Digital Archaeology - Dell Latitude D600

in #retrocomputing9 months ago (edited)

The great thing about Dell computers is that you can usually go to Dell's support site and type in the service tag which is typically on the computer somewhere and it will give you all kinds of information about it. In the case of this Dell Latitude D600, there wasn't a whole lot. It seems that with some older computers, Dell has 'lost' certain information like the shipping configuration.

This particular artifact, er, laptop was included in an auction I won of various similar items. It can be hard to define what exactly is 'vintage' when it comes to computers. Is it any computer over a certain arbitrary age? Any computer that predates 64-bits? Something else? On one hand, this laptop has a 32-bit architecture and is rapidly closing in on 20 years old. On the other hand, it can still run at least one modern operating system (a 32-bit Debian distribution in this case). And on the first hand again, while it is running a modern OS the performance isn't exactly spectacular and for all practical purposes unusable for modern web browsing. On the second hand again it CAN run a browser and you can slowly load some web pages as long as they aren't too taxing and you aren't using more than a tab or two. It's also perfectly fine for basic office tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, etc. And if you stuck Windows XP on it then you could play some games of that era as well.

The Latitude line is Dell's business line of computers so there's a good chance that this was once in an office somewhere. According to Dell's support site, it was shipped on June 25th, 2004 and the warranty expired on June 26th 2007. So in a few months, this laptop will be a legal adult. If you were born 18 years ago or this laptop was the first computer you ever used as a kid then no doubt this PC will seem quite vintage. On the other hand, if your first computer was a Commodore 64, it will merely seem a bit old.

To put the age of this computer in perspective, popular movies in June 2004 include Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban, Spider-Man 2, and DodgeBall. Popular TV shows included CSI, CSI: Miami, American Idol, Everybody Loves Raymond, ER, Lost, CSI: NY, House, Boston Legal and The West Wing. George W. Bush was President.

So what hardware did a laptop from 2004 include? In this case:

  • Pentium M @ 1.6 GHz CPU
  • 1 GB RAM - DDR 266 MHz
  • ATI Radeon 9000 (AGP)
  • Samsung CDRW/DVD drive
  • PCMCIA slot
  • 2 USB ports
  • 56K Modem
  • Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet Ethernet
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG WiFi adapter
  • 1024x768 display

This model generally got positive reviews. If there was one area where the D600 got some criticism it was the keyboard. However, there's no doubt that the Pentium M and other hardware in the D600 was a step up from the Pentium III-M of the older generation. Unfortunately, this particular laptop only has a 1024x768 display which wasn't really enough even when it was new in my opinion. Higher resolution displays were available for more money though.

ZDNet's take on the D600

The Pentium M was a pretty major advancement in laptop CPUs. There was a mobile Pentium 4 and even desktop Pentium 4's were used in some desktop replacement laptops. However, neither one was particularly energy efficient and performance was mediocre for the power consumption and price. The energy efficiency of the Pentium M is in large part what started Apple down the path to switching to Intel CPUs over the Power PC CPUs they had been using.

As with every computer I power up, I currently run BOINC on this machine along with various projects. It's still capable of running a few though no doubt I'm not going to break any records in terms of credits. Currently, this computer ranks 280,154 out of 349,636 according to boincstats. To be fair, I don't actually have it turned on much though it happens to be on now because this is being typed on it.

My first laptop was Pentium M based but It had a better display and more powerful graphics than this Dell Latitude D600. However, it does have some upgrade potential. I believe that the CPU can be upgraded from the existing 1.6 GHz model to as much as a 2.1 GHz model with double the cache. In addition, I should be able to take the RAM from the existing 1GB up to 2GB. For more information on the hardware of the D600, check out the output of HardInfo here:

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I have an even older machine here somewhere. XP was an upgrade to its original OS, I think. I should dig it out.

Collecting older computers is kind of a hobby for me. I've been trying to find the exact one I had as my first PC (not counting my Commodore 64 which I still have). I tossed it probably 20 years ago. It was a Gateway 200 486 DX2/66V. I did pick up one that was very close recently. A slightly earlier 486-33 with the same case design...

Yay! 🤗
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