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Making Stuff Out Of Broken Computer Equipment? 594

Class Act Dynamo writes "Recently, my keyboard stopped working, so I bought a new one (nice cordless number, really excellent). I was about to throw the old keyboard out when I thought it would be interesting to take all the keys out of it and turn them into refrigerator magnets in order to have a simple 'megnetic poetry' type of thing going. As the fumes from the industrial strength glue went to my head during this project, I began to wonder what other types of craft-type projects people had undertaken with their unusable old perpherals and such. Then I began to wonder why there was a purple octopus on my couch. I decided to ask slashdot readers the first of these questions."
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Making Stuff Out Of Broken Computer Equipment?

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  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by xneubien ( 628441 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:50PM (#10103945) Homepage
    What about the good ol' Celeron Paperweight?
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by danamania ( 540950 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:11PM (#10104116)
      I once read of someone using a 68040 on their keychain. It sounded like a good idea until the drilling came, and it took more than one rather tough jeweller's drill bit to make the hole in the corner.

      It turns out that those older chips (and some new ones I think) are made from an aluminum oxide (al2o3) ceramic. That's the second hardest substance, just after diamond. I'm guessing the only reason it didn't go through more drill bits is that it's not a single crystal of the stuff (if it were you'd have sapphire or ruby CPUs :).
      • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by Raptor CK ( 10482 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:52PM (#10104378) Journal
        The trick is to get the chip with the socket.

        You unseat the chip, weave a bent paperclip around the pins, and reseat the chip. providing a loop for a key ring without excessive damage or hassle.

        I had a 486 keychain thanks to this method for quite some time. It works even better if you're willing to epoxy the whole thing together, but that's not as much fun for some reason.
        • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

          by JasontheMason ( 654429 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @09:31PM (#10105702) Homepage
          You unseat the chip, weave a bent paperclip around the pins, and reseat the chip. providing a loop for a key ring without excessive damage or hassle.

          I did something like that, but for a zipper pull on my winter coat - got tired of fumbling for the little string with my heavy gloves on. I cut out the chip from a dead NIC (hacksaws work great on circuit boards) soldered a piece of straigtened out paper clip (a big one) in under the legs on one side, looped it through the zipper, and then soldered the other side in. Kind of a pain, but it hasn't come out yet, and I've been yanking on it a couple years at least.

          On a similar note, I also make keychain tags out of ciruit boards from dead hard drives and stuff. I pick a chip, usually, cut around it leaving enough space to drill a hole in one corner, and hang it from my keyring with a 2-2.5" piece of pull-chain. Whatever you call it. The stuff one sees on lamps with a pull switch. Looks like small metal beads.

      • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by owlstead ( 636356 )
        I got a Pentium II from Intel for my keychain. It was put in metal, with a hars like substance, so you could actually see the design of the CPU (the caches are, for instance, quite easy to identify).

        It might be difficult to get that same effect with an old CPU though, since that would mean that you can open the box and get to the actual CPU, without damaging it too much. I could get it right with calculator IC's though, so maybe it is possible.

        With the new CPU's from Intel, ther ere no pins to remove at l
      • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by garignak ( 611737 )
        I used to have a 80386 and a 80286 on mine about ten years ago. I drilled the 286 with a regular high speed steel bit. I didn't drill the 386, I just used a bit of hobby grade CA (super glue) glue to hold a bit of insulated copper wire to it.

        I also had a "bug" that someone (I think my brother) bought for me. It was made from an IC. It had two eyes and two "antennae."
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:50PM (#10103951)
    Because purple octopi like to watch TV too.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:51PM (#10103952)
    And yet half of the answers will be to the second!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:53PM (#10103968)
  • My cousin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Egekrusher2K ( 610429 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:53PM (#10103971) Homepage

    My cousin has made many, many things. She has turned old hard drives into clocks, PCB from old AT motherboards into a giant table, and AT motherboards (this time with all of the components left ON the board) into clocks as well. She has made various other things that I can't think of at the moment.

    Her website, including links to some kickass PC mods that she had done, can be found here [].

    • Re:My cousin (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Suidae ( 162977 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:21PM (#10104184)
      I turned an old harddrive into a binary clock.

      I just stripped out all the parts, built the circuit on perf board, milled some holes into the back of bottom of the case behind the platter and mounted blue LEDs in the holes. I drilled holes in the platter (very carefully so I could keep the very flat mirror surface that makes the platters look so neat in the first place) and mounted some little plastic rods with frosted ends in the holes to diffuse the light from the leds.

