Minnesota Computers For Schools

I was recently forwarded a copy of your article entitled "Technology Donating Used Computers". Your article was not only accurate and timely, it provided one of the best overviews of the subject that I have seen. The only disappointment was that you left out the largest educational recycling and refurbishing program in the United States, namely the Minnesota Computers For Schools program located at the Stillwater State Prison. This program is managed by the Minnesota High Technology Foundation. http://www,mncfs.org

The demand for our products is very great and we are often out of inventory. When we are out of donations, we must often leave prisoners in cells until donations come in. Unfortunately, we must place schools that are in desperate need of low cost computer technology on back order. MCFS will take computers of any configuration and we will carefully and environmentally recycle computers that have truly met their end of life.

In recent months we have developed such reliability in our computers that we have placed a two year unconditional warranty on the CPU. We also place a 90 day warranty on our monitors. Our computers go out to our customers with the most current licensed OS and have been fully tested, with the monitors burned with the specific CPU. Our mission is not only to make refurbished computers available to schools, but also to buy down the cost of computer ownership for our educational customers. Hence, we are now adding a computer repair line for educational institutions where we will be able to repair computers for schools at rates far below market costs.

Thank you again for your insight and your exceedingly valuable article.


David Paulson
Executive Director
Minnesota High Technology Foundation
And Minnesota Computers for Schools
[via e-mail]

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Letter to the Editor of Foundation News & Commentary - March/April 2001

Technology Beyond Our Borders

I appreciated Martin Schneiderman’s Technology column, "Donating Used Computers" (November/December 2000). He identified salient points, especially how to protect data before retiring computers.

Having done computer refurbishing at an educational nonprofit in rural Arizona for four years now, I can report that the desire to take in used computers has pretty much vanished. This is not because of bad experiences or lack of technical support, but lower prices and the fact that fast Internet access is assumed to be important by everyone.

Nonetheless, we have now found a willing and desperate audience. We have shipped several hundred computers to our border region with Mexico. Since their schools still lack that initial computer room, they are delighted with anything from 386 and up. We have provided their community people with technical training and are working with the technical high schools and colleges—having their students do internships to help the schools along.

We still gladly take computers as we are using them in a work skill development program in each community, including kids teaching their teachers and other adults. So, consider us before you put that computer on the shelf thinking some day you will use it or sell it.

Mike W. Rohrbach
Cochise County Learning Advisory Council
Bisbee, AZ
[via e-mail]

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Generational Differences of Opinion

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your very clear and concise article on used computers.

I am the director of a program within a small non-profit in the Portland, Oregon area, that collects, refurbishes and distributes computers to and through other local non-profits. Our primary clients are individuals, mostly from local ethnic minorities and underserved groups within the greater Portland area, that are on the other side of the "digital divide".

My father, who turns 74 this year, is the president of our organization. He is a true member of the "builder" generation; very difficult to throw anything away, anything that works is "usable". (New Deal out of Mass. hasn't helped me any.) He and I are somewhat in conflict over the collection and distribution of any IT equipment over 3 years old. He wants to collect anything. I feel that if we do that we will need to set up a much larger processing center and get into the recycling business. It doesn't help that FreeGeek has just opened up shop in the area. http://www.freegeek.org

I am in agreement with your article. Yours is the first article that I have found in the last year that has made statements on behalf of non-profit recipients of donated equipment needing to refuse outdated equipment. From your research for this article and your industry experience, do you have a readily available bibliography that you could give me for further research on my part. I would like to get documentation from both the non-profit and industry viewpoints that will help me in re-focusing our local efforts.

Thanks for your time.

Marshall V. Pryor
Enable! Computers
Portland, OR
A ministry of Servants, Incorporated http://www.gospelcom.net/servants/
[via e-mail]

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