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Old Boxen and Charitiable Organizations 111

SupaDupaFly writes "I noticed one of your readers asking for information about setting up a nonprofit organization for recycling old, yet perfectly usable computers. Well, I work for one called Share The Technology in NJ and it is a very worthy cause. We accept donated computers and fix, clean, and upgrade them for donation to underpriveleged schools, nonprofits, and disabled individuals. If any readers would like information on how to set up one of these organizations in their hometown, or would like to help out this one, shoot an email to for information. " Also, RobLimo has written a piece about a Baltimore, MD based organization called Geeks Into the Streets which aims to do something similar. I can't emphasize how much of a good thing this is. It's nice to see that there are folks attempting to find a good use for old resources.
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Old Boxen and Charitiable Organizations

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  • Language changes, my friend. Good thing, too, otherwise your 'AFAIK' wouldn't mean a thing to anyone.

    Correct usage isn't determined by some textbook, it's determined by usage. You're fighting a losing battle. Why bother?


  • are any local operatives? If there isn't, will someone set one up?

    Geeks in the Streets in Baltimore was actually done by the UMBC Linux Users Group []. Perhaps you could meet with your local LUG and set it up with them? There's sure to be one near you.

  • Perhaps you don't understand?

    There are already countless thousands of man-hours (person-hours for the picky) and many millions of dollars going towards providing all sorts of benefits to the poor and disadvantaged. This is a good thing.

    BUT, it is quite clear that these same poor and disadvantaged people are likely to become even further disadvantaged as technology becomes more pervasive in society. However we can, with a little effort and organisation, salvage perfectly usable computers out of old hardware that we consider to be of little value. Distributing these machines among the poor will help to bridge or lessen the technology gap that is currently a vast chasm.

    If we are going to provide welfare to our less advantaged members of society, it has to be more than just feeding them. Giving them our old computers is one way of helping, there are many others.

  • Browse here [] for a clue.

  • I have a herd of oxes to transport my boxes. Seriously, boxes are those cardboard things they use to ship boxen.
  • here's Yet Another Similar Organization that's been lingering in my hotlist for ages: [].
  • Here in Austin, TX, Goodwill Industries has a special store for donating computer equipment. They refurbish and resell the stuff, giving jobs to disabled folks. Not only is it a worthy cause, but one can often find such deals as complete working Commodore 64 and Apple II systems for ten bucks...
  • Computer Recycling Center [] (located in Santa Clara, San Francisco and Santa Rosa) does their computer recycling in a pretty cool way.

    They take donations of just about anything. (software and books can't be more than 2 years old, equipment can be ancient) The schools get first pick -- anything that can be put to use in a school gets donated to a school. Anything that can't (either 'cause the schools have enough or better stuff or it's just a single component for something nobody uses anymore) they sell at really cheap prices to people that come in.

    I wanted to network our house a bit, so I went down there on a Saturday and bought a perfectly fine ISA 10bT NE2000 for $2.50. They also have some complete systems, old printers, old monitors and all sorts of other strange things that somebody might be able to use. (like an ARCnet hub)

    The money that they get from selling donations then goes back into their program or to the schools. (Or maybe to buy newer stuff for the schools)

    Unfortunately, they seem to be mostly giving the schools Macs and PCs with Windows. I think it'd be nice if we could get them to work with the three LUGs near them on getting some Linux into the schools as well.
  • In the SF Bay area there is the Computer Recycling Center [] that accepts a lot of old hardware.

    PEP maintains a National/International Directory of Computer Recycling Organizations [].

