[IDEA] Uses for OLD Computers





Introduction: [IDEA] Uses for OLD Computers

About: Middle aged geek username also works at yahoo.com, mac.com, comcast.net, wharton-10.arpa

I've often been frustrated by what I'll call the "cheap computer paradox." It goes like this: "The people who can least afford a brand new computer are the ones who most need a brand new computer." There are LOTS of old computers out there at prices ranging from cheap to free (if someone else is throwing them away.) Unfortunately, in order to understand what can and can't be done with old equipment, and to make it do what you want, it generally requires a bit of experience and "hacker talent" (old definition of "hacker.") The brand new clueless newbie really needs a brand new computer so that he can be pretty certain that the add-ons and software he buys at Target or Walmart will work, the help desk at the other end of the phone line won't laugh, and the Books he finds are relevant and helpful. Us "experts" who can think of useful things to do with 68k Macs running netBSD collect too D*mn much hardware, and we can't GIVE it away to people who could use it, because, well, those people probably COULDN'T use it. Sigh.

I suggested in another instructable that such machines could be turned into lab equipment. People objected on the principle that they were still generally useful.

SO. The idea is to collet here hints and comments on how to effectively use old computer hardware for normal and less than normal purposes. Assume for the sake of argument that the computer in question has something between a 266MHz PII and a 1GHz PIII, and 128M or less of RAM.

Step 1: Linux Peripheral

For example, I do most of my work on a Mac, but there are occasional executables that require an X86. So this ancient Dell (?) (266MHz) was brought online. It's headless, keyboardless, and mostly data-less. It's got debian as an OS, and is accessed via X from the mac, so it can run X-based linux applications,
and DOS programs via DOSEMU, and such like. This is how I first ran EAGLE on my mac (although CadSoft then released a Mac version, making it irrelevant.) I think it's faster and was cheaper than virtual PC, and integrates better into the Mac/X environment.



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    119 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Check those links : i's a linux distribution that does not need internet connection for installation, runs on pentium 4, AMD Athlon XP and 1 Mega Ram only (some say 512 Ko is enough) - script for easy installation / target as "no experts" users



    and used in "Jerry PC" - PC made in Jerrycans for Africa..



    I have a laptop older than that.It's a 100MHz Hitachi M-100D which has 24MB of Ram. It runs win98 has Microsoft Office that's newer than word 97 and can connect to the internet through it's ethernet port, albeit web browsing s slow and a little distorted. Of course I also have 2 400-450MHz dells witha bout 256MB ram each, one runs ubuntu 7.04 and the other runs windows xp. I have older macs too, one of which runs system 7.0.1,to prove the point that people who like computers accumulate old mostly useless hardware... ~Istarian ~Istarian

    3 replies

    24mb of RAM???!!! That makes me think of the Commodore 64 or my old Texas Instruments laptop(memory on that is measured in KB)

    I know what you mean! I have three (3) TI-99/4A's and it's peripheral expansion box (PEB) It has a whopping 54K of memory and still works great as a beginners home PC for learning Programming.

    Yeah, I was a bit surprised when I figured that out, since win98 works. Unfortunately the TCP/IP protocol/stack got corrupted or something so currently I can't get it connected to the internet, but whatever. If you think that's tiny, I have a Mac LC II that has 12MB of ram.

    Web-site server.

    I was given an old IBM ThinkPad R30 (Pentium III 1 GHz, 128 MB) without a HDD. I added an 20 GB HDD and RAM from other (long gone) laptops to boost it to 512 MB.

    I installed Slackware 14.0 (I tried 14.1, but it would not support the wireless network adapter I had), set it up to be a web-server and now host one of my websites on it. link: http://www.satans-kittens.net

    I used putty to manage the server from another (really old) laptop (Sony Vaio, 1 GHz, also running Slackware 14 with Xcfe desktop) and Filezilla to transfer the web page files.

    The biggest cost was the website domain name at about EUR 30 for three years.

