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Raspberry Pi 1 Model B units brought back to life for charity

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When we heard that James Dawson had rescued a load of well-worn Raspberry Pi 1 Model B and Model A computers from eBay, refurbished them, and sold them on, we felt warm and fuzzy knowing that some of our oldest devices would be finding new homes.

 Pi's needing new SD card slots
Raspberry Pis in need of new SD card slots. These are now all repaired but yet to be sold 

But the feels really hit when we learned that James is donating the money from those resales to us for our Learn at Home campaign, where we get Raspberry Pis into the hands of UK young people who need them the most.

We decided to learn a little more about the guy behind this generous idea.

Where do your computer repair skills come from?

I’m a 25-year-old guy from Newcastle Upon Tyne. I’ve always been into computers and started weekend work experience in a computer repair shop, which turned into an apprenticeship and then a full-time job, giving me a basic knowledge of board-level repairs and hardware diagnostics.

Why Raspberry Pi?

Around the time the first Raspberry Pi (the Model B) came out in 2012, the company I worked for took on a large client in their business IT support division that ran Linux based servers. I immediately purchased a Raspberry Pi and set about learning my way around the Linux terminal and picked it up pretty quickly.

Raspberry 1 Model A plus
Looking good for your age there, Model A

What do you do now?

I ended up supporting the aforementioned Linux-based servers for several years before moving on. Seven years later I’m a Senior Linux System Administrator / Platform engineer for a multinational company, and I’m not sure I’d be in this position if it wasn’t for Raspberry Pi! 

How did the idea to refurbish old Raspberry Pi units come about?

This isn’t something I had planned to do, it just happened! I was looking for some Raspberry Pi accessories on eBay one night, when I came across a box of 200+ broken Raspberry Pis. I had to have them and save them from becoming e-waste, but I didn’t have a plan for them, or even know if they were in a fixable state. 

James' haul of Raspberry Pi kit, some boxed, in a big cardboard box
James’ eBay haul

How did you fix them?

Once I found out the condition and performed some diagnostics, I realised that well over half of them were repairable. Using a cheap 3.5″ TFT Raspberry Pi display and a hacky bash script, I created a diagnostic tool that tested the USB ports, Ethernet port, and display output.

applying a solder mask to a pcb
Solder masks are a core component in James’s beauty routine. This photo comes from Part 3 of his five-part project blog.

The technical side of the repairs are detailed in a five-part (so far) blog. Get started on Part 1.

What made you want to donate to the Raspberry Pi Foundation?

I initially decided to see if I could donate the refurbished units to schools or maker spaces, but it turns out donating seven-year-old hardware is harder than it sounds!

Raspberry Pi 1s in a cardboard box

Thankfully, there are still a lot of people out there who are interested in early Raspberry Pi models, so I decided to sell them and donate the money. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, specifically their Learn at Home campaign, stood out to me. 

How well did they sell?

The first batch I repaired sold out in two days. That raised £400, which has already been donated. I hope to raise around £800 in total, and the next batch will be listed for sale soon.

Lots of Pi 1 Model B + packed in tightly in a box
Refurbished Raspberry Pi Model B, ready to ship

Keep up with James’s tech projects on his blog, or follow him on Twitter.

His latest refurbished batch of Raspberry Pi Model A computers is for sale on eBay, as well as a ton of Raspberry Pi Model B units.

Donate to our Learn at Home campaign

Since last summer, we’ve been distributing free Raspberry Pi computers to young people in the UK who don’t have access to a computer at home to do their schoolwork. The £800 that James is raising will allow us to give four disadvantaged young people free Raspberry Pi computer kits and ongoing support so they can continue learning while at home during the pandemic.

Find out how you can donate to our Learn at Home campaign to help solve this urgent issue.

Website: LINK

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