3. Finding a Free Computer (follow up)

Computer labs are a great place to acquire second-hand computers (photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Computer labs are a great place to acquire second-hand computers (photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

This is a follow-up to my previous article about finding a free computer. Apparently the topic caused a bit of a stir from people accusing me of claiming privileges not available to all, to people saying finding a computer is a non-issue. Some people were even angry and wanted to know why I didn’t ask them. Wow.

Well first let me address the privilege issue. I thought I acknowledged this but I didn’t consider that we have people from other countries reading this as well and well, what we have available to us here in the US, isn’t always available in far off places like China and Mexico (yes, we have readers from there). So I apologize for this, I failed to realize that in those places, what is available for free is limited. I will be more sensitive to this in the future.

As far as this being a non-issue, that turned out to be more true here in Sothern California than I had thought. I decided to put out a second call to friends and former colleagues and received several computers, most of them quite functional. I also learned a few things about this process:

  1. If you explain in more detail what you need the computer for, even those who said no in the first place, come back and say they do have something.

  2. Smaller businesses have computers and they would rather give them to someone they know rather than a stranger or a service.

  3. Computer labs from small, private institutions are often looking for someone to take their old equipment for free - i.e. larger institutions have specialized services for this, but smaller ones don’t.

  4. If you let them know that you will properly dispose of the computer after you are done with it, then they are more willing to help you out. Since disposal typically costs money, this is a service to them.

  5. If you offer to remove the hard drive from the computer when you pick up the computer, it helps too.

  6. Offering to pick it up is a big help too. I had to dig one computer out of a dusty garage, but they were glad I did this for them.

  7. Offer to pick up the peripherals, monitors, printers, keyboards, and cables also helps.

After my second round of asking, I ended up with more computers than I needed, and also a bunch of parts that I didn’t need either. Interestingly, finding things that worked well together was a bit harder – lots of older parts simply don’t work well together. As I said, I will be disposing of these at our local recycling center, so these won’t end up in the local landfill. Unfortunately, there was a lot of stuff that was no longer functional at all.

That said, I was able to put together four solid computers. I only have two monitors, so I’ll have to do some swapping, but one of these is going to become a headless server (no monitor/keyboard/mouse).

So while this isn’t true everywhere, and especially not in other countries, here in SoCal, it is still possible to acquire a free computer. I should also add that the equipment I acquired didn’t come from the people I expected. One of my professors in college taught me this lesson:

“Always dress your best when you step out of the door, you never know who you might meet.”

This concept applies here too: be straight-forward about your needs, be willing to do something extra, be gracious, and who knows what may fall in your lap. In my case, it was equipment that if bought new, would cost thousands of dollars.

On that note, I’d like to personally thank the following people/businesses for their help with my project:

  • Mr. Robert Harriman

  • Semaphore Tax Services

  • Ms. Sayeh Rad

  • Mr. Sung-hyun Kim

  • Caf Tech, Inc.

  • Ms. Annemarie Valetta

Thank you all for your support. I will be sure to share my project’s success with you along the way.

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