New lives for old PCs
Have you just replaced your PC? Someone will welcome your old computer.
by Tom Spring
(IDG) -- Old computers seldom die; they just become irrelevant. That's why every holiday season a growing number of consumers replace old PCs with the latest and greatest.
So what do you do with the old workhorse?
However slow and outmoded it may seem to you, it may still be considered state-of-the-art by nonprofit and school standards, or it can be retooled or raided for parts.
Parting With Your PC
Experts say that most computers end up in basements, attics, and under hallway stairwells next to abandoned Thigh Masters.
Some details: An estimated 14 million to 20 million computers are retired each year in this country. Nearly 75 percent get stockpiled in closets, 15 percent end up in landfills, and a mere 10 percent are reused or recycled, according to a 1995 Tufts University thesis.
But there are dozens of charitable organizations--nearly one in every state--that coordinate PC donations for schools and nonprofit organizations. These groups gladly take estranged computers and couple them with a needy partner.
Finding a Good Home
"When most people upgrade, there is nothing wrong with the existing PC," said John Detwiler. People upgrade computers because they no longer meet their needs, he said.
Detwiler is founder and president of the Detwiler Foundation--a kind of computer-world equivalent of the Salvation Army. The San Diego-based foundation's main mission is to get companies and individuals to donate computers they no longer need. The foundation then fixes them up and puts them into local schools. (See "New Lives for PCs and People" link below)
If 10 percent of the decommissioned computers were refurbished and put into schools, the number of computers in classrooms would double in three years, Detwiler said. The foundation has already found new homes for about 70,000 PCs in 21 states in its seven years of existence, he said.
The program competes with those like Boston's East West Education Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization that refurbishes old computers and supplies them to good causes. The Federal Government also runs a program, Computers for Learning, that places government computers in schools.
"Some donate because they're in the holiday spirit or because it's their last chance to get a tax deduction," said Dan Schleiser, spokesperson for the East West Foundation. "Either way, it's a good idea."
Junk or Gem?
Regardless of your intentions, a poorly placed donation can do more harm than good. Schools and other groups are not always equipped to accept computers dropped off at the front door. And some older PCs may not be appropriate.
Placement organizations help you determine whether your computer donation amounts to a white elephant or, worse, a Trojan horse. By working through one of these programs, you'll ensure your old PC finds some new ways to help out.
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