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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out


The Cephalophage is an adaptation of a 1987 Compaq Portable III to allow it to run a modern operating system, including web browsing and wireless networking, using the same text/keyboard interaction of the original.

This is done by concealing an entire secondary computer in a small compartment of the chassis originally intended for a peripheral such as a modem.

As with certain kinds of cojoined twins, the secondary computer is parasitic, using the power source of the original computer and depending on it for communication via screen and keyboard.

There are no external modifications visible.


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  1. Bill Carson says:

    I have a question that you probably will be able to answer: you often mention on your site that FreeGeek scrapes computers like this because they are nothing worth, but when I look on Ebay, these things are very pricy. A model similar to your Compaq is currently bidding for over 100USD.
    So my question: are these people trying to rip me of, or is there some valuation metric that I’m missing here?

    • admin says:

      Bill, good question, long story. We used to collect antique gear; before we knew it we were paying for third-party storage to house it all. Some was bona fide antique and some was just old. It’s a slippery slope.

      We made a few inquiries about local museum prospects but nobody was interested; nothing was quite rare enough to ship out of province to established computer museums.

      To sell or donate them we have to guarantee data destruction as per all of our donations and that can be very time-consuming with old hardware.

      Personally I’d like to see Free Geek do two things:
      – Retail some things on ebay
      – Put interesting-and-unusual gear in a $5/$10 bin.

      To work around data destruction issues, we would either have to 1) pull the drives for physical destruction, or 2) wipe the drives logically and reinstall them, empty, into the machine. Both are time-consuming and pretty specialized tasks.

      The antique gear I’ve gotten from Free Geek I’ve taken the time to wipe drives properly. They’re often machine-specific and hard to replace. That’s a director’s privelege that hasn’t been tested in the greater volunteer community — we’d have to develop some policy around it, since it involves handling donor data.

  2. Bill Carson says:

    That’s sad to hear. I would be happy to securely wipe them for free 😉 Unfortunately I live in Europe.
    There was an article about tech museums calling for donations on Slashdot today. Maybe interesting four you guys? Though I doubt they are really looking for ’90 era equipment.

    • admin says:

      Bill, I saw that — yes, definitely interesting. But I wish there were something local we could do. After I earn my first million I’ll open a museum myself 😉

  3. Bill Carson says:

    “The museum of equipment that isn’t quite interesting to draw attention but is to nice to throw away” ?
    But seriously, I am not really fond of museums. I’d much rather see that equipment put into some nice hacking project than to see it catch dust in a building that is only visited by historians.

    • admin says:

      Heh, point taken. And for whether to hack with antiques, my brain is totally split on the matter: half is having a great time, and the other half thinks it’s committing a cardinal sin.

      Actually, what I would REALLY love is for universities to start teaching undergraduates about the history of computing. Complete with show-and-tell. I think that stuff is tremendously important for budding professionals to understand and as far as I know nobody teaches it [the way I want to].

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