Revised November 4, 2015


 
Resources For Older Computers

What can be done with older technology

 
Computer companies want you to upgrade your computer, smart phone, tablet, and other networked devices every year, and they upgrade operating systems and software not always to make the software better, but just to force you to have to buy new hardware to run such. It's a vicious, expensive cycle, and most of us can't afford to keep up.

I started this page back in the 1990s; you can find old versions of it at archive.org. Back in the 1990s and through 2005 or so, there were lots more resources for older computers, even companies that still sold vintage software. Now, many of those companies I used to refer to are gone. Computer companies have deleted their pages that supported users of vintage computers and software. Hardware and software companies are now dedicated to forcing everyone to use the latest computer technology, and so they remove any tools from their site that could help older computer users.

It's sad, because there's nothing I'm doing with my computer now, except for live webcasts and video phone calls, that I wasn't doing with my computer back in the late 1990s. 

Still, there are many things you can still do with a vintage computer: The original version of the Web site you are now looking at now was originally created and maintained with a Macintosh Classic II -- that's a small black & white screened computer with just 8 MB of internal RAM. I used the software that came with the machine, as well as shareware and freeware I downloaded from the Internet, to create the original version of this web site, and the site was quick to have thousands of visitors each month.

Here's a comment from an AmeriCorps member manager in an elementary school. The comment was posted a few years ago to CNSTech, a discussion group for technology issues and information for Corporation for National Service staff and volunteers:

"we have a pile of old Mac SE computers and we love them. We have them hooked to an ancient laser printer through a local talk network. They make wonderful word processing machines for kids, and they are the most problem-free computers we own.
This is from 1997 - and it's still true now (from "How Much Technology is too much?" in the Washington Post , October 6, 1997):
Software is evolving faster than the hardware and system software needed for its operation, application software such as word processing are slow to reflect the best features the operating environments have to offer, and there's a growing disparity between computer power available in the box and computer power actually used. The focus on issues of productivity shouldn't hinge on faster processors or more memory, instead it should involve creative and efficient use of computers. This "gap of delivery" is probably because it's simpler to announce great leaps in technology than for users to realize the actual benefit.

Choosing an ISP for Your Older Computer

Look online for information regarding whether or not an ISP can service an older computer. For instance, type in the name of the ISP and the phrases like vintage Macintosh or OS 9.x. Even if you find something online that says the ISP will work with your vintage computer and operating system, call the company and confirm, and ask if you will receive an immediate refund if it doesn't work. One thing for sure: they probably WON'T provide you support of any kind if you have trouble with your Internet connection.

 
Offline Resources

Call the local Goodwill or look online -- many operate computer refurbishing programs, and offer used software at a discounted price. Look through their book shelves as well - they may have an old book that provides details on how to use older software you are trying to use. Also look for organizations such as Free Geek PDX in Portland, Oregon - they can also help you with parts and software for your vintage computer.

 
Online Resources

Many, but not all, companies feature downloadable versions of older software on their Web sites. Apple is getting rid of it as fast as they can. Your best bet is to use Google and type in things like vintage Apple operating system and old version FileMaker Pro.

There are also these suggested Web sites specifically for users of "older" machines (there are more, but these are my favorite); please note that, for any site that no longer works, simply type in the URL to archive.org:

 
Finding Used Computers & Parts  
Build a Fish Tank Out of Your Old Computer Monitor
Use Your Old Computer as a Heater

 
A reader who chose to remain anonymous wrote that a another useful purpose of old IBM/clones (but not Macs, as they are, literally, too "cool") "is to put them in rooms, greenhouses, sheds, etc. that need a little heat during the heating season and run a copy of the Distributed.net client. That way, you are heating the space and donating the computer's time to a good cause." That means, however, that the computer has to be connected to the Internet if you want to loan its ram to a distributed computing project. "An older PC can produce 100 to 200 watts of continuous heat while under load (from the Distributed.net client) and you might not need to by an electric heater. I actually do this to keep my basement a little warmer during the winter."

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