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By: Thomas McLaren, Proprietor, DigitalDinos
It all started in 1977 when my mom bought me my very first computer: a TRS-80 Model I, Level I, with 4K worth of memory, a black and white monitor (a hollowed out black and white RCA TV,) a cassette drive, and a BASIC capable of following two - Yes, two! - string variables. Ah, those were the days! A great game of Star Trek, called "Space Warp" laid waste to many, many hours when I should have been doing much more important things like ... like ... well ... like memorizing my times tables.
I craved the newest and the next hot, computer system. Well, what budding, young nerd didn't? Obviously back then, I couldn't afford to own them all. Early jobs and going to college kind of ate up the cash. But, I was able to get some nice ones, constantly trading up and up.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Mine is paved with obsolete computer systems. :)
Eventually, the TRS-80 got sold and replaced by an Apple IIe. Augmented by a Radio Shack Pocket Computer 2. Then again by a TRS-80 Model 100. That got jettisoned in favor of a Tandy 600. Another, fully expanded Model I fell into my closet. The IIe got sold and replaced by one Tandy 2000 that was cobbled together from a stack of them that were not working. A TRS-80 Model 4D came into my life at a ridiculously low price and I ran it as a BBS for about a year. (I can still hear the chunk of the four, single-sided, 184K disk drives at 3 a.m. even now.) The Tandy 2000 got relegated to BBS duty by a Tandy 1000 SX. The 4D went into retirement under my desk. The 1000 SX got sold and in came a 1000 TX. The 1000 TX got the boot to the BBS when I got a 386SX based system and an Apple Lisa. From there, the story gets murky. I worked for a computer shop and had access to motherboards, cards, cases, and the like at wholesale prices. I was also running a multi-line BBS that ate my meager paycheck and the latest technology for brunch and lunch. Plus, when my clients upgraded, I often bought their old PCs. (More likely, I was given their old PETs, Apples, Macs, Commodore 64s, Ataris, and so on.) Suffice it to say that when I finally gave up that trade and took up programming and project management - which is what I do for real now - I filled a used computer dealer's truck bed and cab to overflowing with electronic jetsam. I mean, who needs 6 original IBM PCs for goodness sake!
Or was it 10?
I did keep the PETs and the Apple IIs, though. Also the TRS-80s.
And that was when my interest in classic computing all started, about late 1995 early 1996. With a better income and the Internet breezing in all of a sudden, people were dumping classic computers like crazy! All the systems that I could only dream of owning back when were now available, cheap and plentiful. And, I collected everything I could get my hands on.
Only one small problem. Once you really get going in this kind of collecting you start needing rarer and rarer stuff. Usually the people have that rare stuff aren't willing to sell it apart from the system they already have. (I discovered this years and years ago when I had an irate woman hang up on me during a deal because I wanted her TRS-80 expansion interface - for which I was willing to pay a very generous amount for - and not the whole system!) So, I wound up buying entire system after entire system just to get a few choice items. I gave away the extras to nerdy friends, but eventually even they told me that they didn't want any more of, "that old crap!"
Actually, there are two small problems. There are a lot of classic computers out there. I eventually realized that this hobby isn't akin to say collecting - say - Furbies, which I do have a small collection of by the way. First, you can't possibly collect them all. Second, even if you collect what you initially think is a reasonable number of brands, you'll need an oversized warehouse; so, you better cut that number of brands down to one major and two or three as minor interests. (For me that's Apple II in the major. Tandy / TRS-80 and some Commodore and Atari in the minors. And in the minors, the collecting is done except for the very rare exceptions.)
Ok. You got me. Third, you can't play with them if you're busy collecting them. (My wit has never been brief.)
I really didn't realize this second little problem until it was far too late. These are a pair of pictures on the right and left hand sides of the utility room, circa June, 2000.
This was the last time I was actually able to take pictures that would show anything. The utility room is now filled. The garage holds overflow books. The basement has sealed plastic tubs of stuff. And my study? It's a classic computer nerd's dream and a wife's nightmare.
Unfortunately, all this collecting has got to stop. First of all, because I don't have any more room. Secondly, someone else is sharing the house; and well, she rules.
I didn't have the heart to just chuck it all out when the exchange of marriage vows was all over; it took so long to amass! (Plus, she knows how much it's worth!) I know there are collectors out there who would love to put this stuff into their collection. Now with the Internet so common and the classic computer hobby so strong and linked, it only made sense to use new technology to sell old. So DigitalDinos has been started with two goals:
The way I will sell this collection of duplicate triplicates will not be in the way it was acquired. That would be the easy way, but also the dark way for someone who will one day face the predicament that I am in. I have gritted my teeth over this and have decided that the best thing to do for the hobby is to sell it off in the smallest lots at the most reasonable prices possible. (Like it or not folks, eBay sets the prices.)
I'm sure that eventually some of it will go to the dumpster or the next year's computer recycling fair. But most of it will wind up in collections to be appreciated for what it is and was. That brings a certain amount of pleasure to this endeavor that I just don't get from my day job.
Oh, and for the record, I still have my original TRS-80; I bought it back, and it's not for sale. I eventually acquired an expansion interface for it, but not from that irate woman of years gone by. (...not that I'm bitter...) Also, I never did memorize my times tables. I know the Multiplication Rock songs and have owned a calculator watch since there were such things which all occurred much to the chagrin of my third grade math teacher. (...not that she's bitter... :)
Feel free to visit my personal website, Xartica. There you'll find more about me and my past and present interests, eventually. It's not like that site is on any serious development schedule either! ;)
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