Revised with new information as of May 6, 2009
A LOT CAN BE DONE WITH
JUST A LITTLE TECHNOLOGY
The Web site you are now looking at 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.
I upgraded to a new computer -- a Performa 6300 -- in 1996, because I needed a bigger monitor, more external memory, and newer versions of database and desktop publishing software, because I was working full-time from home. It was my first total upgrade ever. And I have to say that I missed that reliable workhorse of a Mac Classic every time my Performa crashed, which was often. After more than four years, I upgraded to an iBook, and as of November 2007, I'm still using it -- it reminds me of that Mac Class II in its personality, reliability and performance. I do much more with it than most computer users do with their latest and greatest toys.
Here's a comment from an AmeriCorps member manager in an elementary school. The comment was posted 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.One of my favorite testimonials about the value of older computers comes from a user in Montreal.
Also, as was pointed out by the article "How Much Technology is too much?" in the Washington Post (10/6/97):
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.
That was written in 1997, almost 10 years ago -- it's even more true now.
And yet more comments on older computers from a list I read:
I seriously dispute the need for $2,000 computers. Particularly for those of us working in antipoverty and community service that is a terrible waste of money that can better be spent on stipends for the underemployed and unemployed to give them the freedom to learn. What you need in a computer depends entirely on what you are going to do with the computer. BUT that said, it is possible to work with an expandable $300-400 computer and do virtually anything you want to do. I know, I am working on a $300 nonexpandable at home, so I am avoiding that trap with the computers we purchase for our office and community classrooms. Even heavy graphics can be done by uping the RAM and making sure you have a large enough Hard Drive or other access to storage (burnable CD's, ZIP's etc). Until recently we taught everything from beginners to Coldfusion, Cisco, Web Design and Photoshop on Pentium 2's. A low budget computer is a real step up to us.
I have just completed the first of many Computer Buying Clubs for our students. For $150 each student takes home a monitor, a mouse, a keyboard, speakers, and a CPU with modem and 2 USB connections. The CPU is clocked at 133mHz, with 32 megs of RAM (you can upgrade) and about 4 gigs of HD. It also comes with a one year warranty. That's one year of replacing broken parts free, including labor. Although our students may not be able to play Quake or use Auto CAD on these machines, they can surf the web, use Microsoft Office, scan, and print. They can also use the ever growing list of educational software that's available to adult students and their children. That seems like a lot to me. And it does to our students too. That's why they bought them and why other students continue to ask us when the next club will meet again. Disposable computers aside, there are enough low-cost alternatives out there (and organizations like Computers for Schools) to get students on the other side of the "digital divide".
Mission-based organizations, particularly small ones, often don't have the option to buy or to upgrade their computers to the latest and greatest toys on the market. And older computers can't use the latest software and systems version. Luckily, you CAN get a lot out of such older computer systems.
Do NOT be blackmailed by computer and software manufacturers into upgrading your software and operating system whenever they tell you to; before you upgrade anything, find out YOURSELF how such an upgrade is going to affect all of your other software, particularly if you are being pressured to upgrade your operating system. You can do this by finding an online information source that speaks in a language you can understand -- it may be an online magazine, it may be an online discussion group, but there is at least one out there for you, if you look.
And do not believe the arguments of people who say that donations of used hardware and software are "useless" and even "condescending" to those to receive such. I get as much out of my "lower end" machine and "old" resources as most people do with the latest and greatest toys, and others can too.
I have reposted a few essays (with permission) and created some tip sheets on my Web site to offer support for using older computers (while they are Macintosh specific, there are general ideas in these essays that can be applied to any older computer; specific IBM/Clone information is farther down on this page):
Choosing an ISP for Your Older Computer
Be sure to find out just what equipment is required for the service. Ask the service if their service and the software they are going to send you is going to be compatible with your computer resources, explaining exactly:
If you live in a metropolitan area, check the phone book for used software outlets. Also, call the local Goodwill -- many are operating computer refurbishing programs, and offer used software at a discounted price.
Many companies feature downloadable versions of older software on their Web sites. For instance (last I checked), eudora.com still has old versions of its mail reader on its web site.
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:
Low End Mac is a commercial site that offers a tremendous amount of resources for both older and new macs, including several e-mail discussion groups for different brands of vintage Macs. Lots of info on how to get cutting edge functionality out of trailing edge (or any!) Mac hardware and software.
everymac.com is another outstanding commercial site that offers better information about older Macs than the Apple web site itself. The "Upgrade Cards" section is particularly helpful
For Mac users, versiontracker.com is invaluable. Look for the link on that page which will generate a list of all their links to FREEWARE downloads. Loads of shareware, beta test and updates on that site, too, updated daily.
