Hey, don't throw away that old PC!

What happens to old PCs when they are displaced by the latest and greatest?

It's Thanksgiving, and here's an idea that should get you into a holiday mood. Give thanks that you can afford the cost of a new PC and, when you finish, donate your old one.

Most of us, driven by the rapid pace of innovation, buy new PCs every two to three years, if not sooner.

We're out looking for the latest technology, including the fastest processors, the largest hard drives, and the biggest displays to assuage our desire to shoot 'em up faster playing "Doom" or to just be able to say we've got the best.

But what happens to the old PCs, when they are displaced by the latest and greatest? Some get turned into Linux servers, but most end up just gathering dust. Or worse, they end up in a landfill.

This might sound funny coming from me, but frankly it's wasteful, considering that even a classic Pentium PC still has enough juice to get up on the Internet.

One of the problems of responsible disposal of PCs is that consumers have to do some work to find a place that will take that old PC.

I saved my old Mac from the landfill by putting it up for adoption. I placed the Mac with a former college professor, who I know will get several more years of use from it. I didn't give it to anyone less fortunate than me, per se, but I think I did the next best thing.

This Mac, a Performa model, purchased in 1994 or 1995 was fairly high-end for its time. It sports a 33MHz Motorola 68000-series processor and a built-in CD-ROM drive. It had been languishing at my parent's house until my father threatened to throw it out.

It's a crime to throw away a Mac, especially one like this. Even though I now have a couple of PCs, including my ZDNet-issued ThinkPad 570, this old Mac is still a nice machine. More important, even after five or six years, it's still useful.

When I dropped off the Performa at the home of my professor, I noticed his current Mac sitting on a desk. It's a black-and-white-screened Mac Classic. This alone should prove the point that my old Performa is now in good hands. It has been placed into safe keeping for the day when the Classic might not boot.

Hopefully when that time comes, my professor will donate the Classic, if not to a museum then a recycling program.

One thing is for certain, though. It won't gather any dust. And neither should your old PCs or Macs.

For those of you who are looking to get rid of old Pentiums or 486s, it might not be as easy to find a place to donate them or a person to give them to. But I encourage you to at least give it a shot. Some communities also recycle PCs, although such services vary widely across the United States.

You could also turn to IBM. The company recently launched a PC recycling program that promises to pass still-usable PCs to worthy human services organizations around the world or dispose of older PCs in an environmentally friendly manner.

Wayne Balta, director of IBM's corporate environmental affairs office, says that the program grew out of IBM's own corporate recycling program.

Several factors separate IBM's program from others. First, it is available throughout North America to anyone, not just IBM customers. The program will receive any brand of personal computer, Macintosh or Wintel, and its associated peripherals, such as monitors and printers. Also, for those older PCs that are torn down, Balta says he expects only about 3 percent by weight to be committed to a landfill. (IBM gets to sell the other 97 percent.)

So what's the catch? The cost: $29.99 to sign your old PC up for the IBM program. However, Balta says this is mostly to cover shipping costs. Under the program, IBM sends you shipping materials for you to deliver your old PC via UPS.

But even this has its bright side. If IBM donates your old PC through a partnership it has with an organization called Gifts in Kind International, you will receive a certificate of confirmation of the donation.

That, my friend, is good for a tax deduction of greater than $29.99. As is the case with most any PC donated to a more local cause -- except for my professor, but I'm just glad my old Mac has a new home.

You can find out more about IBM's recycling program by calling the company at (888) 746-7426 or by visiting its Environmental Web site.

Do you have ideas on where to donate your old PC? Talk back below and let me know.


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