      In an improvement over the Think Geek clock, I have the LEDs set up to fade on and off over a quarter second, instead of the abrupt blink on and off in the TG clocks.

      The bottom register is seconds, right is minutes, and top is hours. Its easier to read than the TG clocks, but doesn't generate the cool patterns.

      I cut down one of those clear CD blanks that you find on top of a spindal of CDR's so that it fit neatly over the electronics, then frosted it with some sandpaper so it has a nice diagonal grain. This fits over electronics so they are less obvious, but can still be seen if you care to look.

      Heres a picture of the clock. The lighting isn't great, so its hard to see how clearly the bits of each register light up. The frosted end of each rod lights up brightly, while the sides are water-clear, so it ends up looking like a bright blue disk 'floating' above the mirrored surface. Really looks pretty good.

      Here is a photo of the clock []
    • Re:My cousin (Score:4, Interesting)

      by adrn01 ( 103810 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:59PM (#10104409)
      Old 5.25 inch floppy drives are worth taking apart for the cool looking drive motor windings. Basically, a radial arangement of coils,
      above which the spinning hub is mounted. It looks a lot like a WWI era radial engine. The hub has a toroidal magnet mounted to the edge -- not very strong, but enough to hold a few papers to a fridge. The same drives -- possibly 3.5 in drives as well, have head positioning stepper motors with a fairly strong magnet shaped like two stacked gears. ( --||-- ) Just perfect for holding dentist picks, jeweler screwdrivers, and jeweler files. Hard drives have small radial coils glued to the frame underneath the disk hub. Removed, they would make cool ( although a bit heavy ) earrings. The hubs have corresponding toroidal magnets, also good for fridges if the bottom of the hub ends flush with the magnets. A robot using hard drive head positioning arms for legs would be cool.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:54PM (#10103973)
    I make computers out of them.
  • by obfuscated ( 258084 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:54PM (#10103978) Homepage
    Computer cases with clear sides make great hamster cages! Just make sure to file down the really sharp stuff. Add some tubes from case to case and papow! You've got your first Hamster-powered cluster.

  • Jewelry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turtledawn ( 149719 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:54PM (#10103982)
    a classic use for old computer bits is making them into jewelry- things like capacitor earrings, pendants made out of those little copper-wrapped magnets, pins made from colorful heat sinks and interestingly-patterned chips.

    They make good refirgerator magnets, as well. And if you're patient, you can make your own motherboard clipboard.
  • Tried but true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thejoelpatrol ( 764408 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:54PM (#10103984)
    There's always the classic-Mac aquarium. See some at The Apple Collection []
  • Mac fish tank (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:55PM (#10103991) Homepage
    The original, classic broken computer mod [] is probably still the best place to keep your purple octopus. Various references [] are available.
    • Looks like Apple had been planning the Aqua interface long before any of us realized...
    • Re:Mac fish tank (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @07:07PM (#10105092)
      The original, classic broken computer mod is probably still the best place to keep your purple octopus.

      Unfortunately not. As the octopus is a very intelligent and curious creature, when placed in a small confined space, it will always try to find a way out. If placed in a fish tank, it will try and find a way out. It will climb over the edges of an open tank. Even when there is a lid on the fish tank, it will attempt to squeeze through the gaps of the lid. Failing that it will try and prise the lid open by attaching its arm suckers to the lid and walls, then contracting its muscles. And if that doesn't work, it will attempt to prise open the walls of the fish tank.
      Even a a 1lb octopus can lift a 40lb aquarium lid.
      As an example of the flexibility of an octopus, Discovery Channel Canada have a cool video of an octopus squeezing into a beer bottle. []
  • RAM Buddies... (Score:3, Informative)

    by chrispyman ( 710460 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:55PM (#10103994)
    I distinctly remember seeing someone selling "RAM Buddies" at a local art fair around here awhile ago. They basically took that really old ram chips (the one that used rectangular sockets), bent the pins outward, and stuck eyes on the front and a tail in the back so they kinda resembled little caterpillars.
  • by john_smith_45678 ( 607592 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:55PM (#10103995) Journal
    is the one they put the printer to in Office Space.

    PC Load Letter?
  • by tokki ( 604363 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:57PM (#10104005)
    A friend of mine a while ago would make neck chains out of old HyperSPARC and SuperSPARC processor modules, ala Flavah Flav from Public Enemy.
  • by fadeaway ( 531137 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @03:58PM (#10104018)
    The answer is three weeks.

