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Fix, Refurbish, Recycle

February 27, 2011
CNN's PJ Robinson, Pam Benson and Carol Cratty in the original DC Newsroom.

CNN Writer P.J. Robinson (left) types her script in November, 1983 on an IBM Selectric while Producers Pam Benson and Carol Cratty converse. It took a long time for the DC Bureau to move from Selectrics to computers to type scripts.

The first “personal” computer I ever used was at CNN’s original Washington, DC Bureau in what we called “Upper Georgetown.” At that time (likely 1983) we still typed on IBM Selectric typewriters to write our scripts. We also had access to dumb terminals connected to a central server – running a news program called “Basys” that allowed us to send internal text messages and check the wires, rundowns and other information (CNN was the first to use it, if I remember correctly).

But I still went in every morning at 3 A.M. for years and pulled stories for the morning shows from the teletype machines so my writers could write their stories on the Selectrics.

One day I noticed that our assistant bureau chief was trying to work with a computer called an Apple ///. She was actually taking it home to learn how to use it.  I’m not sure how that went, but I happily ended up with it when I started doing the intern program for the bureau. That initial experience ultimately led me to purchase my own Apple ///, an external hard drive and a set of ten floppy disks – at $10.00 each! I could have purchased an original Macintosh instead for about the same price – but since I’d worked with the ///, I felt I would get better use of it – and I did for many years.

A complete Apple /// system with Profile Hard Drive

A complete Apple /// system with Profile Hard Drive and monitor. Worth about $5000 new.

Over time, I became a pretty good expert on the ///, helped lots of folks seeking information about the machines, developed a number of public domain disks for it and a DVD full of information for folks who now were considered hobbyists (it’s still available in fact from WAP). But even for me, this last year finally signaled the end point. I could have sent all the /// hardware, software and other materials (and there was a lot!) out to the Shady Grove Transfer Station and recycled it all – but instead, I found a good home for the collection at the University of Delaware.

I never thought that there might be value in a machine like this one but with time, it became a part of history, and thus, had value for the small part it played in the timeline of Apple as a computer (and now mobile device) manufacturer.

As I’ve mentioned before, computers today have become not much more than appliances but I’ve found that Apple’s computers in particular continue to retain their value over the years much more than a PC does. It may be because they are better made (with some exceptions) or because Apple controls both the hardware and software, the machines are just more productive for a longer period of time. It’s users are certainly more passionate about their machines – and that also plays a part.

Once we had a gentleman come into the Tuesday Night Clinic when it was based at Washington Apple Pi in Rockville. He had an Apple II that was not working well and wanted it fixed. This was well into the era of the Mac so he had clearly had this machine for a long time. When asked why he didn’t just update to a newer machine he was pretty clear. “I paid $2000.00 for this computer and I’m going to get every penny I can out of it,” he said (as I remember). We fixed it and he went off a happy customer.

The point here is that even when you do move up (and there will be a time you have to) you can still continue to get value out of your older computer. Some folks wipe the hard drive clean, reinstall the operating software and hand the computer over to children or grandparents. Others turn them into home servers to store music, photos and other information that everyone in the family can access. Some with a little whimsy turn them into fish tanks or just use them as door stops. But if it’s time for the machine to move on, the last place it should go is the dump. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are lots of places that will take older computers and their peripherals for recycling (and I’ll continue to highlight them in the future here on RecycleMac). If your Mac is new enough, MacRecycleClinic will take your PowerMac G4 or G5 or any Intel-based Mac and refurbish it before recycling the machine back into the community (or if we can’t, we’ll strip it for parts and make sure it is recycled properly).

It’s really the right thing to do – and we’re here to help you even if we can’t take your machine. So remember – Fix, Refurbish, Recycle – fix your computer if you can; if it’s new enough, donate it to be refurbished and returned to the community or recycle it appropriately so your computer doesn’t end up in a landfill causing pollution.

We’d like to know what you do with your old computer (besides turning it into a doorstop!) so don’t be shy!

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  1. February 28, 2011 at 3:30 am
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