Old computers up for grabs

The Office of Information Technology will spend between $180,000 and $210,000 purchasing 300 new computers to replace deteriorating systems in the sixth year of their annual computer replacement program. Some of the 300 computers to be replaced this year will be available for student groups or charities, while some will make the final trip to the junkyard.

None of the computers were replaced last year. Both Executive OIT Director Mark Gregory and Director of User Support Systems Jahed Suhkan said that this may have been due to a lack of funding from the Board of Higher Education.

OIT decides which computers will be replaced by reviewing the inventory, which they have maintained, of campus departments and analyzing which are the most outdated systems. After that, Gregory said, each department head will be contacted to determine a need for computers.

The university pays for the new computers by a state loan, called a COP fund, which is paid back over the course of four to five years.

Suhkan said that the program allows faculty and staff to keep up with technology, adding that many computer programs necessary for daily use will not run on the older systems, showing the strong need for replacement

“What we do is a poverty program,” Gregory said. “We replace the worst 300 computers, not according to who wants a new computer. It draws a bottom line.”

The process will likely start in early December. Once the old computers have been obtained and replaced, Gregory said that there is a four-step trickle-down process that OIT goes through to get rid of them.

Initially, they will try to sell the computers, putting them up for bid on places like eBay or trading them in with vendors such as Hewlett-Packard to receive a discount on new ones. Next, they may use valuable parts of the computers in other systems to improve the other computers.

The third route, and often most common, is the donation of computers to charities or student groups. The groups must write a letter of request for the computers to Gregory and agree on a time and place for pick-up.

If the computers are not taken after each of these steps, they will be sent to facilities to be broken apart and recycled.

Gregory said that the Students Technology Access Group (STAG), whose goal is to bring better access to technology to students through things such as a mobile computer lab, is interested in the old computers.

STAG co-founder and liberal studies major Jerrod Thomas said the student group would use the computers to help students who need access to computers and technology.

“We are working to help other students use and manipulate technology in fun and useful ways,” Thomas said.

Gregory added that the state-granted COP funds usually have a low interest rate, lower than that of a commercial rate.

The State Board of Higher Education approved the funding of the COP loans to PSU after reviewing the university’s request, as it does with all universities, Jeffery said. Every state program that receives funding is centrally administered through the Department of Administration.

Gregory and Suhkan estimate that the new computers will run programs efficiently for three to five years before needing to be replaced again.

Suhkan said that the cost per computer, between $600 and $700, is worthwhile because the university will save money in repairs for old computers.

“This way we don’t have to have paid staff go out as much and fix the problems on the old computers,” Suhkan said.