Written by capnasty

So you've got yourself a brand new computer and you're thinking "Yay! I can finally surf porn in style!".

Or perhaps you're looking at your old one, unsure what to do. I mean, some of us grow a certain degree of affection to our old clunker. Sure, it can't run the latest operating system, it's slow and incredibly ugly when compared to some of the things out there.

Books, as they grow older, develop a certain degree of fascination. Old computers turn yellow and look Palaeozoic. But to some of us, it's like your first car.

We look back, almost with nostalgia, at the machine that was there with us, in the middle of the night, allowing us to write our school essays. Or we sigh at the days of the many hours passed downloading off of BBSes at 2400 BPS, of writing and reading intelligent content in the message forums. Ah, the by-gone era of quality electronic content.

I think I can safely say that for many of us. (Especially the porn bit.) When it comes to throwing old computers out, I can't bring myself to it. I have difficulty throwing stuff out, period. Heck, if you search between the various stacks of paper neatly put on the bookshelves, chances are you'll find old papers and documents from 1994. Some even have BBS scribbles all over them, others IRC servers from around the world, or the address of now deceased and forgotten Archie sites.

Nowadays, some people seem to simply take their old machine and throw it out, together with the rest of their garbage, waiting for it to be picked up in the morning. I've rescued countless animals I've found out in the cold or in the rain. Every pet I've had or have is some animal I found on the street in pitiful conditions. I'm a sucker for that and my home has been the nursing ground for many little buggers of nature I've collected. Not all made it, but at least they got to spend their remaining time in better conditions.

It was a cold and rainy night and I was heading back towards the car after a party. Instead of finding another cat, I saw the unmistakable outline of a computer case. I approached the site of such abandon and examined what I had found. It looked old, a 286, I assumed. It always amazes me to see stuff like this. Yes, the machine is old, but I remember a time when my 486 cost me $3000. You'd never even think of throwing it out. Finding broken floppies or PC cards on the side of the road was a sight you never deemed possible. And yet, here we are, in a new century, with computers nothing more than a commodity that can easily be tossed out when something better comes around to replace it.

So I did what any hardcore geek would do. Picked up the case, which weighed what seemed over a ton, hauled it over the car and gave it a home. I assumed that the rain had done some good damage to it, so at most, I may be able to use some of the parts that were still good.

That 486 has been the very last computer I ever bought. After that, I simply recycle whatever friends toss my way. And old P133 that is pretty useless to you, turns into a powerful Linux server for me. When you cannot afford the latest machine, you use a bunch of old ones to do the job of one. Once home, I plugged it in, hooked a keyboard and monitor and turned it on. Nothing happened. It was fried. So I left it like that and went on to other things. When I returned that night, I was greeted by the blue warmth of the monitor, the machine having turned itself on, greeting me with Windows 3.11.

It turned out to be a 386DX with 4 MB of RAM and a decently sized hardware. At the time, an IBM no less, it must've cost a fortune. I started fiddling around, checking out what kind of programs it had and something occurred to me.

When you're done with your chequebook, do you just leave it outside for everyone to see? What about legal documents? Your phone bill? I don't think so. And yet, this was exactly what these people had done. Every document that was every written on that computer was still on the hard drive. I knew where they were from, their cultural background, that they rent the basement and for how much. I discovered where the father of the house worked at and what he did. The experience their daughter had written on her resume. I discovered how much money they still had to pay back to the bank. And at which interest.

And that's from only reading a small percentage of the files present.

Let this be a lesson to you. Before you toss out your old computer, make sure you wipe it clean of all data. Hit the hard drive with a hammer, if you're unsure you did a good job. Play hockey with it, just to be double sure.

Or, you can just donate the machine to me.