    Three weeks until your girlfriend gets sick of asking you to clean up the overflowing pile of old and unused components that's steadily taking over the office. Three weeks until you come home and find your monitor decorated, in a most Martha Stewart-like fashion, with superglued sticks of RAM and old CPU's.

    Message recieved.. loud and clear. Over and out.
  • by hajo ( 74449 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:00PM (#10104031) Homepage
    First of; I make my living buying discarded computer stuff and reselling it. A lot of this stuff is broken and gets trashed. When I do have time I tend to strip the stepper motors out of disk drives and printers as well as the printer guides for CNC / robotics stuff. UPS batteries are an excellent power supply.
    However mostly I use discarded equipment to put a working system together again which can be used for all kinds of things: If you are handy with linux you can make excellent routers; web servers, media servers, a TIVO, CNC control equipment out of the oldest stuff.
  • I've been working (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:02PM (#10104051)
    On a project to turn some old scsi drives into a MIDI instrument, I *LOVE* the sounds really old scsi drives make (think 4GB micropolis drives). Plan to use it in a composition :)
  • B.E.A.M. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Veridium ( 752431 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:07PM (#10104085) Homepage []

    I've been working on a project for a few months now, utilizing parts from old drives. I'm time deficient of late, but I'm hoping when I finish a current work project, I'll have more time.
    All you tinkerer nerds out there, if you haven't looked into BEAM robotics, look into it. You can utilize a good deal of junk electronics.
  • by selderrr ( 523988 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:08PM (#10104097) Journal
    that, my dear friend, is what the sun-walkers out there call a woman

    don't touch it, don't feed it, don't talk to it. If you stop washing yourself & brushing your teeth, it's supposed to go away by itself.

    dunno if this matters, but you have all slahsdotters sympathy. We're standing right behind you like one geek. Let us know how it turns out.
  • Daft idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:09PM (#10104102) Homepage
    I once had similar ideas for reusing the bits out of all the old PC's that collect around me (mostly P233's and desktop cases, for some reason, but I've got a PS/2 hiding somewhere).

    Was going to use the old fans to make sure airflow went through my PC and even throughout the wooden cabinet that my PC is in so that it wouldn't get too hot.


    Actually once crafted a primitive noise baffle for the exhaust fan from a PC by using an empty 5.25" casing and some defunct floppies arranged so that the air would zig-zag through the 5.25 case (off of a CDROM if I remember rightly, with the bits taken out).


    The metal casing of an old PC is good for keeping all those ADSL routers, printer server boxes, ethernet hubs etc. that are on 24/7 but just get in the way when you're rereouting cables.

    Bung them inside an old desktop case (even mount them in the drivebays or whatnot), run all the cables through the PCI backplates and power them off the inside of the power socket (even room for a power strip with a few "brick" power adaptors in there). If your stuff needs 12 or 5v, you could even run it direct off of the old PSU, I suppose.

    That way, one box and plug powers all the silly peripherals but you haven't got millions of wires tangling and twenty brick adaptors stuck to the wall.

    You can move the bits inside around so that you can see the LED status of things from the drive bays etc., can power from the power supply, can even re-use the PSU or case fans to make sure they have adequate cooling etc.


    Some people try to hide their computers in their furniture (e.g. wooden cabinets/cupboards/desks), why not go the other way... convert the front of a desktop case to become a fold-open drawer or storage area. :-)


    See how many LED's you can fit onto the outside of an old PC case so that you can have that authentic "Star Trek" feel. Bonus points for them actually working, extra for flashing effects etc.


    Build a race track using old PCI cards as barriers, upside-down motherboards as the floor and the balls from mice as the "cars", like blow football, only more geeky.
  • by enosys ( 705759 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:12PM (#10104124) Homepage
    If I have a useless board with at least some components that aren't surface mount I use a hot air paint stripper to remove the components. Then I reuse them in various projects. I have a well over 90% success rate with ICs.

    A hot air paint stripper will surface mount components even more easily but it's hard to use surface mount components.

    • Uhoh, I did that myself but stopped as I heard how toxic the substances are which will be generated by this process!

      Some components (especially older ones, and you're probably desoldering lots of *old* boards) are made flame resistant, and heating them produces really nasty stuff. You aren't heating them with a temperature-controlled soldering iron, you're using an uncontrolled heat gun, mine can melt glass!

