone era.

It is true that older hardware software usually can’t compete with the potential of new platforms, but competition isn’t always the point. Like watching Seven Samurai in the Criterion Collection, sometimes it can be nice to enjoy the projects of the past. We can admire where they excelled, and the steps they took in the past to consolidate the systems of today.

A Learning Tool

Older platforms aren’t only great for tech-based nostalgia, systems like the Pocket 386 can also serve as useful teaching and learning tools. This is especially important because of some issues that have crept into modern programming practices.

In modern computing, there is a tendency for programmers to ignore optimization. This is partly because of modern time constraints and poor leadership, but it’s also thanks to the sheer horsepower of modern computers.

For a direct illustration, consider the 8MB of RAM included in the Pocket 386. A modern computer standard includes 16GB of RAM, two thousand times the capacity of what the Pocket offers. New RAM is also many hundreds of times faster than older RAM, illustrating just how much area room programs have to play with.

Now consider a programming exercise like developing a chess title. With the extremely limited resources of the Pocket 386, getting a program to run efficiently would require an immense amount of work not needed on modern systems. In this way, learning this process out of necessity could then manifest as better programming practices on more capable machines.


Microsoft Windows 3.1” (CC BY 2.0) by Per Olof Forsberg

While we don’t expect many readers to run out and purchase Pocket 386 or similar systems, their place within the tech world is more important than it first seems. They’re more than useless niche curiosities, playing parts as tools and reminders of a path long traveled. Plus, sometimes you just want to load up Encarta and explore the MindMaze, a reference we’re sure some of our readers will remember fondly.

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