  • Schools would not make beowulf clusters, they don't have the skill or the ability to use one(They might run though). They would use them as terminals. A 486/100 with 16MB or RAM and 1 or 2MB of video ram would make a great little computer for internet surfing/typing/learning to program with Linux and X.
  • You know, you two are sounding absolutely assinine here. Gosh forbid you be nice and donate a computer over to someone who wants to learn but can't afford a system. The reality is there's a LOT of low income families out there have children who perhaps would love to learn computers, but they simply can't afford one for the kid. Also, congratulations on adding massive ammounts of lead and/or chemicals to the environment by dumping 30 machines into the trash. That was pretty stupid ..
  • Post a link to a picture, if you can. Sounds cool!
  • Well, aren't you just the irresponsible one. I guess you dump old motor oil in the gutter too. Would you dump unwanted cats by the side of the road too, because they were "your old stuff" and nobody can get it for free?

    A little bitter about having to work for a living, huh? Or maybe you just don't like people?

    Here's the deal: If someone can use something that you don't need or want, and the creation of that thing used precious natural resources (such as the metals and chemicals and petroleum products used to make a computer) you should sell it to them instead of throwing it away. Always. Old computers typically are worth less than the cost of labor to refurbish them, so the only reasonable price is $0, though you may be able to get more from a metal recycler for old heavy metal cases (seperate from the internals).

    Old "obsolete" computers should be donated to whoever can use them. From inner city families to college students with barely any time to work and barely enough money to eat (yes kids, sometimes people without rich mommies and daddies still go to school), there is a great need for even out-of-date computers. In fact, I'd rather someone use those old computers as doorstops or project boxes or anything, rather than throwing them away where they won't do anyone any good, and will become part of the landfill-overfill-pollution problem we experience in many parts of the world.
  • That seriously makes me sick. Those items, regardless of an accountant's number juggling, have a value and should not be destroyed. If the company is throwing away and destroying usable "fully depreciated" hardware, their dishonest and irresponsible accountant should be fucking shot.

    Are the managers or IT people just too boneheaded to realize how easy it is to wipe sensitive information before giving away the gear, and/or too mean-spirited to donate it for the remainder of its value after CORRECT depreciation? Or is it another example of lazy, stupid, lying accountants trying to save a few minutes of work (proper depreciation calculation and calling a charity to pick up the old systems) and instead helping to cause an environmental/social mini-disaster? Probably a little of both. There are so many other options for disposing of old hardware.

    THESE PEOPLE NEED EDUCATION. They need to be told what they are doing wrong. If not you explaining it to them, who will it be?
  • Another problem with using any really junky computers for a "worthy" cause is Y2K compliance of their BIOS chips. The company I work for regularly sells these to the employees, but they make everybody sign a Y2k disclaimer.
  • I saw this a while back on CNET

    It is a complete "Office" type package based on the old GEO technology. It also has built in networking, a graphical browser and email.

    It sells for $60-80 but they offer package deals for entire schools and districts.

    I've tried the free download and it works great. This is a great idea that allows basic functionality with ancient hardware.
  • When I worked for one of the bay area school districts, there was a company called "Crayons For Computers" I believe, that did something similar. I have not been able to find any reference to them on the web, and am not sure if they still exist. You may want to look them up if you're in the San Francisco bay area and have some equipment to donate.
  • I didn't read through any of the comments that have already been posted here to see if someone has already mentioned it, but the National Cristina Foundation [] acts as a clearinghouse for sending old PC's to various worthy local causes.

    They directed my old PC to an Atlanta charity that refurbishes wheelchairs and PCs.

  • I know of another effort to bring technology to the underprivileged. They have a website at The website has not been updated for a while, but there have been several trips to Jamaica to delever and help set up computer networks. A few technologically-inclined high school students have even gotten involved to help with the network and to educate teachers. One of the people who run the effort is taking a one year sabattical this year to work on the project.
    The contact information should be relatively good. If it does not work, you can contact me and I will get a message through to the founders to start communication.
  • I'd love some nice old boxen! If anybody lives w/in easy driving distance of Ambler or Philly, then I'll pick up your old boxen & if you want to send them to me, then I'll take them from anywhere!
  • This is one instance where the disadvantaged can actually have an advantage over the priviledged. If these machines are, indeed, delivered with Linux, the kids who learn on them will end up far better educated in the computer arts than the rich kids who are "able" to run Windows.
  • Can we please stop using this annoying term "boxen?" AFAIK, the correct plural of "box" is "boxes". Hearing something so blatantly incorrect (and thorougly annoying) so often just grates on my ears.

