Welcome to the 50 dollar club! This is here for any user operating on cheap, upcycled hardware and actually enjoys the experience of using it. In essence, we're fans of cheap computing. Whether you baby an old computer like it's a classic car or you're rocking a sticker-bombed, coffee stained laptop with a crack in the corner, which has somehow survived you bringing it with you wherever you go, this club is for you. It can be your daily driver or something you use on the side, as long as its cheap, fun, intentional, and functional.
Exorbitant amount of tech trash is already a problem and I have a soft spot for old electronics (more specifically, my old electronics.) Before starting this club, I had an old 2013 Chromebook lying around and collecting dust. I didn't have any use for a device limited to Google applications, but I didn't want to let it go. Besides, properly disposing of tech trash takes a bit of forethought and planning, and the machine just wasn't worth enough to sell. Instead, I began thinking of ways to make use of it, and that's when I began wondering about installing Linux, which is something I've wanted to dip my toes into for a long while now.
And so I did! Lo-and-behold, after a few easy tutorials, I had a $25 Linux machine on my hand. Even though it was a bit slow, something about using a small, lightweight laptop worth almost nothing was actually fun to me. The idea of having something I could not only work on, but draw on, paint, slap stickers onto, toss around, type outside in light rainy weather or bring with me to a coffee shop or restaurant, made me feel free. I've had my years of being careful and cautious when working on or around my main tower, and having the safety of my Macbook Pro always somewhere on back of my mind when I took it to school, work, and cafes with me. But now.. no more worries of theft, of damage, or system failure - this thing was mine to enjoy for what it is in the moment and not for what I fear I could lose.
A couple days after finishing this short project, I found myself still excited about the idea and wanting to talk to people about it. I started doing research about the cheapest ways to get decent performing systems, and I discovered that not only was converting old Chromebooks into useful Linux machines pretty common, but there were other people like me out there who enjoyed and intentionally used cheap machines!
While those are the reasons I like using my craptop, there are plenty of reasons others have for enjoying their long outdated equipment.
Some of the pros of cheap computing:
A.) It's accessible.
B.) It promotes upcycling old tech, and getting the best bang for the buck.
C.) You can do anything you want to it without worrying about lowering its value.
D.) Browsing Neocities websites while using a cheap computer goes together like peanutbutter and jelly.
E.) The pleasure of running retro or niche software.
F.) (Tell me what to add to this list!)
Club Build Challenge
While I call it the $50 club, that's more of a guideline or a challenge. We can be inclusive here for any device running in at $100 or less.
"$100? What can you possibly get for $100?!" you might ask, and you'd probably expect the answer to be absolute garbage. Well, not so fast!
Theoretically, as of today's date (1/15/2023), you could be running on a Linux laptop (or a Chromebook, if that's your style) with 10gb of memory and a 128gb SSD for a cool $65. Now you go do some price hunting on laptops and Chromebooks and tell me that's not a good deal, I'll wait here..
Alternatively, there are plenty of working, cheap laptops you can find on eBay and elsewhere, which you can upgrade to a comfortable performance level on the cheap and get in at under $100.
Here's my current craptop supply list:
- Used Acer C710 ($38, free shipping),
- 8gb RAM ($12.99),
- 128gb hard drive ($11.99).
- Linux (Free)
For a total of $65, give or take a dollar or two. Here are some guides to accomplish this simple build. The above is just an example of what's possible, and I plan on going this route for my primary craptop carry-around in the future. If you make this, let me know how it goes.