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Dust off that dinosaur computer

Old computers aren't doing anybody any good collecting dust in the far corners of the house. Find a way to give your dinosaur computers new life.

TechRepublic editor Mary Weilage recently asked members about their first computers via a discussion post and on TechRepublic's Facebook page. A number of members replied that they remember computers from as early as the 1970s; several members even mentioned that those old computers are still taking up space somewhere in the house, collecting dust in their attic or garage. We feature some of the member comments in the TechRepublic gallery: Photo memories of 18 first computers.

What to do with those old computers

Realistically, those old computers won't be put to use again (especially when they are filled with dust). So, next time you clean out the attic, consider making a little extra space by getting rid of the old computers.

For computers that aren't terribly old, some parts might be salvageable. Many cities offer resident taxpayers easy ways to recycle old computers and electronics at no fee, or for very small fees.  Stores like Best Buy offer recycling services with incentives like store credit. Using the parts for hobby materials is also a great option. If you have several old computers laying around, consider taking up hobby robotics and using the old computers for robot parts.

But if the dusty dinosaur is a really old computer, consider donating or selling it to a collector.  There are several good old computer museum sites on the web, run by people who have a passion for collecting computers. The folks at Oldcomputermuseum.com and oldcomputers.net photograph and catalog old computers and share this piece of modern history openly and willingly.  Many small local museums will also gladly accept donations of old computers to their collections.  Unless you are keeping them around for your own collection, those old computers aren't doing anybody any good collecting dust in the far corners of the house. Find a way to give the old things new life.

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Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...

18 comments
mk553
mk553

What in the world is Nicole thinking, "getting rid of the old computers"?? Hang on to it! There's a lot of fond memories in those old things. I still have my IBM XT--great machine! At the very least, sell it on eBay or a vintage computer group. They'll be glad to take them off your hands! :-)

trog7
trog7

The funny thing is at one time they were actually New Computers ! First so called computer I actually played with was at the Museum of Science and Technology in the mid 1960s, - not really a computer but logic circuits and a panel with 12 buttons and an array of cathode tubes to play tic-tac-toe or naughts and crosses [a cube 2 foot square]. The first computer I used was also an Apple II, the first I owned [and still have] was the Spectravideo SV328, and eventually a PC with the first of the P60 Pentiums, which over time got updated to a Cyrix 300 [ and it still works and browses the internet no problems]. I these days have a couple of PC notebooks, But in my collection I have A Yamaha CX5M2 MSX music computer [and a couple of other MSX units including a SVi738 portable] , C64s, C128Ds, Amstrad 464 and Amiga 1000 ... And as regards power consumption, A lot of the New PC need at least a 1000 watts plus Power supply - many of the "dinosaurs" only needed a 30 to 50watt PSU ! - or look at that new server which Micro$oft just built which requires about 3 or was it 4 Mega Watts of power to run ... enough to power a town of about 6,000 houses.

Tarkin000
Tarkin000

SEND THEM TO ME, PLEASE!!! (Metro Detroit Area, MI) nuke48386 @ yahoo .com

vaughnhathaway
vaughnhathaway

I have two TI 99/4As, one of which was our first computer, plus several attachments. I have a TRS 80 Model III that was my second computer, which I used for several years as secretary (clerk) for an association of churches. I used it to produce printable minutes which I modemed to a publisher in Meridian, Mississippi. I have two working Tandy 2000s plus four or five that I obtained for parts. The first of these was my last regularly used non-compatible Microsoft Dos computer that I used for several years to perform my clerk duties. The 2nd of these was obtained for our home school and was used by our children. I then got several IBMs through a range of operating systems and then got my current Dell XP. I have every computer we ever had except one: an early Apple that a in-law gave us that never worked right -- it was discarded. I have kept the Model III and the Tandys because I have data stored on floppies that I am gradually transferring to other media. I am cleaning up one of the TI 99s for my grandchildren to use when they visit. My youngest daughter taught herself to read at the age of four using a TI program. She now has three children who visit regularly and are at an age to begin using a computer. Oh, yes, I also have a TRS-80 Model IV portable that still works. I used it only a few times before storing it as too cumbersome to pack about. When I put it away, it was still working.

conceptual
conceptual

I still have my Amiga 1000 and I;m keeping it.

