Free LPs, Free Computers

At different parts of my life, I have found out that people just love to give away old things, but only if they know that their old “things” are going to take on a new life.

My parents got me a new turntable when I was maybe 17. Well, saying “turntable” nowadays alludes to a DJ’s turntable… this is a record player. Most of the music I was listening to at the time was available on records, and over the next few years I found out that people just love to give away their old records. Stacks and stacks of them. Crates full of LPs, from behind the dress clothes in the closet, or under some boxes in the attic. As long as I showed a genuine interest in these records–which I did–and as long as I would allow them to talk to me about their albums as they looked through them one last time, people had no problem giving me all their LPs.

I mean, you can get LPs at a thrift store for a buck a piece, and there are occasionally some good finds in there, but getting 70 or 100 records all at once… there’s nothing like it. And you have all the time in the world to sift through them and listen to whatever you want, in your own home.

Well, once I figured out this small fact of life, I casually brought up listening to records in conversations with my friends’ parents. Instantly, I’m in some sort of club. “Oh, you listen to records? You like records? Come upstairs to the closet in the guest room, I’ll give you a whole bunch of records.” This is how I ended up with about 700 LPs in my collection, most of them free. This is also how I ended up with 4 or 5 repeat copies of some popular albums. Then the record donor would paw through all the records, telling me which ones they liked, or which ones were no good (those were always their sister’s albums, or their ex-husband’s).

There is something satisfying about music on vinyl. It’s just there. I don’t have to worry about losing my data or any of that nonsense. Nothing can destroy it except a house fire. The records will even survive a flood and still be playable once given a cursory cleaning. They will still be playable hundreds of years from now, provided anyone has a player for them. Brand new store-bought CDs will last 20 years if they are lucky (even with no scratches).


Jaime got a new laptop in January and I inherited her old one. I did a lot of tinkering around with it, and eventually it could do everything that I needed it to do, just like a brand new laptop. Like old vinyl records, a lot of old computers still work.

Now, my main computer is irreplaceable and no amount of tinkering or OS installations will replace the sheer power of it. Being able to manage/modify my library of [over] 20,000 photos with Lightroom was unheard of 10 years ago.

BUT, running Windows 7 should not require a supercomputer. I can understand that a lot of modern software (especially games) will inherently require a more powerful computer, but booting up into Windows really should not require an increasing amount of computer power. The technology has increased so quickly that no one is focusing on making their software work correctly. There is so much extra processing power and RAM in modern computers that programmers figure no one will notice if their software is full of memory leaks and requires half of your CPU’s power for simple calculations. It has gotten to the point where cell phones have a 1GHz processor in them and there are still mysterious delays when trying to do something simple like navigate the menu system.

Anyhow, this has made me a magnet for old computers recently. People love it if you tell them that you can make an old computer run a few modern programs and perform well on the internet. My father brought me four kind-of-mostly-working computers last week, Steve has some stuff for me, and Eric got an old Pentium III from his boss that he gave me today. So far I have breathed life into the best computer that I received, a Pentium IV with 256megs of RAM (I spent 20 bucks and upgraded it to 512mb RAM). I gave it back to my Dad when he drove through town a few days ago. Now I have this Pentium III with only 64mb of RAM and I’m trying to find something to run on it. I may just use DOS on it.

Anyone got any old computers that work? First I’d have to get rid of these current ones (and prove to my wife that I’m not a hoarder), but I’m open to some old computers that are just sitting around.

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  1. Martha

    Well, I also have a couple of old laptops you’re welcome to take if you like. One of them is completely riddled with a virus that I was never able to remove. The other is an HP book that’s probably close to 10 years old. Both are pretty shite. Neither has a battery that works that I’m aware of (Eric sold them on Ebay).

  2. Evan

    cool, i’ll take the one that’s not ten years old. and if i get it working, you can have it back. if you don’t want it back, you can donate it to One Laptop per Child or something similar.

    sound good?

  3. Martha

    sounds good!

  4. Evan

    also, you can probably get a brand new battery for it on amazon if you just search the model of the laptop and “battery”

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