How to give away my 486 laptop w/ docking station?
August 29, 2007 3:23 AM   Subscribe

I have an old 486 Compaq laptop with a docking sation. I need someone to give it a good home.

It's a Compaq LTE Elite 4/75C with a SmartStation docking station. Like any proud parent, I've got lots of pictures of both on flickr. The floppy drive and the battery don't work but otherwise this system is in good condition.

It'll run a "lite" version of Windows 98, but I doubt it'll do much more. So for your average 2007 user, it's a paperweight.

I could just list this antique on E-Bay, and I may end up doing that, but the docking station weighs 17 pounds and the laptop would probably bring it up to 20 or more. According to UPS, I can expect to spend forty bucks or more to ship it. (And they want thirty three to pack it for me. Thirty three?? What the hell??). Even if I do the packing myself, I just don't see E-Bayers paying that kind of cash for this thing.

I've tried my local freecycle list, but everyone there is looking for something they can use or sell (damn pragmatists). I've listed it on, but no one's responded yet. I live in Alabama and I've already tried some local folks I know. I need to get rid of this thing in the next week.

I've considered using it as a router, but that's probably just another one of those fantasy projects that I'll never complete. Besides, the other people who live in my home are not going to be too thrilled about having another ginormous piece of equipment to trip over. But it's survived this long, it still works fine, and I can't imagine there are very many like it still in existence. It seems a real shame for it to end up in a dumpster.

So I need someone to take this thing. I'm thinking it'll be someone who likes preserving or fooling around with antiquated technology; someone who looks at old Texas Instruments systems the way most kids today look at the new X-Station-Box-Cube. If this person wants to put money in my pocket, I'm certainly not going to turn it down, but really I'm just expecting him/her to pay the shipping and give the machine a good home.

So... how do I find the type of people I'm looking for? With whom do I network? Where do I post my ads? All suggestions welcome.
posted by Clay201 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
I think you've already tried pretty hard. The world is flooded with old computers and CRTs that no one wants, not even for free. I notice the Computer History Museum specifically lists Compaq laptops on their DO NOT WANT list.

It seems a real shame for it to end up in a dumpster.

Unfortunately I don't think it's responsible to put it in a dumpster considering the sorts of hazardous materials in computer equipment. There may even be laws against it. You may have to pay to have someone recycle it for you.
posted by grouse at 3:56 AM on August 29, 2007

Try contacting Hewlett Packard, the owner of the Compaq brand. I'm almost certain they can give you advice on safe disposal. Also check with your town's waste management offices. This is a common enough dilemma that I'm sure there's a method for handling it.
posted by mattholomew at 4:45 AM on August 29, 2007

Also try putting it on Freecycle.
posted by mattholomew at 4:49 AM on August 29, 2007

Are you on Facebook? Facebook marketplace lets you list free items and I've got rid of stuff on there that freecycle was no use for.

Also you might want to try you local Linux Users Group - it might run a linux fairly well and anyway, LUGS are often full of the kind of geeks who like this sort of thing.
posted by handee at 4:51 AM on August 29, 2007

Oops, sorry, I skimmed past your comment about Freecycle. If you still want to use it for something, you may try running one of the lightweight Linux variants like Puppy Linux or Xubuntu.
posted by mattholomew at 5:02 AM on August 29, 2007

Back around '97 or so, I gave my old Kaypro II (1984) and my old Zenith PC (8 Mhz/768 Kb RAM) to the Salvation Army. Maybe someone like that would take it.

Or put windows/dos/DamnSmallLinux on it and give it to some smart but poor kid.
posted by DarkForest at 5:18 AM on August 29, 2007

Whatever you do, please don't donate it to a school or not-for-profit. I used to help with tech at a small city school and the amount of useless computers I had to pay to get carted away from there was mind boggling. Often schools will take woefully out-of-date hardware before they find out that most modern software or educational CD-Roms won't run on them. They'd waste a ridiculous amount of hours trying to make them work.

Any computer is not always better than no computer. Especially pre-Pentium, pre-USB models. Especially when the recipient is a school or not-for-profit.
posted by jeanmari at 5:47 AM on August 29, 2007

The battery is pretty toxic, and can be recycled. Check out to find a local recycling point, often Radio Shack, Target or other major sellers of electronics. Or call your town and ask about disposal. If you can't move it on freecycle, then you're unlikely to find it a home. Good for you for keeping it running this long.
posted by theora55 at 5:54 AM on August 29, 2007

A slimmed copy of 98 and a network card are all it takes to run MaxiVista, which would let you turn it into a second monitor for your regular desktop. Or just VNC, and use it as a remote console.

Since it has a PCMCIA slot, it can accomodate early (pre-CardBus) wireless cards. And since WLANexpert won't run on 2K or XP, there's incentive to keep a 98 box around anyway. Some wifi kid might take it off your hands for this reason alone.

Since the dock includes ISA slots, you could grab an old Gravis UltraSound card and run retro demos on the thing :) Or stick a Digiboard in there, get a pile of modems, and run a BBS! Or not.

Since it's got drive bays, you could use it as a CD/DVD drive server. Just mount the discs on the network and access them remotely. The 10base-T card will be a bottleneck, but if you're lazy and patient, it beats getting up to change discs. Also, bring out the CD drive's audio connector to the sound card if it isn't already there, and play CD-DA directly via the line-out port. The machine's fanless, so it should be a quiet addition to the stereo stack, right?

If Freecycle was a no-go, try Craigslist. But use the anonymous email feature, there are some real crazies on there. (Took me 14 emails to answer a guy's questions that were all clearly explained in my posting. But at least I got rid of the damn hardware!)

Try a local amateur radio club. If it'll run basic serial terminal software (even for DOS), some old fart who's not fond of Windows can use it with his TNC. Or the club will park it on a mountaintop with a radio hanging off its ass-end as a packet node.

Or just sit on it for another decade, and it'll be a real antique. By then, there might be more than one computer history museum, and they might be interested in the machine.
posted by Myself at 6:02 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you a putzer/tinkerer at all? Lots of the parts of the laptop can be used for DIY projects ala make and instructables.
posted by yesster at 6:12 AM on August 29, 2007

Try the free section of your local craigslist.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:53 AM on August 29, 2007

Give it to someone with young kids who like to take things apart.
posted by pompomtom at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2007

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