    Thanks for your cooperation,

    The Society for the Protection of English Language Linguistics (SPELL)
  • yeah, screw the unfortunate!

    what a great new idea...
  • I can't for the life of me figure out why companies destroy old computer stuff instead of donating, selling, or recycling them. I can barely imagine a context in which it would make sense.

    Well, okay, I can think of a couple, for sufficiently small values of "make sense":

    • They've been fully depreciated, and for tax reasons can't be allowed to have a value
    • The company is worried about "secret" data left on hard drives, and doesn't want to differentiate between "drives" and "other stuff"
    • The company is worried about employees prematurely "obsoleting" equipment so they or their friends can have it
    • The company is worried in some bizarre way about "liability"

    Does anyone know why this is done? I asked our IS ("Incompetent Service") dept. here and was told they'd "rather not say".

  • In the D.C. Metro area they donated machines to Western Maryland Rehabilitative Center where long term patients that are quadri/para-plegics, stroke victims, and others use them to occupy their time.

    I got this info from ITRecruiter [] magazine in the doorway to Blockbuster. You can also go to the Lazarus Foundation [] page.

  • In the Beaverton School District there is a program called StRUT. It stands for Students recycling used technolgy. People donate whatever they have to the program and us students get to take all that hardware and turn it into working machines. Not only do we get an in depth lesson on how comps work but the schools get to keep the computers. There isnt anything we wont take. If nothing else we learn by taking it apart, as was done with some old macs, a faulty power supply(teacher didnt know about this one, a very old hard drive, a few printers, variouse sized floppy drives(didnt know they came bigger then 5') and others. Weve hacked together laptops and made a linux network in the StRUT lab for those interesting in alternative OS's. Being in the Portland/beaverton/Hillsboro area we get a lot of nice stuff from corporations. Intel donated almost all the equipment for our internal network and TekTronix(sp) helped with a lot of testing hardware. Its a great program. I just wish someone would donate a vax. I would LOVE to see how one of those works. Unfortunatly cprporations dont have much of that stuff. We depend on indivuals for stuff that is usefull for learning the fundemetals behind how computers work. (Sorry for bad spelling. im in a hurry)
  • How about getting the 486 machines built as stripped down firewalls running Linux? Offer them to ADSL/Cable Modem owners. Remind them that their neighbors can see their shared Windows drives and printers.

    Machines should be set up like the crack.linuxppc with firewall software set up. Then, the homeowners could feel free to do IP masquerading and put as many machines, with any OS, at home.

    This is one way that Linux can make it into every home. Of course, it doesn't have to be Linux, it
    can be FreeBSD just as well, but you get the point. Maximize the hardware. Build a configuration tool for Win95, Macs, and Linux (I say Tcl/Tk for cross-platform).
  • by -stax ( 34630 )
    I just got done loading a sparc5 with linux, we call it an xterm+. They are so excellent... In october, about 20 sparc 20's will come out of production, and i'm eagerly awaiting one of those puppies.. They'll scream! BTW - if anyone knows of any fast mirrors with multiple dists of linux for sparc (pref ISO's), please let me know. I had to pay $50 for a copy of RedHat (Unsupported of course...) I later downloaded debian, and will probably be installing that... Also - If anyone knows where i can buy old sparc hardware, that'd be really great!
  • I am also interested in finding anyone doing this in the Denver area. If anyone is please contact me. If nobody is contact me if you are interested and we can try to figure out what we need to do to start such a thing here..
  • I live in the UK (Harrow, London, anyone interested nearby get in touch), and have a room stuffed full of computers and bits going all the way back from present day to the ZX81 (no further, sorry all you old farts, I'm only 17!). I pick up lots of surplus stuff, and pass it on freely or sell it reasonably. A good few 486 systems have made their way out, monitors, printers and all.

