Slim, flashy tablet computers and smartphones have pushed many traditional desktop computers off the desk and into the closet, where they and their peripherals sit gathering dust.
But there is still value in those old computers, which can be fixed up and donated to students in low-income families or to seniors who want to use email, said a northwest Oklahoma City man who has found a project for his retirement years.
“I just do this for fun,” said Dave Stewart, a Tinker Air Force Base retiree who studied electronics in high school and pursued that interest through his career.
His career, which began in the U.S. Air Force, took him from the introduction of transistors to computer-controlled radar in the Vietnam era.
“I went along with it and got into that stuff,” he said.
“That stuff” traced the early years of the computer boom and the advent of predecessors to the Internet. The exploding popularity of laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, with their own computer functions, followed.
“That's where the business is going to,” he said.
His computer repair hobby began with 25 used computers donated by a Catholic school.
The school had wanted to ship the computers to Africa, but the $25 shipping cost per computer proved prohibitive.
He has continued to get donated computers, sometimes through notices he places online on Freecycle.org, which promotes recycling items by giving them to someone else.
“There are a lot of good ones, but I get a lot of junk,” he said. “You never know when someone calls.”
He will pick up computers in the metro area. At his home workshop, he erases everything on the hard drives. If desired, he can copy the material on the drive to compact discs and give them to the computer's owner.
The repaired computers often end up at Christmas Connection in Oklahoma City, which operates a store where low-income clients “shop” for Christmas gifts for free.