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Computing devices and long lasting communities
04-19-2017, 08:06 AM
Post: #1
Computing devices and long lasting communities
I was reflecting why does it happen that some computing devices have long lasting communities even way after they are discontinued, while other computing devices have communities for a short time or even none?

I will explain myself better below.

I am certain that communities about TI and HP calculators, new and old, exists and are active.
I am certain that communities about particular (powerful, expensive, shiny, with particular functions or history, etc.) computing devices that are still sold exist and are active. For example communities about the nvidia shield k1 tablet released in 2014 or the first raspberry PI, without mentioning the recent samsung S8.

I am positive that communities about very valuable (even just by fame) family of devices now discontinued still exist and are active. Like consoles (nes, gameboy) or computers (amiga, commodore and so on).

I am positive that communities about families of chips that were important in the past, that are now discontinued, still exist and are active. Like pentium III, pentium 4, intel core solo, gpu chips (voodoo banshee, first nvidia geforce, first radeon and so on)

I am not so positive that communities about common devices that are discontinued and are not so usable nowadays exists and/or are active. For example back in the days there were plenty of communities about windows mobile (CE) devices or symbian s60 systems. Those with the time are disappearing and anyway they seem not active anymore.

I am quite negative that communities about common "cheap" computing device ever existed. For example I'm using a hp compaq nx6110, a laptop from 10 years ago, as thinclient. I don't believe there was ever a community about such family of laptops, and the same should apply to similar products also nowadays, like the entry level laptops or desktop systems sold en masse, the same for every other "entry level" computing device that has nothing particular compared to others release at the same time.

Said that, and assuming (that's a bold assumption) that my estimations above are not so far from reality, I wonder why is it so. In particular related to calculators communities.

My explanation at the moment is that calculators are more or less always actual, since the math, at least the one for high school and undergraduate programs, does not change so much over the years.
Calculators, even just the scientific non programmable models, are more or less providing the same core functions and so tutorials or help guides are still valid after years from the first release.

This is not the same for many computing devices that are literally not helpful anymore. Some, like gaming consoles, at least have their vast ecosystem of applications that can be executed on them, instead others just get obsolete and are not useful enough to raise the interest of a community, since one with them can do something only with a certain skill level.

For example I rescued some industrial PC having VIA C3 500mhz and 256 mb of ram, and I use them as linux boxes to learn programming languages and for intesive computations (I feel already ashamed when I will use my nvidia shield with the hp prime application, it will be too fast. Although I am not sure it will use the four cores). The same computer in the hand of another random user will be likely not useful.

What do you think?

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04-19-2017, 03:10 PM
Post: #2
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
I'm sure it has to do with some combination of nostalgia, timelessness of utility (calculators really hit the mark here), availability of contemporary alternatives, supply of the old devices, the creativity and ingenuity that result from constraint, etc.

Look at the 41CX or 42S: a lot of people probably fondly remember these from early in their career/school, they're extremely capable with great flexibility in programming, there isn't really anything comparable today (Swiss Micros is working to remedy that), there are just enough available secondhand to maintain interest in a large enough population, but not enough to saturate the market, and the limited memory, speed, and screen size pose interesting challenges that have bred a lot of clever programming over the years.

The Windows CE devices were always just less-capable versions of the Windows computers we had (and still have), so I don't think they offer anything you can't get in a much more polished contemporary device. The Psions have fared a bit better, with overall better design in may areas, and on-device programming via OPL. Still, I wouldn't mind getting ahold of an old Cassiopeia A-11 with the CE 2.0 upgrade just for kicks.
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04-19-2017, 05:05 PM
Post: #3
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
I am sure it is more the usability. An HP41 can still be used, an Amiga, not so much. There are probably communities out there devoted to the Amiga, but what can you do with it?
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04-19-2017, 08:49 PM
Post: #4
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
(04-19-2017 05:05 PM)KeithB Wrote:  I am sure it is more the usability. An HP41 can still be used, an Amiga, not so much. There are probably communities out there devoted to the Amiga, but what can you do with it?

