Home, Business, or Big? What's your primary computer interest?

In my 40 years of piddling with old computers, I’ve come to classify them into three main types (this is a 70s/80s perspective).
First, there are the “Home Computers” that were often meant for playing games or maybe home productivity. That included Apple ][, Atari, Commodore, Sinclair, Radio Shack Color Computer. Pretty much anything you could hook to a TV and probably had more games than anything else available. Typically color graphics was a primary focus.
Then there were what I call the “Business Computers.” They often ran CP/M or something similar and tended to be text-oriented, monochrome, and usually sold with disk drives. Think most S-100 systems, Osborne, Kaypro, and lots of others. They were often focused on business software and were more likely to be found in a business environment than a home environment.
And of course the “Big Computers” which might be anything from a DEC PDP-8 to a CDC 6600. These were essentially never (at the time) found in a home.
Of course, there are exceptions to all of that.
But I find that most people interested in retrocomputing tend to focus mostly on one of those categories. Being tech-oriented, we usually are at least a little bit interested in all of them, but mostly concentrate on one of the three. Often, it is a much smaller subcategory in one of those. It also appears that most people focus on what they were most accustomed to at that time. So, people like me who used mostly CP/M systems gravitate toward those. People who worked with big iron have basements full of rack equipment and magnetic tapes, and people who love playing games on their C64 are most interested in the home computers.
But that’s my perspective and observation. I would be very interested in hearing other people’s take on this. What are you primarily interested in? Why? How did you get there? Are you interested in PDP-11s because you used them in school in the 80s? Do you collect Commodore stuff because you had a C64? Did you write games in BASIC on your Atari 800 and now have a spare bedroom full of Atari stuff?
What interests you most, and why?

Me first:
I started with a ZX-81, then moved to a VIC-20. But I wasn’t that interested in games. I wanted to write programs and build stuff to attach to the computers (gee, wonder how I ended up in embedded systems?) So I wanted a “real” computer with good software development tools. I moved to CP/M machines and focused on those until I moved to IBM PCs.

Today, most of the retro stuff I have been doing is also geared toward those old CP/M machines. Lately I’ve been getting more into the “home systems” (VIC) but that’s fairly recent. I enjoy reliving what I did then and building on it. And it brings back pleasant memories (and unpleasant ones) using those “ancient” machines. A simpler time.

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A very good question! I’m certainly in the category now of being interested in a wide range, but my introductions to personal computing were with 6502 machines: PET (very briefly), UK101 (to no great result) and then BBC Micro. It’s the Beeb which I use most now, and specialise in: I have a Master and two Beebs ready to go at the flick of a switch. And so, my online life quickly gravitated to 6502.org, and later (I think) came to include the Acorn-centric Stardot.org.uk. My resurrected interest, or reinvigorated interest, started with a Java emulator for the UK101 - not mine - and I’ve since visited many projects on 6502 and on Acorn. (Almost always co-productions.)

I agree - it’s a sort of imprinting - I suspect most of us have a strong favourite. I have other weaker favourites, which came later: Amiga, and to some extent Amstrad’s CP/M machines.

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I think what we used and what we were/are interested in are two entirely different things that depended on finances and circumstance.

I used and owned lots of 6502 based machines, but had business machines (Kaypro, XT Clone) for running my BBS.

But if I had the money to afford the machines and the electric bill, I would have had a mini in the house. And hell, I’d love to have a System 360 to play with! :slight_smile:

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I’ve tried to collect stuff I’ve personally used in my life time although hard to really say what my primary interest is… Interesting things, I guess.

This doesn’t explain the PDP8 though, nor some of my mechanical (and old electric) calculators, however it covers the slide rules!

So Apple II, IIe… BBC Micro/Master… Northstar Horizon (CP/M, N* DOS) Casio and Sharp Calculators. The very first computer I used was an HP 9830A - there are 2 on ebay right now, but sadly way out of my spending range. One day…

DEC Kit… The PDP8? I was given a pair some 35 years ago… And they were left behind when I did a big move 30 years back, but I have one today and a PiDP8… The PDP11… That was my first Unix experience in 1980 and while I’d love a real one, I’ll settle for a PiDP11… (Which I’ll get round to building one day). I do have an oddity of a Unix system though - an Altos box. i386 with 4MB of RAM running BSD… I never used one, had never seen one until 6 months ago when a friend gave it to me with the challenge of getting it going (which I did). I ought to put it online or something, but it’s noisy…

I never really got into games consoles - maybe I was happy with the Apple II and BBC Micro games…

And today… I’m re-creating what might have been my “ideal” 8/16 bit micro by building a 6502 and 65816 system from scratch - although when I started I was thinking Apple, but it seems to have mutated into BBC Micro without any real intention!

I am fascinated by older/mechanical calculators though - perhaps it’s my familys mechanical engineering history - I was using a lathe and hand-tools when I was 8, so mechanical stuff feel natural to me. Even the WITCH at TNMoC - although not purely mechanical it has a mechanical feel to it. (And I have an Anita desktop calculator which has a Dekatron tube inside it - and one day it will work again!)

And with that in-mind, one thing on my ever growing to-do list is built a little relay based computer. Maybe one day!