    You'd really be surprised how much I can pick up from the dump! I sometimes go there on a Monday morning, after all the weekend dumping, and before it starts to get taken away.

    Unfortunately, I have to walk with it, so a lot goes down the drain. I always fancied having a bunch of people and a van...

    Drive up, jump out, start up a generator, plug everything in and test it, throw everything that works in the back, strip everything that doesn't for parts, jump in, drive off, head for another dump :)

    Anyway, just my two pennies. I'd like to believe there's a lot of people who do this kind of thing on a small scale.

  • The human species has been getting along without computers for thousands of years.

    Damn strait. How long did we as a species survive without pidly things like vaccines? Machinery? Heck... even those damned wheels were just coddling the weak willed bastards too lazy to pick up and carry things.

  • Maybe I'm not getting this, but 20 or 30 years ago most jobs didn't require a computer or computer skills. Unless you want to grow up to be a garbageman or a farm labourer these days...

    I'm 21, we didn't have a remote controlled TV till I was 13, no VCR until I was at least 17, and last year we bought our first CD player. First computer was bought in 1996, tho I'd been using them since I was 8.

    My mother, almost fifty, works in a dept store where the new cash registers are all computerized.
    You can just imagine her fear of them! About ten yrs ago she took a course on Apple Macs. She might never use a computer for much (except card games, since I'm always around to print something out for her). The youngest clerk in that store is 21 as well and she didn't even finish high school! All of the clerks in that store fear the new machines.

    If you don't have the knowledge, you are going to lose out!

    OTOH, there are plenty of seniors that could have fun with old boxes, and keep their minds occupied!

  • But what makes you think schoolkids would want to play on old old computers? Personally I avoid the old computer lab in my school with Apple IIs, and head straight for the 300 Mhz G3 lab.

    Maybe they find that the IIs are more fun or something...whether it's the classic games or their eminent hackability (built-in BASIC and such). Macs and Windows boxen have their place, but I've always found them to be more of an "appliance" system with only limited hackability and superficial customizability. Yeah, I have a couple of Win9x boxes, but the really fun stuff gets done on either (1) my Linux box or (2) my Apple IIGS. (The GS hangs off of one of the Linux box's serial ports; ProTERM 3.0 is a kick-ass communications program for it that beats anything I've ever seen for x86. I'll occasionally drop to BASIC for a quick hack, too.)

  • But there are families that live off the minimum wage, and there are schools that serves those districts.
  • So, what am I supposed to do with all these old XT-class boxen? :(

    Anyway, this seems to be getting more press recently. There's a group in northern NJ called R.O.C.K. [] (Rescue Old Computers for Kids) doing this too.

    I'm all for this movement, especially if we can deliver machines loaded with Linux. (But you might want to ask first)

  • Sure, let them choose. But how do you propose to have them decide? Many of them haven't *seen* a computer before, much less owned one. So how will they know which one is "better".

    Also, remember that the majority of these systems were abandoned because they were just too weak to run the current M$ offerings. Even I'm not sadistic enough to give the underprivileged a box full of bloatware.

    (I'm typing this on a rescued 486/66 running Li.. uh, a "freenix")

  • FTR, the AC in question in NOT the Audit Defense Network poster -- the racist comment has been moderated away :)
  • AC, you're either a troll or an idiot, or more likely both. Somebody with moderater points PLEASE knock his moronically bigoted comment down now.
  • ...but what makes you think schoolkids would want to play on old old computers? Personally I avoid the old computer lab in my school with Apple IIs, and head straight for the 300 Mhz G3 lab. I mean, most kids have fast computers at home now,

    *sigh* I don't know where you live, or what socioeconomic group you are in, but there are an enormous number of people out there who have no computer in their homes. Anything, even a working Apple IIe system, would be an improvement on nothing. (Web browsing obviously limited on a IIe, but hey, Telnet to a *nix box, run Lynx/tin/Pine....)

