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Histon-based father and daughter rebuilding old laptops for those in need

IT expert Colin Myles and his teenage daughter Anya have been rebuilding old laptop computers to give to less privileged children learning from home during lockdown.

Colin and Anya Myles. Picture: Colin Myles
Colin and Anya Myles. Picture: Colin Myles

The dedicated pair have been asking people to donate their old laptops and the response – not just from residents of Histon and Impington, but further afield – has been overwhelming. The initial request was only put out on Facebook on January 5.

So far, Colin and Anya have completed 88 devices – 83 laptop/desktops and five iPads – in less than three weeks.

Colin, 45, said: “In the first lockdown, I was posting IT tips on community pages and then when we came to lockdown three, I realised the lack of laptops was going to be a massive issue.”

Colin, a senior systems architect at Schlumberger, on Madingley Road, continued: “It’s the perfect storm. You’ve got Covid, you’ve got schools closing at very short notice – and once the schools reopen again, there won’t be that need.

“But if you’re asking parents to home school and you’ve only got one computer and three kids, you’ve suddenly got to find another computer, or another couple of computers – and they’re not cheap!

“That’s why we put a plea out to the village. They came back with an amazing response of donations.”

Colin has been liaising with Histon and Impington Junior School to determine who is most in need.

“We know situations of single parents trying to home school two kids on a phone,” he said, “and that’s the reason you want to get to the right people. So the distribution has been done through the school.”

Colin and Anya have also inspired others. “Cottenham, Willingham and Milton have all started saying on Facebook, ‘This sounds good, can you help?’,” explained Colin.

“But we’ve also put what we’ve been doing on a family lockdown page and I’ve had calls from people in Yorkshire and Suffolk... and have emailed things out to various people across the country, telling them how to do it.

"We also gave a webinar for the company I work for on Monday (January 18) to 200 IT professionals globally.”

Colin Myers and daughter Anya who are rebuilding laptops for home schooling. Picture: Keith Heppell
Colin Myers and daughter Anya who are rebuilding laptops for home schooling. Picture: Keith Heppell

Although Colin is actively encouraging people to donate their defunct laptops to him, there are some requirements.

“Anything with a Windows 7 sticker or a Windows 8 sticker, we reckon we can turn around,” he said. “We turn them into Windows 10 computers, which is more familiar to teachers and students.

“There are loads of companies doing this around Cambridge and all over the place, so we’re not unique.

"Any of the older machines go to Phil Priestley at Cambs Youth Panel in Cambridge, and they’ve turned about 900 Linux boxes in the last nine or 10 months. We’ve also given them to Cambridge Online.”

Colin reveals how his daughter Anya, 13, who is currently being tutored online herself, became involved.

“She’s done a lot of stuff with me in the past at events in the village – she’s one of those people that gets involved in the community,” said Colin, proudly.

“She could see what we were doing and realised how important it was to help. We had a big pile of laptops and she said, ‘Can I help in any way?’

"I gave her a bit of training and then after an hour... she’s been taking machines apart. She’s stripped down and rebuilt about 12 but helped with probably 25 now, having shown not that much interest in IT before.”

Anya Myles rebuilding her first laptop computer
Anya Myles rebuilding her first laptop computer

Will Anya follow in Colin’s footsteps and go into IT? “I did say to her that people get paid £300 a day to do this, contracting in London,” said Colin, “and she said, ‘Not interested, I still want to be a primary school teacher’.

That’s another reason why she wanted to help out – she’s got that kind of caring nature.”

Histon and Impington Parish Council has also got involved, giving Colin £550 from the village Covid fund to pay for new SSDs (solid state drives), which sped up the computers considerably and have saved many redundant laptops from landfill.

A spokesperson for the parish council said: “We would like to say thank you to Colin Myles and his daughter Anya who have done some amazing work in recycling old laptops for children without access to computers in our village schools.

“Whilst Colin and Anya’s work began with our local schools, it has now expanded across the UK and globally to get other people interested in recycling laptops and iPads to increase the ability for people to be able to get online.”

To donate a laptop, or to find out how to rebuild your own, email Colin at cbsmyles@gmail.com.

Colin has also put instructions on how you can rebuild your own at cbsmyles.wordpress.com.

To request a loan device for your child, first contact your local school. If they are unable to help, they should be able to put you in touch with someone who can.

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