With the rapid progression of technology each year, it’s easy to accumulate a pile of obsolete gadgets that you just can’t bear to get rid of. So don’t! Here are our top 10 ways you can take the retired gadgets you’ve already got and turn them into something that has a solid place in the future.
10. Turn an Old Mobile Device into a Dedicated VOIP Handset
We’ve seen how easy it is to turn an iPod touch into an iPhone using a few tricks and some sort of VOIP service, and it’s just as easy with an old phone—so long as you have a constant Wi-Fi connection. It can be nice to have a home phone or two you can use to answer calls when your cellphone isn’t handy, you don’t have great reception, and you don’t want to leave the VOIP app unattended. So grab a mobile copy of Skype, Fring, Line2, or whatever, and leave it open and ready on your old mobile device. It’ll wait for someone to call it, or you can just pick it up and, say, order a pizza without the fear of yet another dropped call.
9. Create a Wireless Internet Radio from an Old Router
Radios and routers aren’t exactly technology of the future—more of the past and present, really—but when you combine them with the internet you’ve suddenly got a pretty awesome device for streaming music. The process isn’t even that complicated. All you really need is a particular wireless router (the Asus WL-520GU is recommended in this case) and a USB sound card. Pretty neat.
8. Create a Home Security System with a Webcam
When you buy a new laptop, or even a monitor monitor, these days you’re almost guaranteed a built-in webcam. That’s great, but what do you do with your old bulky, USB-cabled micro-camera? You use it as a security monitor for your home. You can even make it motion-sensing. Better to have it catching criminals than collecting dust, right?
7. Use an Old PC Fan to Create a Battery-Charging Wind Turbine
Maybe wind power is the future and maybe it’s not, but we’re headed towards something sustainable so you might as well get started now. If you’d like a means of recharging your batteries without relying on an outlet, create this wind turbine out of an old PC fan. This project involves a little hacking and tinkering, but it’s worth it just to have power anywhere the wind blows.
6. Turn an Old Projector into a Book Scanner
Most kids born in the last decade don’t know whiteout from Britney Spears, so someday you’re going to hear the question “did you really used to read books on paper?” Perhaps it’s time to accept the inevitable and realize that the medium we know as print is a bit more ephemeral than we may like. But losing our books isn’t an option, so the only thing we can really do is take an old projector and turn it into a book scanner, of course! If you’ve got the time, patience, or lower-level employee you can torture, this little project will finally help you evolve those dead tree tomes into their next state of being.
5. Make a Touchscreen Tablet Out of an Old Netbook
Netbooks had their moment, but their sales are dwindling thanks to the popularity of the tablet. If you wish your netbook actually was a tablet, you’re not really out of luck. Just turn it into one. (That linked post even includes software we made to provide it with a heads up display to make it feel even more touch-friendly.) It’s not going to be as magical as an iPad, but it’s a fun upgrade for a computer you may not use so much anymore. Alternatively, you can do the same with an old MacBook if you’ve got one of those lying around instead.
4. Build a Cellphone-Powered Robot
Even your old cellphone, smart or not, has enough power to create a personal robot. The video to the left is proof of how an old mobile can create a “cardboard truckbot.” The additional parts you’ll need will only cost you $30, and Cellbots provides instructions on how to put it all together. You’ve likely got an old feature phone you’ve been planning to recycle for the past five years. Rather than wait for that day to never come, provide that gadget of the past with new life as talking, robotic truck.
3. Turn an Old Computer into an XBMC Home Theater PC
XBMC is our favorite media center software. It’s free and it’s better than it’s paid alternatives thanks to a slick, customizable interface that plays all sorts of media from the majority of networked and local destinations. It can pull content from the web, tell you the weather, double as a retro video game console, and much more. What’s really great is that it can run on a super cheap, underpowered nettop. That may also mean your old computer is entirely adequate for the job. Either way, you’ll be up and running a home theater system that’s ahead of its time before you know it.
2. Automate Your Home with an Old Router
The homes of the future will be automated, but you can have that now with the help of an old router. Said router needs to be OpenWRT compatible and this project will require a few other things, but if you’re up to the challenge you’ll be controlling your home from your smartphone on the cheap.
1. Turn an Old Computer Into an Internet PVR, Downloader, and NAS
The future of home entertainment ought to be as elegant and wonderful as the systems we can put together ourselves today. Old computers are perfect machines for creating a fully-featured content downloader. You can simply set up automated BitTorrent and Usenet downloads, or go so far as to turn that old machine into a NAS and install Usenet tools like SABnzbd and Sickbeard as well. This will make an old machine, seemingly destined for obsolescence, into an incredibly powerful server that will provide you with virtually any entertainment you want. It’s unfortunate there isn’t a comparable product and service available for purchase right now, but that’s part of what makes doing it yourself seem so amazing when you’re through.