    Besides, if people have used old tech, they'll appreciate new tech that much more. Learning to use an old system can pay benefits even when you move to new tech. ("Memory's always scarce, so maybe I shouldn't open up 15 browser windows at once...") To say nothing of the fact that old systems almost always had built-in BASIC interpreters. It ain't a Real Language, but it can teach people a thing or two, and do so for a lot less $ than the latest C/C++ compiler...

  • Why do bureaucracies do this kind of non-sense? If I give a school district an "obsolete" computer, why does it have to be insured for anything? It's replacement cost is $0. I gave it to them. I'll get them another if some kid takes it (I hope he uses it). In my experience (see this link []) school districts come up with N+1 excuses for preventing technical people from helping, because (IMHO) they don't understand the tools you can provide, and therefore they cannot "manage" them.

    I think a better approach is to give computers directly to disadvantaged familes -- screw the bureaucrats at school districts. And these machines come with a no-nonsense guarantee: if they break, bring back the pieces and we'll find you another one. No cost. No questions. No hassles. If only NetZero [] supported Linux ... we could offer full Internet capabilities over any phone line at no cost (a 14.4 or 28.8 modem and SLIP).

    It's worth noting that the only successful "geeks in the streets" organizations don't support school districts, but rather smaller, more flexible organizations. Be proactive -- help those in need, not bloated, top heavy school districts.
  • No one ever bought me a computer. I got a paper route, and earned enough for my first system. Any kid, disadvantaged or not, can do that.

    Who has whole systems left over anyway? All I ever have left over is bits and pieces, which I keep untill I, or a friend, can find a use for it.

    Rick Kirkland
  • "thorougly"? Now that's annoying.

    Committee for the Re-education of Anal People
  • Try to be thankful it's no longer necessary to bite the head off a live chicken!

    I feel sorry for those that feel a need to police other people's English, yet can't avoid three errors and a redundancy in their own post.

    Humans are gregarious, use slang, and often make mistakes. Why not join the club? :)
  • Shouldn't we be giving people the choice?
    Is that what everyone wants? The power to choose?

    Let the people choose between Net/Open/FreeBSD, Linux, even Windows.
  • Some other students from my high school and I got together and created a computer network for a local Senior Citizen Center. We asked Boeing for spare computers and got Microsoft to donate a lot of software. We then installed all the necessary hardware and software and set the computers up at the Des Moines Senior Center. We also taught classes to the senior citizens so they would be able to use the computers. Initially there were eight computers in the network, each with internet access, printing and scanning access, and Microsoft Office. It has expanded since then though. We also created a web page for the Senior Center. I think they moved it or something, though, because I can't find it. But here are a few links to articles about it.
    At Microsoft []
    At the Nando Times []
    And another at Microsoft, but written by the Senior Center director []
    As you can see, technological charity isn't just for kids. In fact, kids can be the ones giving the charity!
  • Once there were no words...

  • ...but what makes you think schoolkids would want to play on old old computers? Personally I avoid the old computer lab in my school with Apple IIs, and head straight for the 300 Mhz G3 lab. I mean, most kids have fast computers at home now, anyway, in our techno-centric country. Why would they want to use old, slow machines? And don't give me this guff about 486s in Beowulf clusters, a school that couldn't pay for new computers couldn't pay the electricity bill for a large 486 cluster! :)

  • Who's moderating here? Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I don't see a shred of evidence to lead me to believe that this guy is collecting old machines for charitable organizations.

    Sounds like this guy wants to have a big beowolf cluster because that would be kewl and thought he could populate it with excessed 486s.

    The moderators gave this a 3? With "informative"? Give me a break...

  • There's a charitable orginization known as Equiping the Saints which collects used/broken/ancient compuers, fixes them up, and then ships them out to missionaries and churches. They ship stuff in and out by the semi load. They gladly take any donations or, if your in the area, help fixing puters. Anything you donate is tax detuctable, and they'll mail you a receipt at the end of the year. A great use for that old 486 you never use any more. Here is some contact information. If you're ever in the area, swing by and check the place out, its amazing.

