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Typical smart keyboard with real keys
The Sony Vaio PCG-747 — aside from having a cool name for a plane-buff like me — had a large choice of components. There were two version and I opted for the more expensive one, which from memory cost somewhere north of £1,200 — around £1,800 at today's prices.
It came with a Pentium processor and 32MB of RAM, which seemed like a lot in 1998. It also had 4GB of main memory. It ran Windows 98 Second Edition and for communications ran a 56K modem card — which was slow but workable; this machine came out the year before the launch of wi-fi, so a modem was the only method of communication.
While it was not a cheap by the standards of the time, the Vaio's design and expandability were plus points. It had an excellent Sony screen at a time when the company set the standard for video.
All these years later it still looks pretty good — even if the resolution cannot compare to the screens of today.
From the top: battery pack, CD-ROM and a floppy disk drive
While the quality was almost a good enough reason in itself for forking out the money to buy the Vaio, it had another killer feature — a slot for add-ins.
The Vaio was not one laptop, but a four-in-one laptop. The bottom left side (looking forward) of the system carried most of the electronics and the hard disk drive as well as a power pack.
The right-hand side carried a space where you could put in a floppy disk drive, or a CD-ROM, or another spare battery pack for those long meetings or a simple spacer to make the unit lighter.
This was a neat feature since it made the system so much more flexible. On top of that, I found that if I wanted to I could pile everything into my rucksack to take on jobs when I might need to use everything.
An e-book from the 90s which still looks smart
No system is perfect, and in that respect the Sony Vaio was no exception but it was close enough for me. It was fun too as you could play games with it but then, back in 1998 there was also Glassbook Reader, one of the first e-book systems.
That is another thing that does not look out of place today. In its day, Glassbook was a state-of-the-art e-book reader, but it still compares favourably with anything today.
In fact, when I powered up Glassbook it struck me that next to the modern competition it makes the Kindle look flimsy and, dare I say, cheap. In comparison, Glassbook makes the text look stylish.
As with the Kindle, the text can be set at any size you like from the smallest to the largest. Of course, it is so much easier to set it up using a proper keyboard rather than the stuff today which seems to be made for people with small fingers only.
And yes, the Kindle looks like what it is, a handy but cheap device. My Sony ebook has packed up now after 10 years service but that, while bulky, again looked smart. Why is "cheap" the only option these days?