I’ve mentioned my little hobby before — fixing up old computers for a friend of mine who runs the home-school co-op for her church. It’s a fun little thing — it keeps me from spending my money (too little) and time (too much) in more salacious pursuits, I enjoy it, and it gives me warm fuzzies to help out.
Well, last week she called me and asked if I’d like to spend my day off setting up some of the fossils I’ve sent her way. I had intended to clean my bathroom, but instead loaded up the Shaggin’ Wagon with a few more items I’d cadged together and headed out on the 90-minute drive to Maine.
My friend happens to be happily (delightfully) married, with five kids. The oldest’s off in college, the youngest is four or so. And for some reason I bring out the worst in the little fellow. He turned into an utter hellion in my presence, but in the most endearing way. I forgave him both the wildly swinging arm that ended up at my nose, and even found cute his pronouncement that he wanted “a empty circle of no hair on top of my head, too.” His mother, though, sent him to bed after one of his little displays. Poor kid…
Anyway, the school. These computers are intended for elementary-school students, to get them to learn the basics of computer operation and typing. So the fact that they’re ancient (133-500MHz, for the most part, with a couple of exceptions) doesn’t really matter — they are more than adequate for their needs. We spent about 2 1/2 hours there, moving, hooking up, and setting up computers, monitors, and scanners in a couple of classrooms designed in the age of the abacus. But in the end, my able assistant (who, truth be told, did absolutely no work whatsoever) inspected our efforts and pronounced them Good.
I also grabbed four computers that did not work (including, shamefully, one I had provided) and brought them home to fuss with. Two I immediately pronounced dead and consigned them to “organ donor” status. Mine turned out to have a bad stick of RAM, so a fresh one from one of the corpses got that one up and running. The fourth, though, could prove problematic. The anchoring pin from a keyboard is stuck in the PS/2 plug, and it AIN’T coming out. I’m going to sacrifice one of my old junk keyboards by removing its pin and seeing if that one will work with it.
I also should have 3 other computers ready for them in a couple of weeks, including one Dell (PIII-866 with a 40GB hard drive, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, 256MB RDRAM, and router card) I’m gonna configure as a Windows 2000 Server machine that ought to work as a nice little network-administration machine, when the school gets internet access.
So far, it’s getting crowded there. One classroom has four computers along one wall, and it’s a good thing these are for young kids — adults could NEVER fit in there. Another has two side-by-side at a desk (with a scanner between) that, I hope, will be reserved for the use of a couple of folks who get along well. And three computers with DVD-ROM drives are hooked up to 19″ monitors and put on rolling carts for use as fancy DVD players as well.
I mentioned to my friend that her school’s getting a little crowded with computer hardware. She scoffed. She has plans.
As they get newer and better machines, they will “retire” the older ones. Some will be “rented” to church families to use at home. (The idea is that gifts are often taken for granted, while those that we pay for — even a token payment, which she will use will be treated with more respect.) Some items ended up getting bartered for hardware, software, and expertise, with the blessing of all concerned. And she also heard from a local abused women’s shelter that could use a couple computers for training and the like.
I’d like to thank Another Jay for his generous gift of his former employer’s computers and monitors. They really made a HUGE difference for my friend and her group.
Previous discussion of this little project of mine: