Personal and technical blog and information site

My Classic Computer Collection

I collect many computers that pre-date the year 2000. I am interested in nearly everything from earlier than 1990. This includes the MITS Altair, IBM clones, Atari 8-bit computers and video game systems, Radio Shack TRS-80 systems, Commodore computers, and much, much more. I like to hoard these old machines and pretend that I have space for them.

But... Why?

I find that it is very informative for a modern programmer to experience the inner-workings of lower-level systems. Understanding paper tape or punch card programs forces you to learn bits and bytes, file formats, and often basic file systems. This helps to explain why a lot of technologies work they way they do today, and provides you with keen troubleshooting skills.

Which machines do I have?

Below is a list of the systems I currently own. As I obtain more, I will add them to this list and document as much information as I can. Select a system from the list to read more about it, what I've managed to do with it, and all of the problems with it that I've felt were necessary to rant about. Only some of the pages are completed at this time.

1977 Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1
1978 Atari VCS (2600) Rev. A
1979 Apple ][ Plus
1979 Atari 400
1980 Atari VCS (2600) Rev. B
1980 Commodore VIC-20
1980 Radio Shack TRS-80 PC-1
1981 Texas Instruments 99/4A
1981 Osborne 1
1981 Heathkit/Zenith Z90
1982 Northstar Advantage
1982 Commodore 64
1982 Atari 5200
1983 Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 4
1983 Atari 800XL
1986 USG Super Duper Casino
1986 American XT5050
1991 Apple Powerbook 140

These are more than enough to keep me busy for a while, but I'm always looking for good deals. Along with these computers I have a pretty large pile of peripherals to mess with. I have a broken Atari 1050 5.25" floppy disk drive, which I could have fixed had I discovered that it had the wrong capacitors before they destroyed a few chips. I also have a Zenith Data Systems green monochrome monitor. The shrill noise it produces is really a deal-breaker for anyone with sensitive hearing like myself.

My Wish List

I would like to find a decently priced Commodore PET, Altair 8800, or anything by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) such as the PDP series computers (wishful thinking, I know). The DEC PDP11 is shown to the right, where Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson are busy creating Unix. Also high on my wish list is the original Macintosh, Commodore PET, and TRS-80 Color Computer.

Despite how valuable they are today, finding an Apple Lisa or Commodore Amiga system would be nice. Considering the addition of an IBM clone to my collection, it would also be nice to have a real IBM 5150 to accompany it. I would like to have at least one working luggable computer such as a Kaypro, Osborne Executive, or SX-64.

Unfortunately, my collection may suffer due to how little I am willing to spend on it. I have ended up with unusual systems like the Zenith Z90 and NorthStar Advantage long before I came across the worldwide best-selling computer, Commodore 64, but this was only due to luck. That being said, this is a budget collection, and it will grow slowly with thrift shop and garage sale adventures.

The TI99/4A is one of my favorite systems. The computer was ahead of its time in computing power and graphics. It sports a 16-bit microprocessor and outputs beautiful color for a 1981 system. More recent events aside, who wouldn't have wanted a computer marketed by Bill Cosby? They paid him a million dollars a year to be their spokesperson.[1] While I do not own the monitor for this system, the photo on the right from Wikimedia Commons shows the full setup.

Learn More

For more information about my collection and classic computer interests, please click the systems listed above or check for recent classic computer articles. Those which are not hyperlinked do not yet have articles written about them.

Written By: Erik W. Greif
Published: 05/06/2014 18:30PST
Modified: 03/24/2018 15:18PST
Article Title: My Classic Computer Collection
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Website Title: Bit Fracture Online
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Media Type: Blog Post/Technical Article
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