Using An Old Laptop

by NJB // // Broomfield, CO

© 2023 Nantucket E-Books LLC

CC-BY-SA 4.0

This article from Luke Smith still rings true for me:

I agree with Luke Smith that people don’t need the latest and greatest computers. I have been using my ThinkPad T60 for my day-to-day work for two years now, a laptop that, as of 2023, is seventeen years old. It’s all the computer I need, for the most part.

Now, when I say that my T60 is all I need, I guess I should describe what I need, because it might not be what you need. I don’t play video games that much anymore, I don’t do much HD video editing, and the software I write doesn’t require heavy computation. I don’t use Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram. Based on Smith’s criteria, I am the ideal user of an old computer.

My work largely involves editing text files: editing my client’s work, and writing software for Nantucket E-Books. Sometimes I have to do basic image editing in GIMP. For entertainment, I watch videos (really enjoying Babylon 5 right now). For that kind of work, a ThinkPad T60, with an SSD, a 2.33 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, really is sufficient.

My operating system on the T60 is Trisquel GNU/Linux. I find Trisquel very easy to use, certainly as easy as Mac OS.

The T60 doesn’t quite have the juice for video calls or live-streaming, but I don’t need that functionality every day. When I need to take a video call or stream to YouTube, I have an HP ProBook 450 G1 at home running Debian. The ProBook has 16 GB of RAM, which, after using the T60, feels like riding in the Space Shuttle.

It did take some work to get to this point. It was vital to learn Vim for text editing, and it took some time to find my way around GIMP after years of using Photoshop.

With my T60, I get an inexpensive ($120) laptop that is very easy to repair and maintain. One time it fell off the coffee table and it still worked fine. Meanwhile, my MacBook Pro in college fell off a table, and I discovered the aluminum body had the toughness of soft cheese. If my T60 were to ever get seriously damaged, I would not be out thousands of dollars.

While I agree with Luke Smith’s blog post, I have always felt like I needed to add my own caveat before I endorsed it: what works for me may not work the same for everyone else.

I would add one more thing that Smith said in a video that was very insightful, about the benefits of laptops over smartphones. With a smartphone, you can be a consumer, but you can’t really be a creator (this is specifically in the context of developing software). With a laptop, you can be a consumer, and a creator. My advice: get out there and create.

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