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Don't Throw Away That Old Computer Just Yet

t has become common belief that computers are only good for short periods of time, and then they become too slow to be useful. What really happens is that as software becomes more complex, it requires more and more power to operate at an acceptable level. If you think about the things most people do with their personal computer (surf the web, word process, home finance, play games) with the notable exception of surfing the web, everything was possible and being done on the first IBM Personal Computer released in 1981.

In 1965, Gordon Moore from Intel predicted that the number of transistors in a C.P.U. (or Central Processing Unit, the shybrainsshy of your computer) would double roughly every two years. This statement has become known as "Moore’s Law" and has been incredibly accurate over the past 40 years. The first personal computers used chips that contained just 29,000 transistors. C.P.U.’s built today contain in excess of 410 million transistors, and yet their primary home use has not changed much in over 20 years.

If your computer is less than five years old, perhaps instead of replacing it you could try upgrading instead. Adding more memory (or RAM) or replacing the hard drive will create a noticeable performance boost, and although those great new thin monitors will not change how fast your computer runs, they certainly look fantastic and can be easily migrated when you do eventually upgrade. So instead of adding to our overcrowded landfills, why not consider an alternate use for that computer that has outlived its perceived usefulness? Home networks have now become affordable and easy to configure. You could use your old computer as a file server. Maybe the spare room could use a computer for Internet access when you have guests over. Most Pentium class computers will browse the web with little difficulty. Perhaps that old machine could become a dedicated gaming device, occupying friends or family without tying up your main machine.

One of the most exciting things that I’ve seen older machines used for lately are as MP3 music servers. Older machines, for the most part, can process audio files with ease and can be connected to your home audio system creating the ultimate aural experience. You could even take it on the road, connecting that old machine to the stereo in your car. Visit this site to find out how: http://www.robmaeder.com/projects/computers/mp3/index.php. Home automation has increased in popularity over the years, becoming more and more affordable. Your old computer can easily control the lights in your house, your furnace, and even your coffee maker! Visit http://www.x10.com for more ideas.

If you have been keeping up with the computer industry at all lately, you have probably heard of Linux. You may have even tried it, but most people have not. There is a fear that something will happen to your current machine that probably runs some flavour of Windows®. Since Linux runs leaner and more efficiently, you can actually get great performance out of it on an older machine—a perfect solution that also enables you to have an entirely new computing experience.

So don’t throw away that old computer just yet. You might find a great use for it that you just hadn’t thought about before. Or, if you’re anything like me, collecting old computers has actually become a hobby.

Article Copyright ©2005 by Syd Bolton. Original publication date: 3/5/2005.
Reproduction requires permission, please e-mail for more information.

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