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

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.

19 comments

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This reminds me, my original Pi from 2012 never had a working USB port …

I always wanted to fix it but never got around doing it. Any hints on where to start looking?

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I still have a drawer full of perfect [straight pins] pis. I’d gladly give them away.

And why are English town names so complicated: Newcastle Upon Tyne

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There’s 2 Newcastle’s obviously named after a new castle to the area. The most well known one Upon Tyne is named after the river Tyne in the North East. The other one Under Lyme in the West Midlands is named after forest of Lyme trees there.

Ashley Whittaker

When I was little I thought my family was from upon Tyne not under Lyme so decided to support Newcastle United (golden Shearer era). I was then disappointed to learn I would need to make a switch and had a choice between Stoke City and Port Vale….

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Also in the UK is Newcastle, Co, Down.

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Also Newcastle Emlyn (Castell Newydd Emlyn) in Wales and probably several others. Quite a lot of Newports and Newtowns too if you look around.
From another angle, why are there such a lot of UK place names appropriated in other countries – particularly the US?

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There are around 25 towns called “Neustadt” (= New Town) in Germany. They also distinguish by mountains or rivers nearby. The problem is when you enter “Neustadt” as search term on Google Maps, you get a list of five which is only 20% of the possible destinations. I’d expect an exhaustive list of all possibilities plus a map of Germany with every Neustadt being highlighted. Hey Google, please fix that.

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Is there anywhere we can donate old pi models to?

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And in particular, anyplace in the western US? I just don’t see paying overseas shipping. I don’t know of any local computer shops interested.

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If you do not have any other idea, I think that you can bring them to the nearest hackerspace:
https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces

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Congratulations James,
You have done a great job for a wonderful cause.
Regards from Brazil.

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As a PiZero user, I can sympathize. Seems like people just don’t care about us. What good is hardware if there’s no software available? And yet, people have been doing great works using Pentium computers. Remember those?
I wonder what the requirements for Desktop Raspi OS as to make it viable?

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I don’t think I’ll ever want to part with my original 2012 model B first batch, with the stick on CE label. Got up very early to join the fray bringing down the RS and Farnell websites.

Still works.

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From looking at the photos, it seems fair to say that a box of unprotected RPi boards (with no case) seem to durable enough to be mis-handled and still keep working! Incredible.

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Could Raspberry Pi follow Apple and partner with a retailer such as the example below ?

Apple and Currys PC World
Return your old Apple device and, if it’s still serviceable and can be refurbished, you could receive an Apple Store Gift Card to put towards a newer model. If your gadget’s time is up, Apple will recycle it. Old iPhones, for instance, can be taken apart to recover some of the resources inside for reuse. The tech giant says it currently disassembles 200 iPhones an hour.

Currys PC World offers a similar scheme for old phones, tablets, laptops and smart watches.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/consumer-advice/consumer-rights/a25915660/brands-that-recycle-products/

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This is a good idea. Perhaps the Foundation can accept trade-ins for a small discount and then donate those older models.

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Still got my original Pi. It’s still working, sitting under the TV and running Kodi on Ethernet (NFS) from a Pi3B as video server.

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It sounds so exciting to give the old Raspberry Pi a new lease of life. I want to cheer James Dawson and contact him to see if I can join this plan, such as buying refurbished equipment, mobilizing more students, and pre-installing some useful features, such as a private cloud disk.

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Good idea! But doesn’t anyone find there’s no resources online for these old Pis? No datasheet…No SCH…No information…Why deleting these documents online?

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