The Computer in the Closet

I’ve known for a year or more that the City of Houston sponsors an electronic waste recycling drop off in my area once a month—on the second Saturday, when I go to an RWA chapter meeting forty miles away. When I decided to pass on the meeting this month, I remembered the recycling day.

I had two computers, with all their accessories, that hadn’t been turned on in years, the older one stuffed in the storage closet of last resort, the other still set up but gathering dust in the library (that sounds better than the junk room, and there are books in there, on shelves and in boxes, mostly Jack’s).

The computer in the library went out of service in January 2010, when I bought my current system. I kept it set up at first in case I needed something I’d forgotten to transfer. That happened a few times, but the computers couldn’t talk to each other easily. The old computer had only 3.5 inch disk drives for output, while the new one had only USB drives for input. My work computer at the time fell between them in age, and had both, but transferring a file required several steps, three computers and two locations. The library computer stayed set up for another four years because I had nowhere else to put it.

That computer had served me well for seven or eight years, and it still worked in 2010, but its memory and storage capacity, which had seemed vast when I bought it, couldn’t handle most new programs. The jump to my current computer, with its giant hard drive, Windows 7, and a DSL Internet connection, was an adventure.

the current computer, and then some

the current computer, and then some

The computer in the storage closet was even older, going back to the middle 1990s, but it had weathered the Y2K non-event. I have quite a few files on my current computer that I can trace back to it.

I’d owned, and gotten rid of, at least three computers before that one: an early PC clone (which had minimal memory and storage, no hard drive, a tiny gold-on-black monitor, and a daisy wheel printer, and cost about $5,000—a business expense—in 1984) and two Tandy PCs (in which I had installed 32-megabyte hard cards myself). There may have been another one in there somewhere, and Jack had an early (and very heavy) laptop that he never really learned to use. I have no idea how we got rid of those, concern about recycling electronic waste not being a major concern back then. I probably gave the pieces to some computer-tinkering friend or just threw them in the trash.

I had ambitious plans this morning for getting rid of both old computers at once, thus furthering my general, if slow, war on cluttered closets, but even the roomy trunk in my Toyota couldn’t handle that. I’d forgotten how big—and how heavy—that old CRT monitor in the closet was. The tower was big and heavy, too, and then there was the defunct printer. By the time I tucked cables, keyboard, speakers and mouse into the corners, the trunk was pretty well full.

But the storage closet was considerably less so. I’d even thrown out a couple of old pillows, although there were still several of Jack’s old metal detectors, several boxes (some empty, but you never know when you might need a shoe box), a nice wooden rack—for cassette tapes, and a set of dog steps (I don’t have a dog) in there. But there was plenty of room for the smaller library computer and its flat screen monitor.

So I still have a computer in the storage closet, and the closet still needs cleaning, as does the library (more boxes, some full of books, some empty, one full of minor computer junk, two cartons of West Houston chapter archives, and a seldom used vacuum cleaner). But I’m making slow progress, and I’ve done my ecological good deed for today.

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