Hardware

Disposing of obsolete computer equipment

Every couple of years, because of hardware upgrades and repairs, I'm faced with hoards of old computer equipment. It's all stuff that's been filtered out of production, but it's still workable, usable, and, to some degree, even valuable, at least to the right person. For example, one would certainly think that a 19" flat screen CRT monitor with a crystal-clear and sharp image would be useful to someone. The only thing wrong with it is that it no longer suited the user's preference for a newer, sleeker, LCD flat panel monitor. 

We've been upgrading to the LCDs over the past few years, doing a certain number every year, or pretty much providing one upon user request. Taking a walk around my office I can spot only a handful of CRT monitors still in use. I have them on my servers (perhaps one shared among multiple servers); I still have CRT monitors on a couple of old DOS machines; and I have one each on a couple of community machines that serve unique functions. But that's about it. In fact, not one of my users currently has a CRT monitor on his/her desk. But I sure have a lot of CRTs in storage - and some very nice ones at that.

Since I had to install DVD drives when I upgraded to Vista, I have a pile of CD-R/Ws that I no longer use, not to mention a bunch of CD-ROM drives.  (But I just did mention them, didn't I?) I also upgraded a number of graphics cards, taking out the ones with 64MB and 128MB RAM, and replacing them with either 256MB or 512MB cards. PS2 mice and keyboards have given way to newer (and cleaner) USB devices with more features and sleeker designs. 

Those 128, 256, and even 512MB memory modules weren't adequate for a motherboard with only four memory slots, but with the need to provide 4GB of RAM; and if the motherboards weren't capable of supporting at least 4GB RAM, then the boards themselves - or the entire computer - was taken out of production. As such, there are a number of complete computers that aren't being used. Then, of course, we can throw in (or out) some hard drives that are all under 60GB. And what about those older and unused printers that might suffer from nagging paper jams, slow speed, unavailable drivers, or all of the above?

Being one who builds and maintains my own computers, there's certainly a need to keep some spare parts on the shelf. But more and more of the spare parts are only good for computers no longer in use. Besides, I have limited space, and I simply can't keep everything. When my work area starts to resemble a technological junkyard, it's simply time for much of this stuff to go.

The first thing I do with it is to take it into the lunch room, lay the obsolete equipment out on the tables, complete with all the original documentation and a brief note describing what it is, and we offer it to anyone in the company free of charge. It's just there's for the taking - all or part. We do get rid of a fair amount of stuff, but most of our users don't have a need for any of it either.

A few people have taken a monitor to replace an older or smaller one they use at home.  Some people have taken advantage of the RAM, especially the 512s. Someone might grab a 128MB graphics card to replace the 64MB he/she would like to upgrade from, but others don't want to bother. Moreover, a good number of them wouldn't even know how to replace such things (and I won't provide support).

Nonetheless, as a result, I have piles and piles of technology hardware to dispose of. Schools don't want parts and pieces, nor do they want older computers even if they are complete. Moreover, even if some organization did want the computer, they'd not have an operating system or any applications to go with it. There are a number of computer retailers that take old computer equipment for recycling, which is probably the route I'll take. Maybe I'll just back my truck up to the door, and pile it in. But it's all going - all of it.

It's time I make room on the shelves and countertops for the next generation of computer equipment that'll become obsolete a lot faster than I might have hoped. And in a couple of years, I'll be doing this all over again.

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