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Motherboard GiftsRecycling Circuit Boards for Fun and Profit

By Jim Bray
December 11, 2007

Ever wonder what happens to those old bits of dead electronics after you drop them off at a recycling center? 

Me neither, but then I got a press release from a company that's taking old printed circuit boards and turning them into new products in a manner that makes me glad I'm an evil capitalist at heart.

The recycling of old and/or dead technology appears to be a growing trend. In my neck of the woods, there's already more than one place to take those digital dinosaurs to get them out of your basement – and if I could ever bear to part with any of the stuff I might take them up on it. Chances are your home town is no different.

That brings us back to the question of what happens to it all.

One answer is "Some of it is reborn as trinkets and gifts for the tech savvy," which is where Motherboard Gifts & More comes in.

Motherboard Gifts & More is a Chicago area company founded in 1991 that manufactures gifts such as business card cases, clipboards, clocks, and notebook covers, all of which are created from reclaimed circuit boards. And their PR people sure know how to hype it.

According to them, these "visually stunning gifts capture the intrinsic beauty of technology while providing an environmentally friendly alternative to the circuit boards being disposed of in landfills."  Yessirree, these wonderful people create products whose mere presence, they say, will inspire the iconic word of approval, 'Cool!'

I guess it depends on the crowd with whom you hang out.

While the company says the gewgaws make the statement that you're technology-friendly and that, when you whip one of these things out at a party or business meeting, you can make the room rock with a strong "I want one too!" vibe, it could also tell the world you have no life beyond severe geekdom and cause people to move away from you to the other side of the room.

I guess the PR folk missed that potential aspect. That's understandable, PR being what it is.

My first thought upon learning of these printed circuit board gifts was that I wouldn't want any of their sharp edges and soldered protuberances tearing huge gaping holes in my pockets. But the company has take care of that: these circuit boards apparently weren't actually culled from the once-active stuff we throw away but consist of defective or obsolete boards, or are from unclaimed orders.

In other words, they're orphans! And if that doesn't make you feel good about buying these products, I don't know what will.

Or maybe I do. Vanity! If you don't like the green of most circuit boards, you can get them in a variety of colors guaranteed to make your little heart go a-flutter. In fact, the company says "Each product may vary by color and pattern making every item unique - virtually one of a kind."

Motherboard giftsThey have quite a variety of cash traps, too, including binders and bookmarks, CD storage cases, cuff links, key fobs, luggage tags, magnets and, appropriately, money clips. You can even have your personal statement personalized, just in case you think someone might want to steal it so they can make it their own personal statement.

Prices range from $7.50 to $115 dollars, which reminds me of something the late P.T. Barnum said once.

On the other hand, you have to admit these entrepreneurs are being nothing if not imaginative. And isn't that how the better mouse trap got built? Or was it government subsidy that helped build it?  

I dunno. Maybe there's no better mousetrap yet because no one has come up with a suitable replacement for the common house cat.

Perhaps someone can make a robot cat out of recycled electronics!

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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