Four Busted Ones!

Believe it or not, I actually own 4 of them, and none of them is working at the moment. Well, actually, one or two are semi-functional, but have problems.

Here's my story:

About 11 years ago, I found an old laptop in the trash. Don't know if it works or not, because I never had the power cord! My wife and I were going shopping, and we were driving towards a secondhand store where I had bought some desktop computer parts and printers and junk in the past. I had brought the laptop with me just in case I found a compatible power cord.

For some reason, we were taking the "back roads" and we drove past a computer shop that was open. So, I stopped and took my laptop in there.

Of course, the guy told me that he didn't have the cord for it, but he showed me some laptops that he was looking to get rid of. They were Zenith machines running an older version of Windows, and they didn't have optical drives, but that didn't matter to me because I could install a UMSDOS distro of linux on them from floppies. They came with real nice shoulder bags, spare batteries, docking stations, and most importantly, power cords! Probably were top of the line business machines at one point back in the day. And, they had a trak ball mouse controller (which has ALWAYS been my favorite mouse controller on a laptop). So, I bought one for $35, and told the guy who ran the shop that I was going to take it to work and show it to my coworkers, and if anyone else wanted one I would be back.

So the next day I took it to work and showed my coworkers. I told them I could get the machines for $50 (why not make a little for my time and trouble, it's still a damn good price). So, at least 3 people gave me their money. I got home from work and called the computer shop guy, and the jackass decided to try to rip me off! He said now that I've bought one, other people are interested, and he now wants $100 a piece for 'em! What a liar! The day before, he couldn't wait to get these off his hands, and was willing to part with them all for $35 each, shoulder bags and all, and now he thinks he's sitting on an effin' goldmine or something.

So, I called up my coworkers and apologized and told them my supplier's being a jerk, but if they still wanted one, I'll get it for them for $100. I won't make anything on the deal, but I'll do it just because I had already promised one for $50 that I couldn't deliver, and I felt badly about it. Most just said give me the $50 back, but one lady said she'd take one. So I sold her a laptop for $100 that was just like mine, and she's been coming back to me ever since for her computer needs. Good customer service. I still have that Zenith laptop, but the floppy drive quit working, and, of course, the batteries won't hold any kind of charge anymore.

So that accounts for two of the four. The next one is a Toshiba that I really liked and used for years, until my cat knocked it off the table and busted the power button. Now, to power it on, you have to stick a pencil in the hole where the button used to be, and hope you hit the teeny tiny switch in there and power the sucker on. This one has a CD drive that's not working anymore, and, of course, dead battery.

The fourth is an IBM Thinkpad that I got secondhand. The thing had been dropped, so part of the case was cracked around the hinges, so the screen wouldn't stay upright, you had to lean it back against something. Despite that, it worked great until earlier this year, when the LCD video cable went bad and now it only shows squiggles on the screen. Still works with a standard monitor plugged into the VGA port. And, of course, the battery is dead.

So there I was, riding the bus to work, looking at other people happily typing away on their laptops, and I'm sitting there pecking with a stylus on a damn Palm Pilot, thinking, "Man, I really wish I had a laptop." When I got my taxes back, I made the decision to buy another one.

I had in mind a Compaq tablet, the kind with the "flip around" screen, because I already had the software for that machine. I started shopping for a reconditioned one, and found some that were reasonably priced, but the main concern with any reconditioned laptop is battery life. I mean, I already have three of them sitting in my basement with dead batteries and one with no battery (the one I found in the trash). Having a battery reconditioned is, like, $100 MINIMUM, (probably much more these days). Energizer makes portable external battery packs for devices, but for one with the capacity to power a full-sized laptop you're probably paying more than you're paying to recondition the battery. I decided that I would be very angry with myself if I dropped a couple hundred on a machine and it ended up in the basement in 6 months with a dead battery.

