I got the opportunity to go back to the secondhand shop where I found my favorite Thinkpad, and check out their wares again. Results were mixed this time.
The good news is that I found a brand-new, still in the shrink-wrap PCMCIA LAN adapter, which is like gold to me — for roughly $5. Even better than the price was the fact that I plugged it straight into my Thinkpad and it immediately started working with the same driver (xircom_cb, of all things) I had been using for my Xircom Realport adapter. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s immensely lucky that it works at all. I was willing to risk 500 yen that it would work, but I was also anticipating a driver-wrangling session.
I haven’t taken the time to look up the chipset yet, but it’s a Corega FEther II PCC-TXD, and I couldn’t be happier that it literally plugged in and started working. The beauty of this situation is that I can now run all three laptops online at once, rather than disconnecting one of the really old ones to give the other ‘Net access … as soon as I get a third cable, that is.
The sad part of the story is that I had to pass on a very sharp looking Thinkpad 560 (model number 2640) for about $30, and I’ll probably never know if it was worth taking home or not. Superficially it looked to be in as good a shape as my current Thinkpad. It was labeled as a 133Mhz Pentium, with 8Mb of memory and a 5Gb hard drive.
The problems I could see were that there was no CDROM, and I’ve been trying to verify that with ThinkWiki.org, but it’s not responding right now. From other pages, including some IBM pages, it seems that model didn’t come with a CDROM (some mention a PCMCIA adapter for CDROM access — ecch). I might be wrong on that; but it was fairly clear that the one on the shelf lacked CD access.
Also, the 8Mb of memory was a little frightening. Not even Ubuntu would install on that, if there’s only 8Mb in it (neither will Arch, really). And I don’t know if I want to mess with memory upgrades right now. I think finding memory to fit that machine would probably cost as much as the machine itself.
And if the 133Mhz number is to be trusted, that means it was a true Pentium, and not an i686. That’s my understanding anyway — that the Pentium Pros were the earliest, and only ran as slow as 150Mhz. My numbers might be off on that, though.
All told it seemed like a slightly risky purchase. I could buy it and take it home, and probably power it up to the BIOS, but nothing more — not without putting more money into it, that is. And I still had no guarantee it was functional, since it was sold without a return option in a store about two hours from home.
I love old laptops as much as the next person, but I think in that case it wasn’t really what I was looking for. I hated leaving a man behind, but I preferred to err on the side of prudence.