Is it time for an International Vintage Computer Association? Was: Yo

From: Chris Kennedy <>
Date: Tue Jun 27 16:55:04 2000

Tony Duell wrote:

> I've seen it said (in print) several times that various hobbies were
> ruined when the rich got involved and simply started pouring money in.

For some value of "ruined". I somehow doubt that the people who were
dumping money in perceived it as a ruining proposition.

> And I don't want classic computing to go the same way.

I doubt anyone wants the hobby "ruined", but if the influx of money
is synonymous with "ruined" then it's utterly unclear that there's
anything that you can do or say to affect the situation.

> > go it. The only way to really appreciate what we do here (well,
> > what *I* do anyway) is to get your "hands dirty" with this stuff.
> Yep!. At least for me there's no interest at all in having a shelf of
> perfectly working old computers and paying a person to look after them
> and run them for me. I want to get inside the machines myself. I want to
> stare at 'scope screens and assembly listings. I want to fix the darn
> thing and enjoy the experience of it working again for the first time in
> perhaps 10 years or more.

I could read this statement as an incredibly arrogant one. The implication
is that if one has money to pour into a hobby that they are unwilling or
unable to pick the machines apart or derive pleasure from the same activities
that you do. I unfamiliar with any evidence to support such a supposition,
nor the implication that the poor hacker is inherently more capable.

> >
> > Maybe you can pay someone to do the work for you, but you're
> > kidding yourself.
> Only one slight problem. If you price the true enthusiasts out of the
> hobby then who are you going to get to fix the machines.

You seem to believe that the two communities are mutually exclusive.
They're not.

> The person who wasn't rich enough to afford a service contract is the
> person who learnt to fix the machine himself. And who can fix similar
> machines now if only he works on them for a few months.
> The person who couldn't afford the ready-written commercial software is
> the person who wrote his own. And who can still program in the languages
> used by classic computers.

Ah, maybe I'm getting it. The premise is that people with money have
always had money and thus would never have learned these skills? This
doesn't seem to admit the possibility of people having acquired their
money because they *have* these very skills. YMMV, and I have a sense
that perhaps it did.


> > Oh, okay, so you're saying that if we can't pay the increasing
> > cost of admission, we're deadbeats, is that it?!?! Try to tell
> Seems like it :-(
> > that to the retired folks who have fixed incomes. Try to tell
> Try telling it to the unemployed hardware hacker who's figured out how to
> fix things that the manufacturer claimed could only be repaired at their
> factory with special equipment.

If in fact it truly requires specialized equipment and this hacker
can demonstrate that it doesn't, I'm at a loss to understand why said
hacker is unemployed save by choice.

> > that to schoolkids who now equate computer=Wintel, and don't
> 14 years ago I realised that unless something was done than all sorts of
> computers, many quite common, and operating practices, were going to be
> lost for ever. I met programmers who had no idea how data could be stored
> as holes in a strip of paper. Electronic designers who thought there was
> something magic about how a CPU worked and that it was more than just a
> collection of gates and flip-flops.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Contemporary
synthesis tools are useless for speeds much above 300MHz, so we're back
to building custom blocks out of transistors with precharge. Does every
designer understand this stuff? No. Does every designer need to? No.
Does everyone need to know about paper tape, punch cards and chipstore? No.
Will this knowledge vanish if all us hobby types fell off the planet? No,
unless we've started burning books again and I didn't get the memo.

> And you're trying to tell me that because I'm not rich I did the wrong
> thing? Get real!

That was hardly what Marvin was saying.

More people have discovered this hobby, which increases demand. Increased
demand increase prices *in markets where cash is exchanged*. There's
more than one way to make a market in this stuff, and there are still
ample opportunities to haul off stuff for free. Personally, I'm
thrilled that I can haul off the stuff that I care about for a tiny
fraction of what it would have cost me just ten years ago.

I'm stuck with the unpleasant feeling that some people are bitching
because they've discovered that their private hobby isn't private,
that other people have more cash than they do, and that as a consequence
they can no longer pick stuff up for fire sale prices the way that
they used to. That's tough, but it's nothing more than basic economics.
As for ePay -- all it really does is make the market more
efficient. If somebody wants to pay $700 for a TRS80 that's his
choice -- but if a small army of people want to pay that much then
there's not much to do but accept that as a reasonable price for
same. Whining about it won't make it go away.

Chris Kennedy
PGP fingerprint: 4E99 10B6 7253 B048 6685  6CBC 55E1 20A3 108D AB97
Received on Tue Jun 27 2000 - 16:55:04 BST

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