Recycling Old Computers with Open-Source Software
by Chad Hauris: Updated 8/2/05, 11/5/05, 12/3/05

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Along with other types of retro equipment, I have enjoyed old computers, especially really old ones like Apple II's, TRS-80's, old VAX equipment and terminals, etc. Over the past few years at Texas Recycles Day and from the Goodwill I have collected a variety of old computers...the trick is, getting them to do something productive again.

Macs and VT terminal in kitchen.
Macs and VT terminal in the kitchen awaiting hookup to the Linux hosts.

At the retro-lab, we have been able to use an HP Pavilion about 4 years old to do all of our tasks by upgrading it with more RAM and some new open-source and free software such as Audacity, NVU Web Page Editor, and Core FTP.
At home, I recently got wireless internet access from NetWest Online. Here is a picture of the flat panel Ethernet antenna:

Flat panel ethernet antenna

With the system, I could now access the internet at home, so my thoughts turned toward getting my collection of old computers operating again. (Note, 11/5/05: This antenna location proved to be problematic due to interference from trees. Moving the antenna to the other side of the house worked much better.)

One thing I wanted to do was use Linux as an operating system as it is free and should work better on older computers.
I went to Hastings video and book store and found Linux Format magazine, and along with the magazine was a disk of Slackware Linux. At home, then, I assembled some PC's for some tests.

They included:

A Gateway 200 mhz Pentium from Texas Recycles Day
A Compaq Presario Pentium, $1.99 from Goodwill
A generic clone Pentium, from a school auction
A dumpster-dived Dell
and a genuine IBM bought for $2.99 at Goodwill.

We also have a good fairly modern Pentium 3 that is Gregory's that is the reference standard for accessing the internet when one of the experimental devices is having trouble.

Computer area.
Here is our computer area at home, including the Pentium 3 800 mhz, and the IBM and Gateway recycled units running Linux.

Click here to go to some of the test results for the computers.

Page 3, Improving Performance and Audio Playback.

Page 4, Audio Playback and Serial Terminal installation...with pictures!

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