The Year Ahead: Ten uses for an old PC

Got an old PC gathering dust somewhere? Here are ten ways to reuse it - and maybe even make some cheeky cash in the meantime

We've all got an old clunker in our lives. Some ancient piece of noisy, dust-ridden, grubby stuff that was quite attractive when you first met but now seems an embarrassing reminder of what you used to think was cool. You may also have an old PC. While we can't help with many of your lifestyle mistakes, we're at hand on this one. Here are ten ideas to keep geriatric technology useful for just that little bit longer. 1. Firewall for your home network
Pros: Marks you out as a true geek, very cheap, very effective, good way to learn Linux. Cons: Marks you out as a true geek. Good way to learn Linux. You'll have to find somewhere to put it where the wheezing fans won't drive the entire house to distraction, and if you've got a house that big then what do you care about saving fifty quid like this? 2. Futuristic pygmy shrew adventure playground
Imagine how fantastic it would be if PCs were forty feet high, and the components as big as cars! Well, that's how a real PC looks to your favourite pygmy shrew. The cooling fans are fairground rides; the power supply a handy hiding place and the expansion slots the perfect place to practice gerbil dressage. Handy hint: don't plug the PC in while shrew or other small rodent is in residence. How many volts jolt a vole? Not a lot. 3. Sound to light machine
Slide the deflection coils off the base of the CRT in your monitor -- keep them connected to the electronics within, and tie them out of the way on a chassis somewhere. Slide a second set -- disconnected -- onto the tube, and wire these to a stereo amplifier. Turn on. Chill. Warning: this can kill you if you don't know what you're doing. 4. Sandcastle mould for model PC World-shaped sandcastles
Ever noticed how PC Worlds are enormous great sheds that might almost be -- shock -- huge PC cases? No coincidence. Fill an old PC case with sand, turf it out onto the beach, and watch the queues form. 5. Fishtank
Computers with integrated monitors are best for this -- the classic is the original Mac. Remove all internal gubbins, seal up holes in case with rubber sealant. Affix Perspex window to hole where monitor was. Fill with water. Fill with fish. Note: latest screen savers look photorealistic and thus allow exactly the same effect without the mess, yet maintaining PC functionality. But you will need to wait a couple of years until the latest PCs are thoroughly obsolete. 6. Boot sale fun
Print out the old Sinclair Research logo, and stick it on the front. Take it to a car boot sale. A collector of old computers will come by and explode with desire on finding a previously undocumented prototype from the Golden Age. You can reluctantly let it go for a tenner. Ker-ching! Only risk: you might be collared by Amstrad PLC, rightful owners of the Sinclair logo -- and inventor of this particular trick in the first place with the Sinclair PC 200. 7. Make £20,000
Painstakingly desolder every component, construct a fake motherboard the size of a football pitch and attach the components in the relevant positions. Label it "Reversal Of Spacetime #4" and win Turner Prize for "playful deconstruction of the overriding paradigm of the process of constructive thought." Buy new PC with proceeds. 8. Go retro
Assemble the complete 1986 PC Experience -- MS DOS 3.2, Word Perfect, Lotus 123, Tetris, etc. Tour pubs and bars, taking bets on how quickly it'll take to do any one of a number of common jobs on this living fossil versus a state of the art XP 2.4GHz Pentium 4 machine, or how long the average teenager will stay playing games. Clean up. As you've already got a new PC, use proceeds to buy beer. 9. Busk
Glue keyboard to old broom handle, attach old belt to whole assembly, download electronic organ program and start busking on the Underground using keyboard strapped to body like Stratocaster as a cross between a guitar and a synthesiser keyboard. If you can pull this off with attitude, swagger and possibly even a tune or two, you'll be snapped up as the next big thing by a gimmick-hungry music industry in no time. 10. Stress relief device
Buy a baseball bat. Place bat and PC behind large glass screen. When your current PC gives you the kind of gyp we know and love so well, smash glass screen, take bat and extract revenge for its sins on its father. Therapeutic, cheap and possibly patentable. See ZDNet UK's Christmas & New Year Special for our look at the tech world in 2001, and what's coming up in 2002, plus a shopping guide with reviewers' best buys. Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet news forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.

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