New laptops were pricey, so as a compromise, I started looking at netbooks. I found a good deal on a (supposedly) new one, placed my order, and in a few days it showed up in the mail. I plugged it in and I immediately fell in love with it. It had wi-fi and ethernet, accepted both usb flashdrives and SD cards, played movies, music, YouTube, internet, email, read ebooks. I even installed a DOS emulator so I could run WordPerfect 5.0 (my favorite word processor from back in the day)! The thing rocked . . . except for one problem.

The battery died after about 25 minutes (less if I was using wi-fi). I recharged it, but could only get about 25 minutes of use after each recharge.

Noooooo! This is exactly what I was trying to avoid! I remembered that when I first took it out of the box, I thought I'd seen fingerprints on the screen. Thinking I'd been had, I called up the company that sold me the thing and pitched a fit. They told me that they open the boxes to inspect the machines when they get the shipment to make sure they're not sending out any bad ones. The fingerprints probably got on the screen during "inspection." Well, that doesn't explain the battery problem. The manual says I should get about 3 hours of continuous use after a recharge. I'm barely getting a half hour! I paid full price for a new machine, it should work according to specifications. No problem, they say, we can send you a new battery. We don't have any in stock right now, but we'll get more in a few weeks. Okay, I said, I'll wait for the battery to arrive.

In a few weeks the battery showed up, but when I tried to install it, it didn't fit! The only way I could get it in there was to install it upside down! I called up the seller again and told them about this, and they told me to go ahead and install the battery anyway. Look, I said, if I install the battery upside down, that reverses the polarity, so negative becomes positive, and vice versa. If I try to charge it with it installed in reverse, it's going to damage the battery for sure, and possibly damage the machine. That's okay, they said, we want you to go ahead and try it anyway, and if the machine is damaged we'll give you your money back.

Problem is, I was already in love with the machine! I didn't want my money back, I wanted a working netbook! I told them I'll try it and get back to them. It didn't work. The new battery wouldn't charge when installed backwards. The old battery still worked, but would die after 20-25 minutes of continuous use. I called the seller back, told them their battery solution didn't work, and I was going to send the machine back. Please give me a refund.

They refunded me in full except about $8 for shipping and handling. But now my new netbook was gone, and I was back to square one. In retrospect, I wish I had kept the machine and just bought one of those Energizer portable battery packs for it.

I went to a major office supply retailer (who will remain nameless because I still do business with these people) and looked at the netbooks they had there. They had some nice ones, but they wanted about $125 more than I had paid for the new one I had just sent back. But these have Windows 7. Really? No, not really. They come with Widows 7 "starter edition." What the heck is that? It's a scaled down version of Windows that's designed to run the software that comes with the machine. So . . . if I want to install any other software? That's right, you'll have to first buy the full install of Windows 7, about another $125!

Seriously?! You sons of guns actually sell this thing to people? How the hell are you selling a computer with half an operating system? Do you sell two-legged chairs too? Needless to say, I wasn't about to buy one of their netbooks. But, while I was there, I also looked at android tablets, and the Kindle ebook device. I should have stayed away from these, because I knew from the get-go that I wasn't going to be happy with a touch-screen keyboard (this is what I hated about the Palm Pilot, that and its two-inch screen). But these were being advertised all over TV as the next hot tech item. They can do all of the things I loved about the netbook I had briefly owned, but the major drawback is that on-screen keyboard. Unless you have little kiddie hands, you can't actually "type" anything on that keyboard, you have to "hunt and peck" or "thumb" it like a teenager sending text messages to his girlfriend (u no wat I mean, OMG).

I should have walked out of that store, but I didn't. Now I still have 4 busted laptops in the basement, and an android tablet that sits in the drawer most of the time. But I'm going to fix this. I'm going to fix up one of them ol' clunkers downstairs.

Or, better yet, next year, when I get my taxes back, I'm going to buy a laptop.

Only thirty-odd days 'til tax season!

UFOsR4real UFOsR4real
41-45, M
1 Response Nov 30, 2012

update: never did get a laptop, instead found a dell tablet at a very good price, bought it and a bluetooth keyboard, so it's _kinda_ like a laptop. I guess.