Technology develops at a rapid pace. In 1901, Wilbur Wright famously told his brother Orville that “man will never fly, not in a thousand years.” By 1903, the first manned flight took place, and by 1969, man reached the moon. It took thousands of years to get man off the ground and just under 70 years to go to the Moon. The 20th century gave rise to all sorts of technology such as computers, cell phones, and more, but some companies are taking all that old technology and giving it a new use.
Google, for example, turned an old coal plant in Alabama into a new data center. Coal was a very important resource in the past, but its significance has been reduced in the face of new environmental regulations and cleaner alternatives. “There’s a lot of potential in redeveloping large industrial sites like former coal power plants. Decades of investment shouldn’t go to waste just because a site has closed; we can repurpose existing electric and other infrastructure to make sure our data centers are reliably serving our users around the world,” said Patrick Gammons, Senior Manager, Data Center Energy and Location Strategy at Google in a blog post.
Another relic of the past is the phone booth. These booths were everywhere in the 20th century and allowed anyone on the go to call someone for pocket change. However, as cell phones became cheaper and more portable, these booths fell into disuse. Google also has plans for these phone booths—they intend to convert them into WiFi hotspots. Sidewalk Labs, a startup company backed by Google, is turning 10,000 old phone booths into WiFi hotspots in New York City and is partnering with other local firms in the LinkNYC project. The pylons will also provide charging for mobile phones, allow free domestic phone calls and even give city and transit directions for tourists. The WiFi will work up to 150 feet from each hotspot, and is also estimated to bring in $500 million in ad revenue over 12 years.
Google isn’t the only company repurposing old technology, and you don’t need to be a big company to find a new use for old technology. Anyone can repurpose old tech for their own use. Some people are using old CRT monitors and TVs and converting them into homes for their pets. While you’ll need a bit of know-how to take them apart, it’s generally not too difficult. Another side benefit is that all the leftover parts from old CRT monitors and TVs can be recycled, allowing you to help the environment as well.
One of the biggest candidates for repurposing for new tech are shipping containers. Shipping containers have been repurposed as space used for both residential and commercial uses. One man, Shawn Cooney, has decided to use old shipping containers for agriculture. “I’m not really a farmer,” Cooney told CNN, “but it’s more interesting than a desk job.” The 61-year-old man used to run software companies before starting up Corner Stalk farms two years ago.
Freight Farms outfits these old containers with lights, racks, and irrigation. This could allow densely populated cities to have local farms, as these containers require no soil, and light comes from energy-efficient LEDs. The containers, which used to ship meat around the world, are insulated against heat and cold. This could allow them to be deployed anywhere around the world—from cold places such as Siberia to the deserts of the Middle East. Cooney also said that he harvests up to 6,000 plants a week—around 80 times the amount one would get using the same space on a conventional farm.
There are many great uses for old technology—the innovative human mind has no limits. So don’t toss out that old dusty PC or massive television just yet—find a way to use it in harmony with your new technology today.