The cost of collecting debate

From: Chuck McManis <>
Date: Tue Jun 27 14:15:42 2000

Recently Jeff and Marvin have been debating the collecting cost issue
again. This was one of Jeff's salvos:

>What I *do*
>care about though, are the poor stiffs who would like to pursue
>computing as a hobby, but will instead have to find something
>else to do, because the prices are out of sight.

This is both true and a fiction at the same time. If you want to pursue
computer collecting as a hobby there are many underrepresented areas that
are still cheap. For example, PC/AT class computers. (aka 80286 based

These typically sell for in the $1 - $15 range at most places, they are
also available for free in quite a few places.

You can approach this particular class of machine as the point where
computers ceased being glorified "toys" and actually started being able to
do real work. If the IBM PC made it "acceptable" for mainstream business to
give its employees one computer each, it was the PC/AT that cemented this
relationship and made it possible to do work.

This was the "start" of the "Millions of standards" bifurcation in the
computer industry, as up to this point computers were "99%" PC compatible
because everything was the same on them. PC/AT introduced us to an I/O slot
that could support a larger memory map and that lead to a host of new video
controllers (several examples could be collected from the "famous" ones
like the Orchid series and Hercules series, to the "infamous" ones.) Analog
monitors came about to support these cards and the very first "multisync"
monitor was introduced. [it impressed the heck out of me, even if it did
make big clicking noises as it tryed to swap in different components.]

There is research to be done, knowledge to recover, and artifacts to
collect. All at very low prices.

Then there is the understanding of Computation, as Richard Feynman and
others understood it, things like the Babbage difference engine and the
Eniac. Often you can re-create this sort of thing from scratch as a hobby
for less than it would cost to acquire an original artifact. People still
by Digi-Comp 1's at Garage Sales for $1 even when they go for >$300 on Ebay
and elsewhere. You can make your own Digi-Comp 1 out of plastic from plans
on the Net for about $50.

Now there are "Investment Grade" Computers

Ok, so the segment of the population that spends its disposable income on
antique trinkets has come to appreciate "old" computers. As is typical in
this type of scenario some machines become desirable because they are well
recognized while others remain anonymous. If you want one of those machines
then you are now going to have to compete with this group of people to
acquire one. New ones aren't being made (except for IMSAI's :-) so the
supply is fixed/dwindling. You can compete with your feet by tracking nice
pieces down (this is essentially what Antique Dealers have done forever)
or with your wallet. You can complain about how your feet are tired and
your wallet is empty, but it won't change anything.

Received on Tue Jun 27 2000 - 14:15:42 BST

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