      I read it in several magazines here in germany. Maybe someone has a link? A quick google turned not
  • by banz23 ( 737504 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:12PM (#10104125)
    I think many people neglect to realize that the computer components were designed to operate in a closed box and to have very little direct contact with people. There is plenty of lead and other nasties in these components that I certainly wouldn't want to handle them frequently or for that matter my kids. Now things like keyboard key are obviously safe, but motherboards are another thing.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2004 @05:45PM (#10104636)
      This is just damned silly!

      The amount of lead you are exposed to from electronic components is negligible unless you grind them up and eat them - a lot of them! You do realize that toothpaste, up until about 20 years ago, was packaged in lead tubes, don't you. And it was something that people put into their mouths everyday. The practice was discontinued not because of any lead poisoning to people using the toothpaste, but because of lead contamination to groundwater from dumps filled with the stuff.

      Find something real to worry about.
  • Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:13PM (#10104128)
    Since you're only using the keys from a single keyboard for your fridge magnets, a question arises: what's the longest english word that only uses each letter once? How about the longest sentence?
    • Re:Question (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      what's the longest english word that only uses each letter once? The longest I (OK, egrep and the words file) can come up with is "uncopyrightable" at 15 letters. I'd have posted the command line too, but the Slashdot lameness filter is eating it for lunch... :)
    • Re:Question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by infolib ( 618234 )
      Sentences that use every letter in the alphabet exactly once are called pangrams. Several examples exist. [] The "Veldt jynx.." one may be the oldest - at least it's the only one i recall seeing in the Guiness Book of Records.
  • by pilybaby ( 638883 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:16PM (#10104153)
    I'm sure I've seen "toys for girls" that look just like my MS wheel mouse. I'm sure it can't be that hard to plug in a vibrating motor and some batteries. If you make it a wireless one you could even use a caddy to charge it. And the best thing is that you don't have to worry about someone finding it in your desk draw. You just say it's an old broken mouse. Kill two bird with one stone. Hell you could do it and have it stay as a fully functioning mouse too.
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:19PM (#10104175) Journal
    A local (for me, local = Des Moines) band (long disbanded, alas; they were quite good) used broken terminals as a backdrop for a performance. They weren't hooked up to anything (save the outlet, of course), but they were sufficiently fried that the CRT traced a pattern on the screen with no input at all.
  • classic mac clock (Score:4, Interesting)

    by trb ( 8509 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:21PM (#10104182)
    a classic hack (i don't know who first thought of this) is to take a handful of 128k macs and line them up and run software to display the time of day, one digit per screen. you can get arbitratily complex, with or without seconds, with a screens for the colons (flashing or not), date, networked or not, dali morphing, etc.
  • by bokmann ( 323771 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:24PM (#10104197) Homepage
    I once made a necklace our of a dead mac mouse... just fed the end that normally attached to the computer back into the mouse case, and voila!

    On a dare, I wore it out one night (while still in college). I took it off when a hot girl asked me why I was wearing a medic-alert necklace.

  • Mame Control Panel (Score:4, Informative)

    by wackysootroom ( 243310 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:35PM (#10104255) Homepage
    You can wire up a joystick and a few buttons to be used to interface an old keyboard [] into a MAME [] Machine's arcade control panel.
  • by auburnate ( 755235 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:40PM (#10104282)
    I built a 4 color marble sorter out of two stepper motors from 5-1/4 inch drives, a photo-sensitive cell and some PC software driving parallel port inputs and outputs. It won $150 in a engineering contest at Auburn University.
  • Stud finders (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:41PM (#10104294) Homepage Journal
    Recently I took apart several old 2.4 gig full height hard drives and recovered the magnets. These guys are extremely powerful and will cause injury to fingers if careless handling two of them at the same time.

    Anyways I found them to be very good stud finders as they will quickly locate the screws or nails hidden in drywall and are powerful enough to hold themselves in place.

    I have taken two of them and fashioned a small clip on top and pulled a chalk line between them. This arrangment is great for creating a nail line.

    Also a placed one in a small pocket in my electrical tool holster. Then fasteners and small parts stay attached to the outside making them very accessible. In fact, when working on something I just throw the small parts in the general direction of the pocket with the magnet and they stick.

  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:42PM (#10104296) Homepage Journal
    I used Linux [], TerminatorX [] a broken optical mouse and a $10 used turntable I bought from a grandmotherly looking ladies garage sale.