    Looks like an old Dell I got for free once...tried to strip it for parts for the old IBM PL300 with a P3 550 in it that I had, but found none of them would work in the IBM, and I ended burning out the Dell's PSU, so I couldn't even use the Dell anymore, so I stripped it for its electronic components, I still have the CD drive kicking around somewhere, it's one of those ones that's easily converted to a plain CD player, and all that's needed is just a power supply for it, has its own play/skip forward/stop buttons on it. One of the LED's out of the Dell is now my HDD usage light for my custom built computer, with 4 case fans, 2.9GHz AMD Athlon X2 64 processor in it, 4GB RAM, 750GB total for hard drive, there's more stuff I put in it when I was building it, but I don't feel like going through all of it, and although it's not the most poweful computer out there, it's still pretty good, and yes, I am running Vista Home Basic on it, because most of the games I play on it require a Windows operating system, and a couple require that it be Vista Home Basic or higher, Everything but the GFX card I'm using rate 5.4 or higher for the "Performance Rating" that Vista uses. Desktop graphics are the lowest, rated at 3.4, and with overclocking the GFX card, the 3D graphics performance is 4.3, I could probably get it higher, but I risk making it unstable, already made it crash by overclocking too high, but not so much that the computer told me that it was too high, I had to press my "Magic Red Button" (I made my otherwise silver Reset button on the front into a red button)

    Is is possible to strip out some laptop components and install an old TV tuner and antenna to make a simple LCD TV? I have an old laptop ~1.5 GB Hard Disc, 128MB RAM, 200mHz MMX CPU I also have have 4 desktops -One with 6GB Hard Disc, 128MB RAM, 400mHz PII CPU, CD Reader -Another with 10GB Hard Disc, 512MB RAM, 500mHz CPU, CD reader -A 1990 Macintosh LC (terrible), u8nfortunately, it has a funny monitor connection, so it is headless, no connections (no floppy or CD drive, no USB connection, and no internet connection) -Finally, a broken one that is only a few years old, 80GB Hard Drive, 2.8gHz pIIII CPU, 512 MB RAM, 64MB Video Card with digital and analog output

    12 replies

    You should get a mac to vga adapter, they exist. I have a Macintosh LC II, which is the slightly better, but stupidly constrained successor to the LC (ie, 32bit processor on 16bit bus). Mine has a floppy drive. You think you have a lot of computers... Desktops - PII 400MHz MMX Dell Optiplex G1 - 256MB RAM, 8GB HD - PII 450MHz MMX Dell Dimension XPS R400 - 256 MB RAM, 100GB HD - PIII 450MHz Gateway (this used to work, but is broken) - 64MB RAM - P4 1.5GHz (has weird power issue) - 512MB RAM - AMD Athlon XP 2900+ (2GHz) - 1GB RAM, 80GB HD - Macintosh LC II (circa 1990, absolutely useless) - 12MB RAM - Performa 6100/66 w/DOS Card (66MHz) - 32MB RAM, 700MB HD - Bondi iMac Flavor (Rev. B) 233MHz - 64MB RAM, 4GB HD Laptops - Hitachi M-100D ~800MB HD, 24MB RAM, 100MHz - Dell Latitude CPtS ~no HD, 96MB RAM, 500MHz - Dell Latitude CPtC ~no HD, 32MB RAM, 400MHz - HP Pavilion ze5600 ~80GB HD, 512MB, 2.66GHz (heat problem)

    Well it depends on what you define as old able to run linux but not windows or able to run windows ?

    No, by now I have moe computers plus many motherboards, HDDS, CPUs, Various Drives, etc. laying around.

    Ya, just grab a USB TV tuner that supports viewing without recording. If you have Digital Cable of Satellite, the Adaptec VideOH! works good, but it requires Windows 98 or better.

    98 or better is fine! But I don't think I'll spend money on some old junk like the laptop. And right now, it's broken and I've acquired many more computers. Also, I might be getting a G4 Mac Laptop, so I won't need most of this tuff (except for the PIIII PC that I managed to fix).

    I fixed the PIIII PC so now I only have the other junk plus a lot more since I posted my previous comment.

    Not easily. The LCD in a laptop is all digital and doesn't interface to TV signals without quite a bit of effort.