Geek Projects: Repurpose Your Old Electronics

So you've got some obsolete junk lying around the house, eh?  It comes with the territory of being a geek.  A need to own the latest and greatest in tech means you also probably own gadgets from last generation, the generation before that, or even further back.  Rather than let that vintage gear collect dust, here are a few ways you can repurpose your old electronics into something more useful. Project #1: Turn your PC into an Arcade Cabinet Most people find some excuse to save their current PC when they buy a new one.  Oh sure, it'll be nice to have two computers.  Maybe your old one can run some specific piece of software that you'll never use again.  Long story short, it's sitting dormant.  Why not use it to power every geek's dream: a full-size standup arcade machine? Even computers dating back to the Windows 98 era have enough juice to run MAME, the software used to run arcade game ROMs on your PC.  A few hundred dollars will cover all of the lumber, wiring, and input devices required, and one weekend later, your new baby has arrived.  These projects can vary in scope as well, as it's really a question of how far your want to go with your machine.  Most are for 2 players but many designs accommodate more.  You can also add neat touches such as a trackball for certain games, or hidden keyboard and mouse drawer for PC control.  If you are artistically inclined, you can dress up your machine to look just like it came out of the 80s. Chris over at "Build a MAME Cabinet in 24 Hours" gives great step-by-step guide on how to build a great machine.  Don't be fooled by the title though, you won't have this project done overnight.  It should take 24 hours of actual work time. Project #2: Turn your iMac into a Fish Tank Let's face it, old PCs are ugly and only useful if you can get something out of their computing power.  Good luck finding replacement part to keep an old Mac running, though.   That Apple style comes in handy when you turn your broken heap into a fantastic piece of art, such as the iMac aquarium. For full instructions on how to build your very own iMac Aquarium, check out The Monster iMacquarium.  Using some 1/4 inch acrylic plastic, hobby cement, and a few cutting tools, you too can have one.  The instructions in the link even include information on how to connect the iMac's speakers to a radio, and the buttons to lights and a noisemaker. Project #3: Turn your NES into a Computer OK, so if you're got an old NES lying around, I highly suggest using it to play NES games first!  Even if it is broken, most consoles are easily repaired by simply replacing their 72-pin connector.  If that does not work, though, the coolest thing you can do with your new iconic 80s plastic paperweight is to turn it into a fully functioning PC! The internet is loaded with instruction guides on how to complete this process.  You'll probably want to pick out your own modern components as some of these guides have aged a bit, but know that for under $400 you can purchase a variety of small form factor pieces to get a very capable machine up and running.  With a proper selection, you can even expect to play modern 3D games on your NES PC!  For the ultimate challenge, wire up the NES controller ports to USB terminals so that you can plug in actual NES controllers to control emulated ROM files. For more info, check out some great examples here, here, and here. Bonus Project: License Your Digital Photo Collection with Flickr Digital photos aren't actual electronics, but ff you are an amateur photographer, you probably have a hard drive full of photos sitting on your desk right now.  Why not put your hobby to work for you by making a few dollars?  If you already have a Flickr account, you're halfway there.  Getty Images, one of the top stock photo houses, has entered a partnership with Flickr to allow users an option to license their work.  Previous Flickr-Getty partnerships had only allowed top users the opportunity to turn their photos into revenue, but the new program allows all users to check off a "request to license" box in their account settings. Do you have any tips for great projects using tech just lying around the house?  Drop us a line and let us know!

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If it involves cards or dice, he'll play it. Matt covers games of all types, and also enjoys writing about technology & gadgets.

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