"House of High Tech -- Non-profit Firm Fills Technovoid"
By Teya Vitu, Nevada Appeal Staff Writer Published in the Nevada Appeal Sunday, January 11, 1998
Somehow it's appropriate that the founders of ComputerCorps chose a house built in the 1860's to refurbish outdated 286 and 386 microprocessors.
The Internet era has spelled obsolescence for Intel's 286 and 386 chips but those older computers are just what Judy Feaster(Norton) and Ron Norton are looking for.
"What we saw was what I call a technovoid," said Norton, who serves on ComputerCorps' board of directors. "And it is getting wider every year. The technovoid is those who know computers and those who don't; those who have computers and those who don't."
ComputerCorps aims to close that void a bit, especially for senior citizens and underprivileged children.
"That's where we come in with ComputerCorps," Feaster said.
The non-profit firm proposes to supply non-profit organizations with older generation computers to be distributed to schools, senior citizen centers, hospitals, and other designated organizations, she said.
Feaster and Norton set up shop and home (they are married) in July  in the Darling Ranch house, 4681 Morgan Mill Road, right behind the No. 2 tee on Empire Ranch's red course. They live on the second floor with the offices on the ground floor, the training and technical centers in the basement and more offices destined for the attic.
The house, built between 1862 and 1865, retains every bit of its 19th Century charm while being fully functional for the Information Age.
"Every corner of every room in 8,000 square feet is wired for phone and computer," Norton said.
From this base in Carson City, ComputerCorps has the lofty goal to supply non-profits nationwide with refurbished, second-generation computer equipment. Feaster, the firm's executive director, also plans to set up training programs to get disadvantaged youths fluent on computers.
ComputerCorps operates primarily on volunteer effort and donations of money and computer equipment. Feaster and Norton know the computer relics are out there and they want to intercept them before the equipment reaches the scrapheap.
"We are recycling computers," Norton said. "There are 10 million computers a year that are trashed. What we plan to do is take old computers and fix them up with second generation software, like Windows 3.1 (now Win 95 / Win 98)."
Local businesses and individuals have already supplied ComputerCorps with components to assemble some 50 to 60 computers and the firm hasn't started solicitation yet for donations, administrator John Flint said.
The Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada and the Lyon County Search and Rescue team are the first recipients of ComputerCorps services. The company repaired one computer and is currently refurbishing four computers for the youth club. Also, ComputerCorps has supplied the SAR team with a 486-33 computer that will be used to generate a mailing list.
Flint encourages local companies that are upgrading their computer systems to donate the old equipment to ComputerCorps by calling 882-8787. (now 775-883-2323)
The company is more than willing to accept Pentium-class and 486 microprocessors but it's the 286s and 386s that are the bread-and-butter for ComputerCorps, Feaster said.
Another source ComputerCorps plans to tap is military surplus created by the smaller U.S. armed forces in the 1990s.
"Because of military downsizing and base closures, there are warehouses literally filled with computers that do no one any good," said Traci Ferrante, ComputerCorps' training director. "There is a lot of technology out there that is highly unusable, but it can't be used because it's in a warehouse. We want to recycle these things."
Ferrante heads up the Corps' Cadet Training Program, an equally vital part of the company's operation. Ferrante is working to set up the first cadet programs at the Boys and Girls Club and at Virginia City High School for next year.
"Storey County is a perfect environment for us to see how our system works," Ferrante said. "Hopefully, at the end of high school they will have competitive technical skills."
The cadet program is for youths in grades seven through twelve. It will help students develop a working skill in programming, systems administration, or computer repair.
So far, except for Flint and Feaster, all ComputerCorps work is done by volunteers. The intention is to keep the corps predominantly volunteer with those volunteers and the student cadets earning ranks similar to the military. They also earn credits that may be cashed in for computer equipment, Flint said.
Whatever ComputerCorps has going locally, the team wants to multiply in communities nationwide by setting up many ComputerCorps chapters. These chapters would function as self-contained operations that can also turn to the Carson City headquarter or other chapters, Feaster said.
"We have people all over the country that want to set up chapters, especially in rural communities," Norton said. "The technovoid is especially hard on rural communities."
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