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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

April 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM

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Where old computers can find new purpose


Sketched April 17, 2012

dellsfor99-m.jpgWhen spring-cleaning season comes around, I'm always faced with the same question: Has the day of reckoning arrived for my 12-year-old iMac?

I'm such a geek that I may never get rid of the bulky computer, but if I do, I think I'll take it to a place like Interconnection.

At the nonprofit computer refurbisher in Fremont, reuse is the goal. Volunteers like Andrew Phetsomphou pry open donated computers and install new parts that give the machines a longer life. The refurbished desktops and laptops then are sold cheap at Interconnection's retail store or shipped internationally to communities with fewer resources. I sketched a pallet of Dells marked for Ghana next to another slated for Mali.

Phetsomphou, a 21-year-old networking student at Highland Community College, is glad to donate time for this cause and calls the hands-on experience "a good résumé builder."

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Charles Brennick started Interconnection out of his house in 1999 to help other nonprofits with their computer technology needs. At first, that meant creating websites, but since 2005, his main focus has been the responsible disposal and reuse of computer equipment.

Brennick, a 42-year-old father of two who grew up in Lake Stevens, said there's a lot of fashion in technology. We may think our 5-year-old computer is useless compared to the latest models, but with some upgrades it can still be useful to many people who don't need the latest gizmos, he explained. Or, in other words, "you don't need a Ferrari when you are just driving to school."

Brennick gave me a tour of the 10,000-square-foot warehouse on Stone Way North where Interconnection moved a year ago.


Donated computers fill carts near a loading dock where people drive up to drop off their equipment. Volunteer Daniel Simandjuntak was scanning desktop towers and lining them on a "data-wiping" shelf, where the hard drives are erased.


Next, the machines are moved to a triage area where volunteers clean them up and assess what parts can be reused or need to be recycled. In the sketch you can see a volunteer checking the quality and specs of different types of monitors.


From triage, reusable desktops and laptops go to workshops, where more nitty-gritty steps are taken to fix them up, such as installing new processors, adding RAM memory or replacing the hard drives. Here's where I sketched volunteer coordinator Hannah Mandala working on a refurbished laptop. Mandala said volunteers love coming to Interconnection because they can get their hands on so many different types of computers.


And the process comes full circle when people show up at the retail store to purchase a refurbished computer. Chris Adams, a customer buying a used ThinkPad, said he came here not only for the cheaper prices but because he wants to support Interconnection's mission.

What has drawn your attention around Seattle lately? Send me your suggestions of interesting places and people to sketch via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

Meet me at the Seattle Central Library: I'm presenting my book, The Art of Urban Sketching, at The Seattle Central Library tomorrow Sunday, April 29, at 1 p.m. Before the talk, I'll also be joining the Seattle Urban Sketchers for some sketching. You are all invited to join us and come to the book talk.

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