mPulse

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In praise of found technology and the waste we treat it

The title is a deliberate misspelling. An event in the last two weeks has got me thinking about EWaste, and the way it is treated in the US, and likely the entire developed world.

About two weeks ago, #1 son told my wife to "STOP THE CAR!" as they were driving down the road near our house. Thinking he was mad, she did. #1 son leaped out and returned to the car with an HP Pavilion Desktop, in the vain hope that it could replace his current dinosaur computer.

This morning, I completed the configuration process by adding a wireless network card to this machine and they are now up and running with a computer from 2006-07, rather than the one they had been on up until then, which was from 1999 (seriously).

This leaves me to wonder why someone would dispose of a machine that is still perfectly functional. A machine that could have been donated to anyone of a number of causes to help those far less fortunate than we are.

I may complain incessantly about my lack of a MacBook ($|Pro|Air), but in the area of technology, I am well off. I have an excellent pair of servers that host my sites. Have a number of older machines in my basement to serve a variety of purposes, including development. I have my personal laptop and a very powerful work-provided laptop. And my wife has the most powerful machine in the house, to get e-mail and cruise Craigslist.

We are not computer-challenged. Yet, I do not take the disposal of any of this technology lightly. If I do dispose of technology, it goes into the city garbage ONLY on hazardous waste days. If I can, I give the machines to organizations who can use even a very old machine.

The processing of EWaste is a shameful burden that the wealthy of the world impose and throw down to the down-trodden. We pass along the poisons to those who are least able to say no, without a second thought.

To find and reincarnate a computer on the street is the act of a truly geeky family. To have thrown the computer to the curb in the first place is a sign of the shameful ignorance in our society for what is done with EWaste.

Are you being a responsible computer owner, as a person or a corporation?

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