I am going to take you all back to a time, A more simple time back in the early 2000s and while we do that we are going to look back before the 90s where typically within that time frame you would have the one beige box that was for the family to use maybe in the later parts of the 1990s Laptops started to show up from time to time but often those were only company provided as work machines or they were to take the place of the previously mentioned beige boxes. However as time went on they became more and more commonplace but coming towards the end of the early 2000s especially with the internet the viability of portable computers was very strong however the cost while indeed dropping on these portable computers was still fairly high as the price of the hardware to produce these components was high but around 2006ish the question was raised what is exactly needed to build a laptop that’s purpose is to be for basic tasks, The goal was a computer that can get online to access the internet on the go, Write and edit documents, and as well as other basic tasks however as a more ambitious task they wanted to to run a lightweight or more full operating system on this cheap class of subnotebook as while this has been attempted before the computers that often tried to replicate this task they often came with many downsides these are brilliantly highlighted within the ThisDoesNotCompute Episode “This Strange Laptop Isn’t What It Seems” but this posed a problem, As the time of them coming out the most modern copy of Windows was Vista, However this ran into an issue the goal was to have a lowcost machine that was up to the task of being a web machine while it be pretty tricky as the machine would have a hard time running windows Vista itself it would be dead before it started and after the options were assessed in 2007 the original Asus EeePC was introduced and would be running a Modified copy of Xandros Linux on the original models.
However shortly after the machine was released Microsoft took note of the success of the Netbook concept and after speaking with the Manufactures Released a Special edition of a the Previous Windows XP called “Windows XP ULCPC (Ultra Low Cost PC) Edition” which offered great incentive for not only OEMs but the potential purchasers of these machines as many of them were very familiar with Windows already. And the strategy worked microsoft stood behind the Netbook concept especially with the introduction of Windows 7 there was a build of it referred to as Windows 7 Starter so that was unofficially the Netbook edition of Windows 7 other manufactures have also built their versions of the netbook following the success
Common Models Include:
Dell Inspiron Mini
Acer Aspire One
Sony Vaio (Multiple Models)
They have become remarkably successful from 2007 to 2011 however the question is to be raised what happened to them? Well what has happened is computers have gotten cheaper so to get a full laptop wasn’t that far of a difference however what is believed to be the biggest killer
Apple’s Introduction of the iPad in 2010 because while a lot of the core aspects of the netbook lead to the iPad a low cost portal to the internet as well as to run basic software it’s hard to argue how well the iPad completed the requirements
-The device as well as the operating system is completely designed in a way to interact on the internet
-It was portable and the wifi connection was not only encouraged but along with the iPhone and other smart devices often was the thought of implementing free wifi in many locations
-The app store and the apps that existed were far greater for quick interactions and engaging in content ill point an example
Steps to Access Facebook on a Netbook VS iPad
|1 Power the computer on which would typically involve a computer having to start an operating system that’s going to spend most of the time loading many aspects of software that you may not be using during that session
|1 Wake iPad from sleep
|2 Login to the account
|2 Tap the facebook icon
|3 open a web browser
|4 Navigate to facebook
And around the time the iPad 2 came out
The appeal of a netbook shrunk whereas the iPads were more common than ever and one of the biggest customers netbooks were gunning for have lost to the iPad being the education market.
So is that it for Netbooks?
Well not really….. Kinda the form factor still exists however.. I really only see them as chromebooks they have given chromebooks a second life as of late which is great for what they are designed to too and to a degree the chromebooks offer a better delivery on the netbook concept than either the Linux Models or the Windows Models however its interesting to see the evolution and what it has lead to…
So what role do they play today?
Okay let’s say you were given one or find a cheap one what can it do? Well David got me an EeePC a little while ago
The Specs are
Intel Atom *This is a 32Bit CPU
*Upgraded* 128GB SSD
We tried 3 Operating Systems
- Windows XP
We have tried the copy of Windows XP that was included with the EeePC and the biggest snag we ran into was the fact that its near impossible to get a well supported modern web browser installed on it and for a computer to be useful in 2022 unless it is being used for a very niche use its going to be tricky unless you are not using the internet already such as my grandmother but because that is such a small percentage of the population I fell that it is safe that we disregard it as of this time Windows XP is not really an operating system that works well on the internet.
- Windows 7 Starter
Okay this required a bit of research. I did have to do a bit of digging to see what I was able to discover and I really had to do my homework to see what the exact difference between what Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Starter was. I eventually settled on Windows 7 Starter as I wanted the lightest form of Windows 7 but still would be able to run a new copy of at least Firefox which well at least it would install but to say it was a poor experience would be an understatement. Despite my best efforts to find a very lightweight copy of Windows 7 it still proved to be a very poor experience quite often Windows Explore wasn’t a very good experience and often caused the machine to lockup, I don’t mean the Internet explorer browser rather the Windows Explorer File browser
Okay we can safely rule Windows out as within the balance of Obsolescence or a lack of performance so Linux right? Well that is what I thought however the hardest aspect was just trying to find a copy of linux that would run as most are requiring a 64 Bit Processor or recommended at least 2GB of RAM or Maybe the computer needs a better Video processor for the animations I knew I would need something ultra lightweight after doing a bit of research I have found that lead to Q4OS which I determined will run on just about anything (Seriously this calls for not much more than an i386 and 128MB of ram) and as expected this ran well..
And the more I used it the happier I was Boot up is less than a Minute and of course it runs the new firefox fine the best Browser is not the included one however Firefox or Midori works surprisingly well one interesting thing is the fact that I saw that many aspect of the UI from this distribution mimics Windows XP from the start menu to the installer of software even all the way down to sound effects being similar I also feel they are aware this is an OS to revive old machines as it detected I was using an Asus EeePC and it was able to set a performance profile around the machine so it seems at least one other group is supporting keeping these old machines around 😉
So this is where we’re at While linux can breathe new life into these old netbooks it may be a challenge and its certainly not a solution for everyone but if you’re a hobbyist or a tinkerer it maybe a fun experiment to play with a machine that is so clearly from a different time.