    Picture here []
  • Decorate! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oldosadmin ( 759103 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @04:56PM (#10104396) Homepage
    I keep old, broken processors/motherboards on my wall for decoration. I know, I'm a freak.
  • Wall o' boards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @05:13PM (#10104486) Journal
    Gather a large number of random old motherboards, video cards, sound cards, whatever.

    Install pegboard to entirely cover one wall of your computer room or office.

    Mount the boards via standoffs to the pegboard.

    Bonus points:
    • Turn an upper central motherboard into an analog clock (guts from a craft store fro $0.99)
    • Turn an upper central motherboard into a digital clock using (appearently) on-board SM LEDs
    • Conceal the room's light source behind the wall-o-boards
    • Use one of the motherboards as your primary PC
    • Have all the boards functional as a Beowulf cluster
    • Have a significant number of non-PC boards (I have an ancient term server and a 3B2, for example)
  • Okay... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @05:17PM (#10104514) Homepage Journal
    On the wall above me... Stepper motor from a floppy drive (pretty!), Socket to Slot CPU adapter, and a harddrive - nice gallery :)

    I actually took an optical encoder from an inkjet printer and used it in my thesis work. (you see, it pays better to buy 2 printers and take them apart to remove the encoders than to purchase one such encoder from a distributor...) - same about sliding axis of the CD-rom head (try to order a REALLY hard 3mm diameter axis somewhere! Good luck!)

    Diodes from the power supply work well somewhere in the car electronics.
    Floppies... Really nice plastic! So many uses!

    But usually I take things apart and use them in other computer related stuff. You know, 486 can be really quiet if you detach the original cooler and radiator and attach an athlon radiator -without- any cooler instead... :) Logitech mice have that nice balls that collect dirt without letting it get to the rolls... so my new A4tech mouse rides on Logitech ball from a dead Logitech mouse. get a nice battery of fans taken from old power supplies, place them on your desk, power them up, really handy on the hot days. Amiga joystick? On parport interface. Etc, etc...
  • Wind Chimes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rex Code ( 712912 ) <> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @05:25PM (#10104551)
    Platters from dead hard drives make really cool sounding wind chimes. They also develop an interesting patina after a little bit of outdoor weathering.
  • by fishnuts ( 414425 ) <> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @05:26PM (#10104558) Homepage
    cut the cables off, put them both behind the rear tires of a front-wheel-drive car. roll car back onto keyboards, engage emergency brake tightly so rear wheels stay locked over the keyboards. put car into gear, slide around and do donuts on your new plastic "car skates".
  • by cryptor3 ( 572787 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @06:44PM (#10104962) Journal
    I like to make containers to hold my chips [] out of my old wireless antennas. I also like to cook my noodles [] with some of the other old computer parts.
  • Clocks, mostly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by da3dAlus ( 20553 ) <dustin,grau&gmail,com> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @07:45PM (#10105277) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I've made an aquarium from an old monitor [], and countless clocks from 3" and 5" HDD's []. I've also made a few photo frames from old laptops []. Usually I end up giving them to friends and family since they're sort of first to request. I've also made the (already mentioned) keychains from ram chips, but I can't think of what to use all the HDD magnets for. I also have a ton of HDD, misc PCI, and MB PCB's that I can't decide what to do with. I've seen cufflinks on Thinkgeek, and clipboards a few years back, but I hate ripping off all the components from the boards...
  • Resistors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by annielaurie ( 257735 ) <> on Sunday August 29, 2004 @10:21PM (#10105972) Journal
    You can make quite interesting ancient-Egyptian-looking (sort of) necklaces out of various resistors. Packages of new ones, to be had cheaply at the Shack, are better for this purpose than recycled ones.

    We have a Mac-Quarium here in the house, created by my son. All I can say is that it's a mixed blessing. If you decide to build one, cultivate the friendship of the person who cuts your glass for you--you'll be seeing a lot of him. It has leaks despite the best prescribed adhesives. It also won't accommodate the heater, filter, and aerator needed for any sort of interesting tropical fish, so you're pretty much limited to a goldfish or two.

    I believe ours has become a Mac-Terrarium for that reason.

  • A laser light show (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sr180 ( 700526 ) on Sunday August 29, 2004 @11:22PM (#10106257) Journal
    A mate used two stepper motors recovered from some old 3.5" floppy drives connected to a laser pointer to make his own pc programmed laser light shows. Worked reasonably well to most extents....

Where there's a will, there's an Inheritance Tax.