Twelve things to do with an old Apple computer

As I type this article on my MacBook Pro, I can't help but glance over at my poor PowerBook Lombard G3 with its awesome translucent bronze keyboard, sitting in its dusty laptop bag. The battery is long toast. When I last booted it up, the clock thought that the system time was close to 1970 thanks to the internal clock battery no longer holding a charge, and thanks to the fact that it's capped at OS X 10.3.9, I can't get a new version of Firefox on it. In short, it's seen better days. However, for all its faults, it's still got a decent hard drive and nearly a gigabyte of RAM, so it can't be totally useless. This makes made wonder, what can I do with this old 'Book (or an even more ancient Mac)? Here are a few possibilities:

  • First of all, if you have an older but still functional laptop (like me!), you could strip off the plastic, keyboard, etc. and turn it into a hanging digital picture frame on the cheap.

  • Use it to surf the web, old skool style, with Contiki. Yes, surprisingly, even the old Apple IIe can surf the modern internet, though only in text form.

  • Turn it into a Personal Webserver. Of course, your newer Macs can serve up web pages using Apache. Personally, I've had great success in getting my server up and running (along with MySQL and PHP to boot!) using XAMPP, but if you want to really be different, turn that old Macintosh SE/30, IIci or LC into web server.

  • Have a distraction-free word processor. You would be amazed at how much you can get done when IM, Facebook/Twitter/etc and email are all taken away from you. Be warned, you might have some challenges in trying to get your files back onto your main computer.

  • What's that? Have a Mac Mini and an external Apple 5 1/4" floppy drive lying around? Why not pitch the guts of the floppy drive and use it as a case for the Mac Mini

  • That old Mac was good enough to run all your favorite games back in the day, so it should be able to still play those oldies today. So long as you can find the disks, finding software is as easy a searching on Google.

  • Use it to stream the desktop of another computer. Ok, this one is hardly useful, but totally worth it when you tell your geek friends that you are streaming from your high-end Quad Core Vista machine to an Apple II .

  • Hand it down to someone else. Of course, it's not really fair to hand an old IIc to your grandparents hoping that they can get it onto the internet, but if you're going from an G4 iBook to a MacBook, do someone a solid and pass it on!

  • Turn it into a media server. Even if the processor and RAM is a little on the lower side, a nicely-sized hard drive can take the load off of your desktop when it comes to transcoding video and serving it back out.

  • Pair that Mini up with an iSight camera and combine 'em into the creepy telepresence robot of your dreams! (or nightmares)

  • Put Linux on it. Even the lowest and oldest Macs (like the Mac Classic) can have run Linux. The older the model though, the greater the geek street cred of course. If you have a newer model, there's always Ubuntu.

  • If all else fails, you can always do the responsible thing and recycle it. When you buy a new computer from Apple, you can opt for them to recycle your old computer for free - they'll even pay for shipping it back to them via FedEx. Even if you didn't buy a new Mac, don't fret, they'll still recycle your old model for $30. Should you go the recycle route, dry that tear you're shedding. Take heart; today's modern computers have the advantage of emulation. Mmmmm... Oregon Trail FTW!

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