I agree -- you can enjoy it. I've never had one myself, but I think you'll find a thriving Amiga community. Likewise the Apple Mac classic has recently been implemented in a browser window at archive.org with a selection of old software.

Myself, I still have an old TI 99/4A in a box and there is still a community around it. Perhaps it relates to a certain pack-rat/hoarder mentality in us. Of course, it may also be that growing aberration in us as we get older that things where better in the good old days.
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04-19-2017, 08:52 PM (This post was last modified: 04-19-2017 08:53 PM by Vtile.)
Post: #5
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
(04-19-2017 05:05 PM)KeithB Wrote:  I am sure it is more the usability. An HP41 can still be used, an Amiga, not so much. There are probably communities out there devoted to the Amiga, but what can you do with it?
There is actually written a new amigaOS which is in development and fully functional. It might get a resurrection. Just something I once stumpled while surfing, I'm a few years too young so I missed the C64/Amiga except some playing with friends units as a kid.

I think the special tool aspect is what keeps calculators in surface (like paper books and rosin flux), even though marketing departments try to do anything to sink them. It is kind of sad that they are put aside in big picture as a "old and inefficient relicks" (NONE will dare to say that about screwdriver) and the development is almost dead except some features tweaks and speed introduced in battleship models. While the pockets size calculators ( what were the reason for HP35 the first scientific?? ) are mainly stuckt in the late 80s from every manufacturer (except SM in some respect).
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10-17-2017, 04:16 AM
Post: #6
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
(04-19-2017 08:49 PM)ColinJDenman Wrote:  
(04-19-2017 05:05 PM)KeithB Wrote:  I am sure it is more the usability. An HP41 can still be used, an Amiga, not so much. There are probably communities out there devoted to the Amiga, but what can you do with it?

I agree -- you can enjoy it. I've never had one myself, but I think you'll find a thriving Amiga community. Likewise the Apple Mac classic has recently been implemented in a browser window at archive.org with a selection of old software.

Myself, I still have an old TI 99/4A in a box and there is still a community around it. Perhaps it relates to a certain pack-rat/hoarder mentality in us. Of course, it may also be that growing aberration in us as we get older that things where better in the good old days.

You can simply enjoy an Amiga, a Mac Classic, a TI 99/4A, or any other of the various so-called "ancient" computers, that's perfectly OK. But that isn't all you can really do with it anymore, as the Wikipedia article on the Amiga range of computers cites this example of something existentially necessary still being done with an Amiga: "As of 2015, the Grand Rapids Public School district still uses a Commodore Amiga 2000 computer, complete with 1200 baud modem, to automate its air conditioning and heating systems for the 19 schools covered by the GRPS district. 'The system controls the start/stop of boilers, the start/stop of fans, pumps, [it] monitors space temperatures, and so on.' The system has been running day and night for decades." Although this citation is two years old, for all we may know, the Amiga in question could still be running day and night so that the heating and AC systems for 19 schools will not need to be managed manually within each individual school.
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10-17-2017, 02:23 PM
Post: #7
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
Part of it is because some systems like Hp calculators and Amiga's can still be used today. Its just like having a 57 Chevy and still driving on the highway and keeping up with a 2017 Kia Pos.

The windows CE example while CE2 was somewhat useable CE3 and above was pretty much not useable at all so not many people are very nostalgic of it.
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10-17-2017, 09:46 PM (This post was last modified: 10-17-2017 09:51 PM by StephenG1CMZ.)
Post: #8
RE: Computing devices and long lasting communities
(04-19-2017 05:05 PM)KeithB Wrote:  I am sure it is more the usability. An HP41 can still be used, an Amiga, not so much. There are probably communities out there devoted to the Amiga, but what can you do with it?

I guess most people wouldn't want one now.
At the time, it was an economical machine with the rare ability to generate video (whereas more expensive PC's could only output to monitors, unless you added an equally expensive video card).

For myself, I have some Astronomical software on it that I'd love to ressurect and port to the HP Prime, but I lost my PSU when I moved. (Amiga 1200 UK).

Stephen Lewkowicz (G1CMZ)
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