    Equipping The Saints
    1254 Keezletown Road
    Weyers Cave, VA 24486
    540-234-6262 FAX
    Keith Jones Executive Director
  • I believe that nostalgia is the best avenue for
    older boxes.

    With a drill press and a cutting wheel, my 286 now hangs tastefully over my office desk in the form of a clock. The back mounting is clear oak and the "numbers" are the chips from the machine.

    In the 12:00 position is the main 286 CPU.

    In the 6:00 position is the (costly) 287 Co-proc.

    At the 3:00 and 9:00 positions are the BIOS chips with the stickers removed so as to reveal the clear window.

    The other positions (eight in all, conveniently) are the memory chips.

    In the background, I've mounted one of the platters from the 40MB MFM hard drive.

    The clock is worth far more than the old system was. My 486 will find similar fate.

    Donated equipment might garner more funds as a transformed piece of nostalgia (such as a clock) than in its original form.
  • I am 16 and a netwerk assistant at my high school; I'm trying to persuade the admin to let me
    setup a beowulf cluster with some old 486DX/66's that were donated to us. I guess economy is less of a problem w/me since they are for the cooling problem I have been pondering larger fans, and maybe cryogenics. ^_^
    Just a little side project since I am sick of Novell.
  • Ive been involved with lazarus for 2 years. unfortunatly, its a mostly windows based operation, seeing as its funded by microsoft (hey there not about to comlain). if your interested in helping the foundation, email me at [mailto] and ill set you up
  • There is an active classic computer collector's mailing list at where list members are always interested in old hardware.

    Some members of the list, myself included, are willing to take in old machines of any type and then distribute them to those who can make use of them. In my case I am based in the UK Midlands and would be happy to hear of anything destined for the skip which I can rescue at no cost and then dsitribute to those who can make use of them.
  • I'm actually doing something with any old computers I can find. I'm attempting to set up a Beowulf-ish cluster with old parts. I take anything I can get, including parts as well as complete systems. I promised everyone who donates gets their name on the contributers page, as well as a free shell on the end result.

    I'm going to put an ad in the paper asking for donations of old equipment. I just wish I could give the people more of an incentive to give me their old systems (other then freeing up that dusty space in the garage.) It pisses me off when I see someone with an old system doing nothing but taking up space, and they refuse to get rid of it for whatever reason. I could be making real good use of that computer, as could lots of other people. To keep it and not use it is pure selfishness.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I'd heard of one or two, used to be with an outfit that did work with schools and communities, but I can't find it anymore. I had lots of fun teaching complete computer illiterates how to write HTML by hand with notepad (well, PFE) -- a reasonably marketable skill while learning about files and networking and so on. De-mystifying the workings of the web is empowering that way.

    And yes they ran Windows, 3.1 to be exact. X wasn't going to cut it in 4 or 6 megs RAM, and believe me we tried. Web server ran linux though.
  • This is truly a Good Thing among Good Things. My questions: is there a site that those of us in various far-flung corners of the globe can use to see if there are any local operatives? If there isn't, will someone set one up? If no-one else will, is anyone willing to send me information on their projects so I can do it myself? Is animaniacs on today?
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Saturday August 21, 1999 @09:12AM (#1733522)

    I wanted to do something similar by going door to door and picking up old 486's for use in a beowolf cluster. The problem is that if you pick up a computer comparable DX4/100 for more than $50, you're paying more than it's worth by my estimates. We used a dual-celeron 300 system as a base comparison, and then used bogomips generated for each type to form a baseline. Unfortunately, the disposal of these machines often cost more than $50..

    The other problem we ran into was energy consumption - running 50 DX4/100's puts out (a) alot of heat and (b) sucks up alot of energy, making it uneconomical to use old machines for our beowolf cluster. :/

    I'd like to chat with anybody though that has tried this to see whether there is anything I may have overlooked, however.


Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern