A serious reminder

You’d think, as a person who relies on ancient hardware on a day-to-day basis, that I wouldn’t need to be reminded about some of the repercussions of this effort.

And yet, after watching this quick 20-minute Frontline video, I am ashamed at my dismissive comment the other day, about ecology not being at the forefront of my concerns.

It’s bad enough that I know or have been to some of the places mentioned in the video, and was unaware of what had happened since my visit.

But it’s equally scary to think that even legitimate efforts to properly and safely recycle discarded computer hardware are often hijacked and become, again, an environmental nightmare.

So perhaps holding back a couple of Pentium laptops from the garbage can deserves more of my attention … or more emphasis than I occasionally give it.

Because a computer just gathering dust in my house is still better than one poisoning the lungs of a young Chinese woman, or being burned into a toxic puddle by slum children somewhere in Ghana.

And so long as I — or you, for that matter — can keep using something, then it’s not even gathering dust. For as ignominious as that sounds. :|

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11 thoughts on “A serious reminder

  1. Tobias Mann

    Gathering dust sure until you die. Not to be forboding but not dealing with the problem leaves it in the same place. So recylcing them would be better, however make sure that they go where it should. Also the old machines you love use alot of electricity.

    Reply
    1. x33a

      While i do agree that older machines are less efficient, Most people use vastly overpowered newer machines, as kmandla mentiones many times, and they aren’t enery efficient either.

      Older machines used to work fine with smaller power supplies, but these days even 500-600w psus don’t make the cut for many.

      Netbooks are efficient, atom processors or arm processors are efficient, but most people still go for dual, quad or eight core machines, and they definitely aren’t efficient.

      Reply
      1. Tobias Mann

        My Dual Core Laptop is apparently rated at 90watts. However I find that hard to believe with the high end graphics card on board. And yes not everything is power efficient.

        Reply
  2. mrreality13

    wow -at 3:53 they show a label from Philadelphia and im in a Philadelphia suburb gave me chills i re posted to my fb page

    Reply
  3. Matthew

    NPR and BBC also have good articles on this subject. Check out ban.org for people who are trying to do something about this important e-waste problem. We have a terrible consume and throwaway mentality that is supported by the fact it is so often cheaper to buy new than fix the old.

    Reply
  4. Dennis Hodapp

    That’s sick…I never had any idea this amount of e-waste was being generated and what it was doing to other countries. All the more reason to recycle and reuse.

    There needs to be way more legislation passed that will stop Americans and other countries from shipping this stuff out too. If we can find ways to make these electronics, then we we can find ways to recycle them.

    Reply
  5. sergio

    (I didn’t watch the doc but read all the text in the site)
    Well, it’s not only the electronic waste…
    Last year, I think, the UK sold garbage (literally) as if it were material for recycling and it got caught here in Brazil and they had to pay it’s transport back.
    So yeah, Africa is much more vulnerable to this and it’s a long time garbage dump for the ’1st world’.
    1st Reduce
    2nd Reuse
    3rd Recycle

    Reply
  6. iss

    I’m using PIII 600MHz desktop machine as a home server at my parents house. It uses ~30W. At my home I use Asus R2H UMPC (it’s from 2006, so not really old) as a server – 15 watts.

    Sometimes instead of desktop PC I use Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pro laptop (2005) which uses 30W if it doesn’t charge the battery.

    My late 2009 triple core desktop with integrated graphics uses 120W with display on and no CPU load – more than all above computers together.

    I really like low power requirements of Atom netbooks. Unfortunately I forgot to check real power consumption when I had one for a few days.

    SheevaPlug and GuruPlug looks fun too, but they are not available in my country and shipping from US or UK is to expensive.

    There is also – http://www.raspberrypi.org/ – 25$ pendrive sized pc project.

    I thing it’s better to do something useful with old pc rather than throw it away (recycle).

    Reply
  7. Elena

    I used to use ancient computers and squeezing as much as you can from old machines is fun, but nowadays I don’t think it is always the best ecological choice.

    While it is true that PSUs have grown, and for some people having a bigger one is better, most modern computers are actually using less power than the infamous P4-era ones, and they are faster too.

    If you want to try and be energy efficient I believe that the most useful thing is a watt-o-meter or something like that, so that you can actually check whether that huge 500W PSU is being used, or it’s just there for marketing and the PC is using even less than an older PC that uses most of the juice its 200W PSU can give.

    Another thing to consider are monitors: most recent (<5 years) laptopts I've measured use less than 30W, screen backlight included; it is hard to get the same performance out of a standalone standard (cheap) LCD monitor, not to speak of older CRTs.

    On the other hand, I have an atom powered 10" netbook and it takes a bit more power that I'd like it to take, at some 20W (when not charging), about the same of other laptops.
    That's the one I use as my main PC, for internet browsing (requires X), work (i.e. using vim to edit text files of various nature and often compiling them to some other format) and some media use/creation.
    The same things could probably be done on a pre-P4 computer, it would be interesting to know whether it can remain in the same power range.

    For home servers, I have a couple of old low-power (~5W) small boxes and I plan to change them with a single *Plug or something like that, so that I can have just one always on, while being able to do some work on it even when spamassassin is running (right now it tends to take every resource and slow the computer to a crawl, so that I have to use the other one for anything interactive).
    I don't think that even an headless P100 with .
    a compact flash for storage can use as little as 5W power.

    I also think, OTOH, that this is a transition phase: right now computers have just started being build for efficiency more than power, so it is worth getting one of the former instead of the latter, but in a few years it will probably be worth again using an old computer as long as it works, unless there is going to be another drastical reduction (e.g. from moving to a different arch).

    Reply

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