Free Computers

Free hardware design has always had a close relationship with free-of-cost use of electronics for community purposes (more about this in the History section, when it gets written). Why throw away that Pentium 2 when its perfectly usable? Below is a very incomplete list of groups involved in reusing computer equipment. If you know of other groups in other countries, let me know so I can add them to the list: reusing hardware is something where physical location does make a difference!

What can people do with an old computer? One possibility is to run Linux on it. The Tiny Linux Distribution is aimed at doing just that - even running on an i386 with 8MB of RAM. Or if the computer has no hard drive, make it into a diskless linux workstation.

Note: This page used to talk about 'recycling' rather than 'reusing' computers. Then I received an email from James Phillips which made me think again:

What concerns me is a message coming through the media lately that computers are recyclable. In the past, 'computer recycling' usually meant the refurbishing of old computers. Now, I see the term applied in the industrial sense. Consumers are being given the impression that computers can be recycled like pop-bottles. Even worse, some people disposing of old computers are under the impression that they will be reused. As a consequence, disposing of working, toxic waste becomes 'Okay.' .... The purpose of this letter is to ask you to refrain from referring to computer reuse or refurbishing as 'recycling.' I will believe real computer recycling when I see it!
.. which sounds reasonable enough to me, so that's what I've done.

Postscript: since writing the above, I've heard from one genuine company which does real recycling as well as making available computers for free reuse, CRT Recycling Inc, in New England and California.

For an excellent (very long) discussion of this general topic, stuffed full of useful links, see the essay A better upgrade, not a faster throw-away by Amos Batto.

I've also been pointed to a Canadian-oriented article on computer 'recycling' by Ifny Lachance.