DaRabman
DaRabman

I have an old BBC micro model B, and its operating system is based around a BASIC interpreter. God only knows that BASIC is one of the most futile languages any computer enthusiast could turn their hand to, but the model B comes with an assembler, and accepts ROM chips for interpreters in other languages, like Pascal and Prolog. My view is that it is considerably easier to learn about computer architecture, stored programming and assembly with these much simpler machines (although I do have the User manual with complete appendices on wiring diagrams and instruction sets) than with modern PCs and their complex operating systems.

Jeff7181
Jeff7181

Getting rid of old computers is good. Keeping them around just in case or repurposing them is bad. Older computers tend to be less efficient in terms of power consumption compared to the amount of work they actually do. Why would I want a file server that consumes 250 watts when idle when I can get a modern low end system minus disks for $300-400 that probably consumes under 100 watts idle, performs better and supports newer technology like SATA2 or SAS?

reisen55
reisen55

As a small business, I keep a small army of older Optiplex systems up mounted which do not serve any other function other than potential data storage bins for clients if and as needed.

FlIrishman
FlIrishman

I still have my original Sinclare and Radio Shack Color Computer!

vova1981
vova1981

If the computer is not thaaaat old. Like a P-3 or an older P-IV or an AMD Athlon, Duron you can use it to teach you kids how to use computers with it as it is old and cannot hurt the pocket if something goes wrong with it by the hands of that 7 year old. Another good way to put that old computer to use is to install a good fire wall and anti-virus onto it and connect all your other machines and the internet through it. This way the machine will serve as a server and will help in monitoring viruses. This will help protect your REAL machines from harm.

j-mart
j-mart

Unsung hero's from the 1980's. Well designed machines in their time, gave great performance out of hardware when compared to other machines of these times. As these machines main market was in Education make great machines for younger children to play around with. with much still good educational software available with an OS that's practically indestructible.

Mr.Wally
Mr.Wally

I keep mine around for sentimental reasons - in a box in the garage. It worked the last time I powered it up a couple of decades ago. I might need another cassette tape drive, though, (although I did add on a couple of disk drives when they became available). I just can't think of any good use for it other than to sit on it for a few more decades hoping that it will become valuable as a collector item.

EastExpertG
EastExpertG

The old computers consume energy. OK, I'm not that green, but extra electricity bills are guaranteed. Especially if it's an old PC with CPU that doesn't have SpeedStep. To kids, I'd have a cheap netbook, probably. I wouldn't want them running Windows 98 :) As for firewalls, any modern router has a built-in Firewall, DHCP server, DNS server (forwarder) and requires a fraction of PC's energy consumption. Plus a router is usually free anyway from the ISP. If you want more from it, custom firmware can be put there and make it serve FTP, Torrent, some web pages... So - FREE + energy conscious. In my understanding, it's best to find a poor sod who would get it off your hands for cheap, even if to read mails, 'cuz they can't afford a PC... OR donate it to a charity: thus they get something and you don't pay recycling fees (how stupid, really, to PAY for recycling).

Jaytmoon
Jaytmoon

I have an older HP/Compaq proliant server 1850r waiting for an isolated home to be put into service again. It is so darn noisy, I cant run it in the house. perhaps the garage when I get around to runing some cat-5e out there!

j-mart
j-mart

easily done cheap. Just install Linux to get an extremely reliable, custom set up. Low cost P1 & P2 machines are all you need. With the monitor turned off while being used power consumption is not excessive. Better than a lot of the cheap rubbish many ISP providers deal in. for me it has been a better solution.

j-mart
j-mart

When they were replaced at work about 2003 as they were made out of quality parts. With the Duron an P4's checking out size of power supply would give a rough indication of relative power consumption. Durons don't need big power supplies. As they are not really working hard as routers I don't think it really matters much. Years ago I read a book from a local library by a school computer tech, who had built some old surplus 386 and 486 machines into a variety of controlers and equipment used for a variety of purposes the school could not afford the commercial equipment for. He was designing and building his own cards and peripheral equipment to do this. Probably was good for his soul in a soul destroying job

pdr5407
pdr5407

You still have a P1 or P2 machine? I have some old desktops around but they have P4 and AMD Duron processors. Do they require more electricity than these older CPUs.

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