Letting go

I took a monitor to Best Buy today. They offer free recycling of most consumer electronics, with a $10 charge for things like monitors and TVs. In exchange, they give you a $10 gift card. So in essence, they’ll take a monitor or TV for free if you buy something.It seems like a lot of computer enthusiasts have a large collection of computer dinosaurs. Friends and relatives give us their cast-off parts in exchange for doing upgrades for them, and we put those parts to use for a while, and give some away, but ultimately an awful lot of them just pile up in storage–too good to throw away, but not good enough that we want to use it on a daily basis anymore.

In this case, it was a 15-inch monitor that had lost its red gun. Unlike a lot of stuff in the pile, I never intended to use it again except in case of emergency. I just didn’t throw it in the trash because you’re not supposed to do that.

I have more stuff, but since you’re technically limited to turning in two items per day, it’ll take a few trips. Somewhere I have a box of old motherboards taking up space. Those will have to go. Ten years ago, I could argue that a Pentium-75 was still useful to me. Not today. If I find myself in desperate need of a low-end motherboard, I can rest assured I can find something capable of running Windows XP at a garage sale for less than 20 bucks, even on a slow week like this week. So there’s no point in keeping Windows 95-era stuff around anymore.

But it’s hard to let go. I know what all this stuff cost originally. I remember paying $199 for 16 megs of RAM and thinking I robbed the place. In those days, it was extremely difficult to build a decent computer for less than $1,000. That was without a monitor. So in the mid 1990s, the pile of junk in my basement was probably worth $8,000.

And in those days, I was making $6-$8 an hour, so it took me more than a month to make a thousand dollars.

Now I’m happy that I can give it all away as long as I buy a couple of gift cards.

I’ll turn around and use those gift cards to buy a prepaid cellular phone. I need a new one, and those phones fit my usage pattern well. And that phone will have as much computing power, if not more, than any one of those old computers.

2 thoughts on “Letting go

  • March 30, 2009 at 12:47 pm
    Permalink

    Man, I have the same problem. I have a stack of old
    monitors out in the garage that I might need
    "someday" … problem is, when "someday" arrives I
    always end up just buying something new.

    The last time I needed to get rid of some monitors,
    I just waited until the Salvation Army called and
    asked if we had any donations. "Sure do," I said,
    "come and get ’em." The following Monday, stacked
    next to a box of clothes and some old dishes, I put
    two or three 15" monitors. They took it all, no
    questions asked. Hopefully somebody somewhere
    got some use out of them.

    I also have a stack of P2 and lower machines
    ("Gosh, I might have a use for those 486/66
    someday!") If I feel froggy one of these weekends
    I’ll either drive them up to Best Buy or just wait for
    the next victim (I mean, charity) to call and ask if I
    have anything to give …

    • March 30, 2009 at 9:33 pm
      Permalink

      Arguably a 386 or 486 in working order is worth something to people wanting to play old DOS games on the real thing. But it’s tricky. Compaqs and Dells seem to do best, I guess because they have the name recognition. I could build up much better 486s from the parts I have, but is it really worth the time and trouble? It took me half a day to build a 486 back then, and I can’t imagine I’m any better at it after having not touched one since sometime in 1997 or 98. And I’d hate to go to the effort and then see it sell for 25 bucks. Or worse yet, not at all. Better to just thin the pile one or two items at a time when I’m running errands.

      At one time I could make a case for hoarding monitors, but LCDs are so reliable and so cheap, that doesn’t make any sense anymore either. I was hoping I could find a digital TV tuner with a VGA output so I could turn one or more of those monitors into a TV, but I never found one for less than $100. Too bad; it’s the only good use I can think of for a 17" CRT, and it would make a very nice small TV.

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