A passion for old computers was born almost for pleasure in 1996; while at the school where I have been teaching computer science since 1987, together with the fifth grade, we were looking for a topic that could combine technology, history and mathematical sciences to prepare for the state exam. The choice fell on the creation of a website that would recall the most important events in the history of computer science: we called the work “Virtual Computer Museum”.
It was interesting for me and the students to return to the history of mankind in search of pioneers who, through their intuition, contributed to the development of computers as we understand them today. Subsequently, carried away by this subject, I began to gradually increase the amount of material exhibited; but something tangible was always not enough to show or even use it to young generations.
Here, rummaging in school depots, in the attic of a house, in flea markets and, sometimes, extracting … from garbage cans, some very interesting pieces materialized, just waiting to be cleaned or repaired to restore the ancients. glory. It took a year of work, in my free time from studies, when my commitment as a teacher allowed me to prepare this collection, of course, not unique in its kind, but useful for preserving this very important part of our history from destruction. And finally, the first interested visitors were able to visit the collection.
Unfortunately, the room where the material is placed, about 70 square meters, does not allow to demonstrate all the tools, but a limited number of objects, perhaps, allows you to create a more concentrated educational path. Yes, because the purpose of the museum is precisely the spread of computer culture, showing young people how their fathers calculated, and their grandfather and grandmother before that.
Tips on buying vintage computers. From these first results it becomes clear that the country has a rich and diverse situation: in almost all regions there is at least a historical collection of computer equipment, even if it is often located in small or very small centers and is not always open to visitors, but also when non-public collections allow you to arrange temporary exhibitions through a loan that attract visitors.
In addition to large institutional museums, most of the collections were created on the initiative of individuals who began to collect available informational materials, sometimes adding them to previous collections of office machines (typewriters and calculators) or electric and electronic instruments. (telephones, telegraphs, radios and televisions). The greater presence of desktop calculators and personal computers is justified by the high availability of these artifacts, in turn, due to their wide distribution and the rapid obsolescence of technology.
The constant replacement of these cheap tools every few years allowed us to purchase a large number of computers, peripherals and accessories (often still functioning), which can be purchased at a price.
Museums and collections of the history of IT are almost absent; finally, these categories of computer equipment also have the advantage that they take up little space and are easily portable in case of loans. On the other hand, the retention of old mainframes and their peripherals is associated with transportation and storage problems that only a few institutions may encounter.
Many collectors regularly and passionately devote themselves to putting old computers into operation, as well as organizing public demonstrations and participating in international events that bring together “experimental archaeologists”. The results of this activity often have an interesting educational aspect, which helps to penetrate the secrets of technology, which for most non-specialists seems hidden in inexplicable magic. Experimental archeology is less critical for microcomputers and solid state minicomputers, and machines in the last 40 years are still easy to operate.
The cost of vintage computers. The most serious limitation may be the availability of software, especially operating systems recorded on magnetic media (disks, tapes), which are barely legible: a serious problem known as “digital obsolescence”. Fortunately, the international community of enthusiasts managed to restore and make available on the Internet not a small “old-fashioned” software that can allow you to restart old machines, the equipment of which is still working. Numerous educational events that are organized by many small and large institutions and offer primary and secondary schools or the general public are praiseworthy.