Reusing Old Stuff

trevor: what to do with an old G3 or Pentium?
the world: pretty much it’s so old that it’s old. recycle it.

don’t listen to the world, Trevor! there’s lots of life left in that old, old Mac (or Pentium). we’ve got lots of ideas about what it might do. but we know you wouldn’t make a $1000-2500 computer do something dumb. it’s too expensive and too useful to use for something that is for art. it’s always hard to justify dedicating a computer to a single task like scanning, playing music, or displaying information. but that changes when the machine is free or nearly free! while you wouldn’t think of using a ten year old computer for day to day work it’s certainly powerful enough to do hundreds of dullard tasks.

but before you get excited about putting memory lane back in to production here are the some rules or guidelines to help you:

the rules of reuse:

    -1) some things are too old.
    0) free is good. nearly free is okay too.
    1) don’t get sentimental about what the hardware was to you.
    2) don’t spend money on making it better. use it like it is.
    3) okay, you can replace the hard drive(s) and noisy fans. we like SSD drives for this!
    4) take out what you don’t need to reduce the power footprint. cards like modems. old CD/DVD drives. 
    5) clean the case. completely take it apart to remove the dust.
    6) as long as you have it apart paint it!
    7) ditch the CRT unless it’s built in. VNC, SSH or PC Remote into it.
    8) don’t try to run the latest software
    9) keep it specific to one task. maybe two. okay three. but that’s it!
    10) have fun. if you break it that’s okay. there’s more.

here’s the details on what the guys at Panic made for their work place. it’s got lots of useful data in one glance.

but what could it do for you?

    alarm clock
    remember keyboard hacking is a easy way to get inputs
    what else can a mouse do?
    weather station
    scan station
    MP3 Jukebox
    web cam
    wall art
    GarageBand station
    stop mo camera controller
    Home Automation
    Show Me My Today
    run OS 9
    run OS/2

the best old stuff tools to have:

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3 Replies

  • One thing (and it probably comes under “some things are just too old’) I found recently was when i took my old Amiga 2000 down for a show and tell. Some of these early machines can have batteries which leak.

    Mine hadn’t thank goodness but it’s probably only a matter of time. It booted up fine, ran very quick and it was fun tootling around in Workbench again, running Sculpt4D and DeluxePaint III. I had to go online and check with the surprisingly active Amiga forums online about how to shut it down. I had forgotten what you did and couldn’t see an option. The response was at once familiar and funny… just listen until the HD spins down and flip the switch.

  • One interesting little subtopic that you didn’t get to is: “old stuff that’s better than the new counterparts”.

    In the hardware catagory, I’m not gonna romantasize slow processors, limited memory, and primitive graphics subsystems. The one category that’s interesting to me is the Human-machine interface, especially keyboards. I got a current generation iMac this year but I just absolutely can’t stand the mushy keyboards that everyone ships now. Apple’s is the most stylish mush, but ergonomics really matter. People injure themselves by typing on bad keyboards.

    So, I am typing this missive on an Apple Extended Keyboard II, the best keyboard Apple ever made. A real keyboard. I just hope that my discontinued ADB to USB adapter doesn’t fail.

    In the software category, I immediately thought of two great classics: MS Word and Acrobat Reader. The last decent version of Word was 5.1, which in turn requires a ‘classic’ Mac. I can’t even remember the last usable version of Reader. In both cases, many users have rejected these in favor of file-compatible third-party solutions that deliver the functionality of the ancient versions w/o the obscene bloat.

    For high-end word processing, I stick with FrameMaker. The Mac version was abandoned by Adobe even before it was time to Carbonize it. So, the current choices are to run the last Mac version on a machine that can boot into Mac OS 9 or run a more current version (Windoz) under viritualization on a modern Mac.

    Its a sad commentary on MS that they haven’t even tried to update Word to deliver the high-end functionality of FrameMaker now that Adobe has abandoned the Mac. Instead, they’ve just added even more bloat. They are trying to address the bloat problem by adding another layer of bloat–in the form of that ribbon. Geez. No wonder I prefer the old stuff once in a while.

  • Here are my specs on my G3:
    •Beige G3 Mini Tower
    •66mhz bus
    •768MB RAM
    •Radeon Mac:Edition (32MB)
    •OrangeMicro USB/Firewire PCI
    •AV card
    •SCSI Zip Drive
    •Floppy Drive
    •24x CD-ROM (IDE)
    •80GB HD

    I would like to have it on stand-by as a OS 8/8.5 machine for “Mac Phone Support” Calls for that rare time someone does need help. the MDD G4 Dual 1.25Ghz 2003 June has OS 10.2-10.5+ OS 9 on it for the “other support calls” I also have a 100mb PCI card for either system.

    I used the money I got from an Uncle when I was a kid and this was my first “Apple” computer (PowerBase 180 prior to that, which wouldn’t work with FTP, so I had to buy a new computer). So it does have deep memories with me and I want to keep it in working condition indefinitely. a new battery ever 4 years is no biggy. I would spend the money on a 32-128GB CF card in the future as a drive though to keep it in perfect working condition.

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