May 17, 2005

A little piece of computer history for sale

Author: Tina Gasperson

A little piece of technology history is up for sale at Jason Braverman, the IT director at HYC Logistics in Memphis, Tenn., is selling his vintage Matchbox handheld PC at a fraction of its original cost. Braverman put the starting bid at $300 for the five-cubic-inch computer, which runs Linux and operates as a fully functional Web server.The Matchbox PC appeared in February 1999 and was created by Stanford professor Vaughan Pratt and his Ph.D. student Greg Defouw. It weighs only 2.5 ounces, measures 2.8" x 1.8" x 0.8," and shipped with "a suitable subset of Linux installed and ready to run on the 16MB onboard flash." It was a follow-up to the famous Matchbox server that was publicized on ABC News and other big TV network shows.

In March 2000, as a result of his success with tiny technology, Pratt launched a company that focused on handheld computing, called Tiqit -- a truly geek name that is simultaneously a palindrome and an acronym that stands for "TIny ubIQuITous Technology." Back then, you could buy a Matchbox PC with a 340MB hard drive, identical to the one now listed on eBay, for $1,279 plus shipping and handling. Tiqit doesn't sell the Matchbox anymore, and doesn't even mention it at the Web site.

Braverman says he purchased the Matchbox PC in 1999 because TransIT Networks, a telecommunications carrier for which he was the CTO, was looking into developing a combination cell phone/PDA. "I was going to use it as a prototype for developing other handheld devices. Transit decided the telecommunications sector was not stable and they felt that it might be best to branch into other areas."

He says Transit spent some $200K on research and development surrounding the Matchbox PC, but "it never amounted to much." In 2001, the company closed its doors for good. Tiqit, however, is still in business, marketing its handheld XP personal computer based on the original Matchbox technology.

Braverman says the Matchbox has languished on a shelf at his home in Tennessee for years. "I looked at it one day and thought, 'I bet somebody out there wants this' as kind of a nostalgia thing." He says he used to run it as a Web server out of his house, through the DSL service. "It was really cool -- you could log in and use it as a basic Web server. It just worked."


  • Software
Click Here!