Why do people collect old computers?

Well, to answer that question, one must ask why the interest?  Is it nostalgia? Or because you just like to collect old things, or are you into it for the money? Finally, is the collector attempting to obtain a particular computer from their past, but could never afford when new.

Let’s answer each one of these questions one at a time.

I can tell from experience that most people don’t get into vintage computing for the money.  Very few members of the Vintage Computer Forums and other online vintage computer clubs have much money to support their hobby.   This is why in many cases; it could take two to three years, or more, depending on the availability of various computers/systems/peripherals. Another reason some people, myself included people collect old computers, is to obtain a particular machine, which in the past was just entirely too expensive; for instance, the IBM 5150, IBM 5160 and IBM 5170 systems.  .

My own collection contains 3 such computers; the IBM 5150 + 5161 (Which is a story all unto its own), another IBM 5150 sans expansion unit, but one that came with another very useful update in the form of a completely electronic “hard disc” of sorts.  The upgrade is known as an XT-CF Lite. The last computer in this list of expensive models is another IBM, this one, an IBM 5160 XT, which was IBM’s first ever computer that contained it’s own internal hard disc.  I also own a Compaq Portable 2. These systems could reach as much as $19,000 in 1983 dollars. That works out to $58,530.96 in 2013 dollars as calculated on Dollar Times web site. Even the least expensive of these three computers was priced at $699 in 1984, which calculates out to $1,859.69, using the same tool. Given that the minimum wage back in the early 1980’s was only $2.35/hr, purchasing a new computer was an incredibly expensive endeavor. 

To add even more fuel to the debate; many hobbyists collection profiles focus entirely on one brand, or model within that brand.  Other collectors; like me, are much more nostalgia minded. These collectors gather computers they have had direct experience with, and which systems have had a direct input into the path their lives would eventually take.  For example, my own collection consists of 5 different computers, over 3 brands.

  1. IBM 5150 + IBM 5161 Expansion Unit
  2. IBM 5160 PC/XT
  3. Mac SE HDFD
  4. Compa1 Portable 2
  5. TRS-80 Model 4

Note:  My collection at one point, contained 12 different computers over 4 different brands.  Since then, I have refocused my collection and am now only collecting vintage IBM systems, from the venerable 5150, dual floppy model, to the 5160 XT, the first IBM to include an internal hard disc drive, on to the IBM 5170 AT which is the first IBM to break the 640Kb memory barrier, and finally, an IBM 5155, which is basically like the 5150, but was manufactured to be a portable computer.  .

There is 1 computer left in my wish list; a Series 1 TRS-80 Micro Computer with original B&W monitor and Radio Shack tape recorder. (Much to my wife’s delight! She does support me and my hobby, but I know she’ll be glad when I don’t bring any more computers into the house!)

The point I am attempting to convey here, is that vintage computer collection can be as varied as there are computers and people who collect them. This doesn’t stop at the computer hardware either.  There are a large number of vintage computer emulators available for download on the Internet. These emulators can make locating and gathering software easy, and enables software to be written for various floppy disc formats. In addition to emulator sites, there is also a huge number of resources for locating diagnostics software, business and productivity applications, and, literally tens of thousands of games.  As a testament to this, All Things DOS has over 30,000 game titles in various formats, written for different systems in our archives.

The next area where collectors look is in the area of parts and peripherals, such an AST Six Pack, and Six Pack Plus multi cards, modems, LAN adapters, sound cards, and any number of available upgrades for their systems.  One good resource where I have found like-minded collectors of vintage computers, software, and peripherals is the Vintage Computer Forums. Members of the forums are very knowledgeable, and extremely helpful. Some are also extremely generous as well. I have been given several computers from a couple of the Forums members, as well as information on how to obtain other resources, and lastly; I have gotten very good deals for some of the peripherals used in some of my systems; especially the IBM 5161 Expansion Unit which I was able to purchase and outfit to original specs for only $125.00 while at the same time several expansion units were selling on E-Bay for well over $850.00!

To close this blog entry; a final note on All Things DOS.

A lot of these resources can be found on www.allthingsdos.com.  This web site is the brainchild of Edward Hall, and Thomas Chavez; two guys who have been best friends since kindergarten in 1965.  They have been best friends ever since they met, and now share their love for vintage computing with each other and by creating all Things DOS for others to enjoy.  But, while Ed took a more professional and somewhat more direct road to computer maintenance and construction by joining the Air Force; Thomas on the other hand took a different approach, by going to college at UNLV in Las Vegas, and the Las Vegas Business College, eventually earning a degree in computer programming.  Sadly, Thomas’ education did not include computer maintenance. That would later become a hindrance, since the majority of computer work now includes assembly; especially when it comes to vintage computers. Thomas’ education completely skipped over that aspect of the computer industry. Still, Thomas made a good career working as a technician, and later supervisor with UPS Technical Support, based on his ability to teach himself and others. Thomas worked for UPS for over 16 years before disabilities became too much for him to continue working 8 hour days. Now, his hobby of vintage computing keeps Thomas busy. He can work as much, or as little as he feels, and because of this, Thomas can keep his mind active. Not only has Thomas amassed a small collection of computers, as outlined above, but he continues to learn, and re-learn much that he has forgotten over the last 30 plus years working with computer programming. Now, Thomas reads users manuals, and operation guides for the various computers he owns. Thomas is learning about maintaining the hardware and peripherals as he obtains new equipment, and still Thomas goes to Edward when something comes up that he doesn’t know, or understand.

Ed enlisted in the United States Air Force while still in high school, going into active duty just months after his graduation. Ed joined as a 305X4 Computer Systems Technician where he attended school at Keesler A.F.B. in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is where Ed learned the basics of electronics, computer fundamentals, programming, and went on to specialize in the 465L Data Display Central; a computer that was older than he was, and which at the time still utilized vacuum tube circuitry.  Ed now functions as the Webmaster and Techno-Geek for All Things DOS. This is where he has aided Tom in the creation of their web page of the same name, and where Ed also serves as the primary technician, maintaining all of their vintage/collectible computers and systems. Without Ed, there would be no “All Things DOS, except in Tom’s mind, where the dream would languish and eventually die.

Together, Ed and Tom make up All Things DOS, where both have their interests, and ongoing realization of a dream that Tom shared with Ed nearly three years ago, in 2010, as Tom began obtaining his first vintage and collectible computers.

Today, both Ed and Tom can be found working on either one of the computers, or plugging away updating our web page; each working in their own areas of expertise.

While Ed is the brains behind our web page, it was Tom’s idea that started it all, and which eventually became the brainchild we call All Things DOS. Together Edward and Thomas make a great team.

Please feel free to contact either of us at any time for assistance in your technical issues, or guidance in how or where to begin your own personal collection. We are always there to help.

We hope you enjoyed our site.  Not all of our updates are easily seen.  We’re always adding new programs, or content.   Come back often.  Remember, registration is always free.

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