We set up two computers in a local tire store almost two years ago this summer, using our PublicWebStations.com CD-based program that just runs enough of a version of Linux to bring up the Firefox web browser. Old Dell P2-400 MHz machines, with 128 MB of RAM. Dave, the owner of the store, was hopeful that his clients would find value in having access to the web.
I went to visit Dave the other day. He looked really good. Healthy. I asked him why, and he said, "because of your computers." I laughed, and said, "no, really." He said it was, in fact, because of the computers. A tire store owner usually spends most of his days with customers waiting impatiently at the counter. But now, he said, most of the time when he tells his customers that their cars are ready, they say, "just a minute, let me finish checking my email." Stress levels way down. Fascinating.
These computers have no hard drives, are so old someone would pay you to take them away, but they run with no viruses, no maintenance, nothing. It's a great use of old computers, and this next month I'll be traveling to Virginia and New Jersey to help some homeless shelters use this technology to put computers in their facilities. And maybe to New York to help a school take 300 computers and get them to their students' families.
Now we just need some foundation to help fund this effort. 100,000+ computers are discarded every day in this country, and something less than 5% get reused. Help me get them to people for whom access to the web will be a significant determinant of their life opportunities. Email me with your ideas.