I believe we are in a golden age of dumpster diving and recycling when it comes to personal computers.
Many laptops and desktops built from 1998-2001 have now become technically obsolete as far as Microsoft Windows is concerned. These Pentium III - and even Pentium II - machines are running Windows 98 or Windows Millennium and are no longer supported by Microsoft for security. They may be able to run XP but never Vista- never in a million years.
Most of these systems have plenty of horsepower to do basic email, Web and Office tasks, play music, catalog digital photos - if they can be given a new lease on life with a stable, secure and supported operating system.
That is where Linux comes in. There is a distribution of Linux for the lamest system around - although anything older than a Pentium II processor will be a S-L-O-W performer if you want a graphical user interface.
Here are some examples of PCs I have resurrected with Linux:
(1) Dell Dimension 4100 desktop from 2000. This machine belonged to my daughter when she was in graduate school. It was gathering dust until I upgraded its memory to 512 Mb, added a new hard drive, and installed Ubuntu 7.04 (the distribution Dell is now offering with new PCs in the USA.) It has a wireless card and runs as a second PC in my basement now.
(2) Compaq Armada 1700 laptop from 1998. This antique Pentium II 266 was running Windows 95 (badly) when I discovered it in a recycling facility near Almonte. It had a new hard drive and the leather carrying case alone was worth the $50 I paid for it. I added some more memory up to a whopping 160Mb, and got a used wireless PCMCIA card for it. Now I have a wireless laptop that works great with Vector Linux 5.8. Vector is especially good with very old hardware.
(3) Compaq Presario from 1999. My neighbor bought a new Vista PC and was going to throw this one away. I installed Ubuntu Linux, put in a wireless USB setup and her son now has a PC in her basement to check email and surf the Web.
(4) Dell Optiplex desktop from 2001. This one was too slow, and could not work on the network of a coffee company in Almonte. I put Ubuntu on it and gave it to one of the employees there.
(5) Whitebox midtower from 1999 - this one has a 1st generation Pentium III 500 and 256 Mb of RAM. It couldn't even boot Windows 98 properly, and was about to be junked because its owners now have a new Gateway. I installed PCLinuxOS on it and gave it to a friend who didn't have a computer. It's doing fine in a new home, with a new lease on life.