Just Because it’s Vintage Doesn’t Mean it’s Wreckage

I still have a vintage calculator. It’s a Sharp ELSI MATE EL-505. You can buy one on eBay for $30. I bought this dinosaur back in the early 1980s just before heading to college at Iowa State University. It’s still usable, so just because it is vintage doesn’t mean it is wreckage. The original batteries last for over a decade at least, and probably longer.

My original major was engineering but I quickly changed my mind and eventually ended up in medical school at The University of Iowa. I’ve been retired from being a consultation-liaison psychiatrist now for a year. A couple of days ago, I ran into someone I know from the hospital and she asked me how retirement was going. She was on her way into and I was on my way out of Best Buy (nothing big, just a toner cartridge). I mumbled something quickly about having ups and downs but in general doing OK. The automatic door kept opening and closing. It was distracting so we said quick goodbyes.

We’ve got a couple of computers at home that are probably quickly becoming vintage, especially now that Microsoft is pushing the next iteration of the operating system (OS), Windows 11. The introduction is having a rough start, beginning with the puzzling PC readiness checker. You got a message that your PC would either be good to go with Windows 11—or not. That was pretty much it until the complaints started cropping up, generally starting with “What the heck do you mean it won’t run on my machine; why not?” They finally dropped the PC checker routine.

We’ve been through pretty much every Windows OS since Windows 95. If you’re wondering why go through all that, let me say that I actually started with a Mac at the hospital in my first year on the job at the hospital, on the advice of my mentor and first supervisor on the psychiatry consult service. He had a Mac and liked it a lot. On the other hand, even though I liked it too, it soon became clear that it was often impossible to interface with the PC-based office support staff network. I ended up going with a PC and have been dealing with Windows ever since.

Actually, my very first computer was given to me by an endocrine staff physician who co-attended with me in the medical-psychiatry unit. I didn’t pay a dollar for it and it was obviously vintage, in the negative connotation as I soon discovered after trundling it out to the parking lot in a cart and getting it home. When I pressed the power button—nothing happened. I returned it the very next day. My colleague could not explain it.

I could not get Windows 95 to run basic computer games at first. Even Myst, a simple point and click game that probably nobody remembers, would freeze and lock up the machine. I spent hours on the phone with tech support. You could do that then. It was not fun. Windows 98 was only slightly better. I’m still trying to forget Windows Me (Windows Millennium Edition or Mistake Edition). Windows XP had some longevity and ran OK. Windows Vista was another dud. I can’t remember much about Windows 7. I hated Windows 8 Live Tiles nonsense. We’ve been coping with Windows 10 and the updates to the present day.

Now here comes Windows 11 and seems like the most I can recall from articles about it is that it will have a Mac-like graphic interface. Then why shouldn’t I just go back to the Mac?

In some ways, my vintage calculator has done better over time than Windows. I can even spell “hello” on it.

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