Cheers,

-Gordon

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Ah yes, I find interesting things interesting too! As for calculators, I still have a strong reaction when I see a calculator keyboard. Or I hear a 1970s song and I can smell the calculator smell… nothing unusual in that, I’m sure.

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I’m a sucker for interesting things. And I find lots of things interesting.
I’ve never even seen a PDP-8, but I would love to have one. I find it fascinating, especially the PDP-8e. At least if I ever manage to get one it won’t be too hard to find space for it. At least it isn’t a PDP-10!

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Most of my retrocomputing friends in Brazil are around a decade younger than me and are interested in reliving their childhood. So they tend to either focus on machines they had back then or else machines they dreamed about but couldn’t have.

My own interest in in learning new things from old computers. So a machine from before I was born is just as interesting as one that I actually had.

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This was my initial interest in the PDP-8 and currently the 6502 - what can we do with them now that we didn’t dream of back then. Sadly my answers are “not a lot more”. Especially with the PDP-8. For the 6502, you can throw banked memory, more and more code at it, but what do you end up with? Something that couldn’t have existed 40 years ago - at least not economically then - both in terms of hardware and the software development tools we now have.

And we can dream about what Apple (for example) might have been like if they’d developed an 8Mhz Apple //gs rather than the Macintosh (without the pressures of IBM looming in the background though!)

-Gordon

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Well put. This business of being fascinated by things never owned or before ones time is behind the attraction I feel for the kind of community that really works for me: inclusive, and reflective, and where we learn of things we didn’t know about before.

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My interest from the beginning was anything computational. My first hands-on machines were Apple, VIC-20, and that ilk. I had, at one point, memorized the hex instructions for the 6502 so that I could enter them in the Apple II monitor or poke them (after a decimal conversion) on the VIC (until I got a monitor card).

I’ve worked on big iron like the 360. I worked for ten year at Inference Corp (somewhat infamous AI company), so we had lots of LISP machines, Symbolics, TI Explorer, and Sun workstations. HP minis and more. I’ve punched a few cards in my day, and certainly run some tape drives.

My ongoing interest is in all three categories.

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When I was in high school in the early 80’s, our “Data Processing” course was still all punch cards. I wish I got one of those machines.

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For me, my first computer I ever used was an Apple iie with a speech card and a disc that had something like notepad, something else, and space invaders on it. The green screen has a special place in my heart and always will.

However my interests lay in a somewhat weird spce given I have neither money nor space to indulge. I would love to make the exterior of one of the old IMPS and inside be the home servers and routing gear along with automated processes to grab specific content for just in case the net goes down’ because for about a decade my internet access was always at risk of just… evaporating month to month due to bill shuffle, and in this decade there’s been just enough shenanagins along with the continual SOPA rash flairups that I’ve had my mind on the matter for awhile. Think supersized piratebox that can ingest whatever I want, but also has a secondary network connection just to itself and or anything else connected to it with shareable.

I really need to get current on this sort of information and haven’t because money/space for tinkering, and doing ANYTHING rural is always a pain, and while I’m technically not rural I’m like… the one guy on my street that has any care on the matter.

Beyond that? Old terminals are always a fun thing (see also the VT320 thread. I would love a few of those in green screen. buttery smooth text scrolling and navigation.)

Always interested in 'what is the absolute most insanely ‘how did they make that hardware do that’ type of projects.

Edit: I would love t osee more 6502 projects.

It took me a long time to decide what the answers to these questions are.

I have a fair amount of nostalgia for some home microcomputers of the mid eighties (e.g., the late Apple II line, 68k Macintosh) because that’s what I “grew up on”. I also have some nostalgia for the tween PCs (486 to early Pentium) because those are where I spent the majority of my “doodling” time and then later what I sold and worked on professionally working in a computer store. However, I have little in the way of collection from this period at the moment. I have access to an Apple //c (the very //c I used in elementary school) but it is not currently conveniently operational), and I have a Pentium III machine from the late 90s/early 2000s, but that’s about it.

I have a significant interest in unusual and groundbreaking (from my point of view) architectures, and I have a number of representative machines of this type, including a TI 99/4A, a Sun SPARCstation 5, Ultra 1, and Ultra 2 workstations, PowerPC G3 and G5 Macintoshes, etc. In each case they’re not necessarily the most representative machine or processor of their subtype, but rather the ones I have been able to conveniently acquire.

I am very interested in minicomputers of the 70s and 80s, and in particular the PDP-11 due to its role in the development of Unix. I have a number of PDP-11/34 machines (although I’d like to pare down that count) and would very much like to acquire an 11/45 or 11/70.

I’m also fascinated by mechanical computation and communication devices, and have a collection of Teletype equipment and mechanical calculators, both hand- and motor-operated.

I enjoy the most equipment that I can actually play with, although I have increasingly little time for playing. I therefore have my Model 28 Teletype hooked up to a radioteletype terminal that I can use for amateur radio RTTY communication, for example, and I keep several mechanical calculators in my office on campus for demonstration to students.

I can be swayed to interest in a particular machine or piece of equipment due to its:

  • Novelty factor
  • Historical importance
  • Elegance
  • Complexity
  • … or probably a dozen other factors.

This leads to a bit of an eclectic and perhaps scatter-brained collection of pieces and interests. :slight_smile:

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