Old technology being put to good use

April 12, 2014 (CHICAGO)

But sometimes even the oldest technology can still be put to good use and in southwest suburban Tinley Park trashed computers are getting a second chance.

You could call this a computer graveyard, except these old desktops are being brought back to life.

"Just 'cause a computer may be too old doesn't mean that the memory can't be used, or the power cord can't be re-used or the keyboard or a mouse," said Greg Grill, Assistive Technology Exchange Network.

It's a service called "ATEN," short for Assistive Technology Exchange Network. It's run by the non-profit United Cerebral Palsy Seguin of Greater Chicago. They collect donated computers and refurbish them. That includes erasing the computer's hard drive.

Then they distribute the computers to students with disabilities throughout the state.

"Technology is a great equalizer for students with disabilities," Grill said. "It levels the playing field. It allows students to participate in the classroom, speak for the first time, gives them the opportunity for social networking."

Since it is now illegal to discard electronics with your regular trash, donation ensures every part will be re-used or recycled. Technologists say most people don't realize the potential danger when electronics end up in landfills.

"They have lead and a lot of bad metals," said Mark Liszeo. "They have acids and everything in the battery and lithium-ions for all your batteries now for cell phones. If that gets into your trash, you just throw it away, it'll end up seeping into your groundwater that we drink. So, we're poisoning ourselves by not taking this material out of that cycle."

ATEN is hosting a number of electronics collection events around the city and suburbs this month.


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