Mac Domain features a large amount of various types of classic Apple Macintosh abandonware and support for these great old machines, even post about Mac OS X, the iPod or newer Apple products. Enjoy!
Apple Official Support & Resources for Older Macs. Also see Apple's older software downloads page for a list of all software released prior to 1998-01-01, and Apple's official discussion forums include forums on old hardware and software (and sometimes, talking to users is a lot better than talking to the company itself).
Why Someone Might Need an Older and Not a Newer Macintosh
by Christopher Sunner. Includes software suggestions for word processing, graphics, spreadsheets, finances and utilities on older macs.
Accelerating Your Older Mac
by Christopher Sunner. This is a guide on how to accelerate your older Macintosh through the use of various methods such as good maintenance, clockchipping, program usage, accelerators, and other means.
Great Ideas for Old Macs
Even in very old age, Macs clearly rule! Provides ideas for the home and home office, businesses, higher ed, schools, nonprofits, community groups... and decorating!
A IBM/Clone user gets converted to older Macs and offers lots of information on how he uses his new/old machines.
Resources For The Older Macintosh
A link to many, many other resources
File extensions are (usually) three letter codes at the end of computer file names that tell to operating system (Microsoft Windows, MAC OS X, Linux and Unix operating systems, etc.) what kind of file they are dealing with. For instance, a file with ".doc" is a Microsoft Word document (but can be opened by just about any word-processing program). File Extensions.org is a very large list of the file extensions, many with detailed explanations of each file type and the way they are used. "We have also tried to include a few of the common software programs that are associated with each of these file extension types." If you find a file in your computer with an unknown file extension, you can look up the information about desired file extension and its file associations.
Site of Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple Computer. Great and very useful info.
One user said this is "for very geeky queries."
Another Mac fix-it site. One user said that "macnn contributors seem to be more 'forgiving' of idiots."
Each Nerd In His Small Corner
A site designed to make it easy to find older software for older computers. It's got links to older freeware, shareware, and commercial programs, mostly for the IBM/clone PC.
ftp.wustl.edu, an archive by Washington State
Just about everything you need to fill your IBM/clone PC hard drive. Software is all freeware and shareware, and easy to download.
Linux Documentation Project Homepage
Linux is a good program to use because you can install is on DOS if you dont have any type of Windows. Lots of helpful links.
Web Browsers OpenFAQ
What browsers work on older machines (Macs, machines running older versions of Windows, Amiga systems, machines running old MSDOS systems, NeXTStep/OpenStep systems, VM/CMS systems, etc.
MAC/PC User Groups!
"MUGs" and "PUGs" can help you find older versions of software for use on your older model machine (mac user groups tend to be better about this, but there are a few good user groups to find software for older IBM/clone PCs). They are also great for trouble-shooting. To find users groups, visit your favorite search engine and try the words "PC" or "Mac" and "user group." Apple also maintains a list of Mac User Groups Also try finding a local group via the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG).
cnet, http://www.cnet.com, is an excellent place to find downloads of older versions of browsers and various other software.
For ANYONE, regardless of your actual job title, that helps fellow staff members, family, friends, etc. with computer issues. The FAQ is posted regularly, and includes an excellent list of web sites that can help you trouble-shoot various computer/software-related problems, including information on older computers and software. If you get an error message when you click on this or any newsgroup link, your Internet provider does not subscribe to that newsgroup; or, you cannot access newsgroups via your Internet browser; you can try accessing it through DejaNews.
NOTE: if you buy a used computer, you definitely should contact the original manufacturer and check into buying a service plan for the machine.
Check your local yellow pages or a search engine for computer recycling centers in your area. For instance, many Goodwill agencies in the U.S. take donated computers, inspect them and, if necessary, refurbish them (which is performed by job trainees and community volunteers). They then sell these computers at a greatly discounted price. If a computer cannot be repaired, these Goodwill stores will disassemble it for recycling.
Systems, scanners, software, parts, monitors, printers, scanners, peripherals, and more for older macintoshes. A for-profit company, but it's a great resource for community-based organizations.
Disclaimer: No guarantee of accuracy or suitability is made by the poster/distributor. This material is provided as is, with no expressed or implied warranty.
Permission is granted to copy, present and/or distribute a limited amount of material from my web site without charge if the information is kept intact and without alteration, and is credited to:
Otherwise, please contact me for permission to reprint, present or distribute these materials (for instance, in a class or book or online event for which you intend to charge).