Technology Spring Cleaning
The Usual Suspects
When you decide it’s time to clean out the junk room and send old technology on its way, some items are no-brainers. Unless you have old systems that rely on these technologies, the only place these items should go is into a box marked “electronics recycling center.” Later in this article, I’ll tell you how to find one.
- Expansion cards that no longer fit into your systemsISA, VL-Bus, and EISA motherboards and the cards made for these motherboards have been obsolete for over a decade. More recent systems with AGP video cards have now been superseded by PCI-Express. See Figure 1. compares ISA, AGP, and PCI cards.
- Parallel ports and cablesParallel ports (aka LPT, Centronics or DB-25F) were used primarily for printers, but some old scanners and removable-media drives (remember the Iomega ZIP drive?) also connected to these ports. Their doom came when USB (universal serial bus) showed up. Parallel printer cables have a DB-25M connector to connect to the PC and a Centronics connector to connect to the printer (a few cables made for HP printers use a smaller version of the Centronics connector). Figure 2 illustrates parallel and other ports on the rear of a typical system.
- Serial ports and cablesSerial ports (aka COM and RS-232 ports) were once widely used for mice, plotters, and some printers, as well as external modems. Although the original IBM PC used a 25-pin serial port (DB25M), the nine-pin version shown in Figure 2 has been common for over two decades. Unless you use serial ports for data acquisition, battery backup interfacing, or modems, these ports are probably useless – and so are the serial cables you have lying around.
- Dial-up modems rated for less than 56KbpsIf you have a DSL, cable, or other type of broadband connection, you probably don’t need any type of dial-up modem today unless you fax directly from your computer. But if you need dial-up modems, stick with 56Kbps (aka “56K,” “v.90” or “v.92”) models, and get rid of any 33.6Kbps (aka “33K”), 28.8Kbps, and slower modems that might be cluttering up your equipment closet.
- SCSI cards, cables, and devices for desktopsA decade ago, SCSI was the king of high-speed, high-capacity storage and scanning, as it permitted several internal and/or external devices to be daisy-chained to a single interface. However, virtually everything that SCSI once did on desktop computers is now being done better, faster, and cheaper by USB 2.0 and FireWire (aka IEEE-1394). You probably paid a mint for external SCSI cables and devices, but if you don’t use SCSI anymore, it’s time to send them away.
- Most keyboards and mice with PS/2 portsAlthough some computers still include round 6-pin PS/2 ports for mice and keyboards, these ports are on borrowed time. If you have 101-key PS/2 keyboards (these lack the Windows and Menu keys) or PS/2 mice that lack scroll wheels, it’s time to let go.
- Excess RJ-11 telephone cablesEvery time you or your organization buys a telephone, fax machine, or all-in-one unit with fax capabilities, you become the proud owner of yet another RJ-11 telephone cable. If you don’t replace existing phone cables unless they’re damaged or deteriorated, you probably have a bunch of these cables taking up space. Keep a couple for spares, and ditch the rest after replacing any of your installed cables that have broken plastic retaining clips or cracked surfaces.
Figure 1 PCI cards are still in use in current systems, but ISA and AGP cards are now obsolete.
Figure 2 Parallel, serial, and PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports on the rear of a typical desktop computer.