Old Computers Never Die - They Just Change Owners

            Here is our community’s computer buying or acquiring history: In 1989 we bought our first pre-windows computer, which we subsequently gave away in 1994. By 1991 we had upgraded to 286 processor pre-windows computer. Then in 1996, we bought a cheap portable computer running Windows 3.1. This computer allowed us to get on the Internet, but just barely. By 1998, a new computer was needed once again, a Pentium Pro 200mhz running Windows 95. Next, a new member joined our community bringing a Pentium 100mhz system also running Windows 95. In 2001 a benefactor bought us a Pentium III notebook running Windows Me. Two more desktop computers were bought in 2002 with Pentium IVs running Windows 2000. A relative of one of the brothers bought us another Pentium IV in this same year running Windows XP and another relative of one of the brothers donated a Pentium II 233mhz computer running Windows 95. Why am I giving you this detailed history? Because I’m sure you have by now accumulated computers and peripheral equipment like us, some of which you don’t use anymore.

            According to the Hewlett-Packard Company website, by 2004 it’s predicted that over 300 million outdated computers will be taking up space in basements and storerooms across the country. And you shouldn’t just throw them away. Why? Go take a look at The Galt Global Review’s article entitled, “Old PCs Toxic in Landfill Sites” at galtglobalreview.com/business/toxic_pcs.html. Suffice it to say that your computer is filled with more than a 1,000 materials, many of which are highly toxic, such as chlorinated and brominated substances, toxic gases, toxic metals, biologically active materials, acids, plastics and plastic additives. If these end up in a landfill or incinerator they are an environmental hazard. So what can you do?

            As you can see from above, I have my share of outdated computers. Recently I donated the 1991 pre-windows computer system, which had been upgraded to a 486 processor, to a local St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. It would work fine for someone who just wanted to do basic wordprocessing and the money from the sale goes to help the poor. There are probably thrift stores near you where you can donate your old computer or peripherals. The Pentium 100mhz system I gave to my 81 year old mother along with an older injet printer and external 56k modem. She wanted to do some wordprocessing and try e-mail and websurfing but didn’t have a computer. Perhaps you have an elderly parent or relative who has an interest in using a computer. That could be another outlet for your old computer system. Then, of course, there might be local schools or charities that may be interested in taking it off your hands.

            Here is another outlet: Hewlett-Packard will recycle your old equipment, too. For a small fee, between $13 and $30, you can get that old stuff picked up and either reused or recycled at hp.com/recycle. And this gets even better. HP will give you a coupon worth between $40 and $100 that can be used to purchase HP online merchandise. So you might actually end up ahead overall.

            There is an issue to consider when giving away your older computer: Do you have any information stored on the hard drive you don’t want others to have? This could involve passwords, financial information, etc. It is best to reformat the hard drive, which will erase everything on it. Some older computers come with an emergency boot floppy disk. Place that in your floppy drive and reboot your computer. Then just type format C or whatever your hard drive letter is. If you don’t have such a disk, and are running Windows 95 make a floppy startup disk for your system by going to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs>Startup Disk tab>Create Disk button. After that, repeat steps mentioned above for using an emergency boot disk. You should give a floppy boot disk along with any other disks and manuals that came with the computer to the individual or group to whom you are giving the computer. This will help them get it up and running correctly once again.

            Although the above method should be enough for most people, one may really want to make sure nobody can bring back their old hard drive information. Just because something is deleted doesn’t necessarily mean it’s totally erased. The file reference information has been removed, but the file data still remains on the hard drive. Certain programs can bring this information back. This applies to both those who just erased files or have completely reformatted their hard drive. Download a free version of one of the many disk erasing utilities that are available. One such utility is called East-Tec Eraser 2003 available at east-tec.com/eraser/index.htm. East-Tec Eraser offers erasing methods differing in speed and security. The slower ones match and exceed the specifications of the U.S. Department of Defense and can stop even the most sophisticated hardware recovery tools.

            My 18 year old nephew Austin asked what operating system was on the Pentium 100mhz computer I had given my mother. On finding out he exclaimed, “Windows 95” in shock. Was 1995 that long ago? Give your old computer away, but perhaps not to a teenager!

Monthly Web Pics

            Given the environmental issue with old computer disposal that has come up in this article, this month’s picks will focus on the environment.

            It’s always a good thing to start with Pope John Paul II. Read the message he gave for the 1990 World Day of Peace entitled, “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation” at vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/messages/peace/index.htm.

            The Catholic Conservation Center at conservation.catholic.org is a project of the Environmental Group of St. John the Baptist parish in Wading River, New York. The online Center provides an opportunity for Catholics and all people of good will to learn about the Catholic tradition as it relates to ecology, environmental justice, and the stewardship of creation.

            The Catechism has something to say here. See paragraphs 2415 through 2418 at scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a7.htm and paragraph 339.

            Catholic-Animals, The Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare can be found at catholic-animals.org. The president of the study circle is the Bishop of Nottingham, England. Three times a year “The Ark” is published, a 62 page journal containing articles and features on every aspect of the Study Circle’s interests.

            The USCCB launched the Environmental Justice Program (EJP) in the Fall of 1993. Their website tells us, “EJP seeks to educate and motivate Catholics to a deeper respect for God's creation, and to engage parishes in activities aimed at dealing with environmental problems, particularly as they affect the poor.” See details at nccbuscc.org/sdwp/ejp/

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org