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A blast from the past: the finest retro PCs people use


In a world where new gadgets are released weekly, it’s easy to forget all the cool tech that was. Since personal computers have been around for decades, some hobbyists take up bringing gorgeous devices back to life. We take a look at the most fantastic retro computers, some of which are even used to play classic video games.

The spectacular comeback of vinyl records and instant cameras has shown an insatiable appetite for nostalgia tech. PCs are no exception. With personal computing in its mid-forties, some like to turn back to the beginning of it all, restoring machines like the infamous Commodore PET of the late ‘70s.

We’ve already told you about modern PC enthusiasts who create elaborate setups, dubbed “Battlestations.” Reddit, however, houses another community with a different perspective on computing.

Members of r/retrobattlestations share a fondness of ‘tech archeology’ and share their best attempts at restoring decades-old devices or any material of the once glorious PCs.

Members of the community say retro computing has a great deal of nostalgia associated with it. As with the NES and SEGA consoles, old PCs allow for a genuine experience of the old DOOM, Sid Meier’s Civilization, or Castle Wolfenstein games.

“I liken it to the love some people have for classic cars, or even Model Ts. Sure, a new car is objectively better in every possible way, and a Model T has almost no real use anymore. However, it’s historically significant as a first of its kind and a progenitor of what is to come,” Reddit user Taffer25 told CyberNews.

A remark that another member of the retro community promptly proved to be true. Frequent poster Kirkwood1994 explained that he was 27, and a feeling of nostalgia is not the driving force behind the hobby.  

“I’ve been collecting vintage computers for almost ten years. Since I’m only 27, I didn’t grow up with these machines, so my interest is trying to push old forgotten hardware to the limits and find ways to use them as communication tools today,” he explained.

In his spare time, he has been trying to connect old computers to the internet over WiFi. That allows enthusiasts to use 40-year-old computers to instant message on old-school bulletin board systems (BBS), a precursor to the modern instant communication experience. The Reddit community even supports a dial-up modem service for its BBS group.

I liken it to the love some people have for classic cars, or even Model Ts. Sure, a new car is objectively better in every possible way, and a Model T has almost no real use anymore. However, it’s historically significant as a first of its kind and a progenitor of what is to come,

u/Taffer25.

Since there’s fewer vintage devices with every passing year, they’re getting harder to obtain. However, according to Taffer25, if you can find them, people are generally happy to give them to you for free or cheap. Large and outdated tech takes a lot of space and is usually considered worthless. It’s even more challenging to maintain.

“The maintenance is also complicated. Computers of the 90s but especially the 80s (or older) are reaching the limit of electronics. You will need to be handy with a soldering iron. I’ve repaired countless old computers by jumping over bad traces or replacing failed capacitors (some fail spectacularly)”, Taffer25 explained.

There are workarounds, of course. Kirkwood1994 told us that even though computers are hard to maintain, they’re easy to work with as a lot of through-hole chips are used that are easy to swap or fix manually. Members within the community also find ways to emulate older chips, and hobbyists can find some of the equipment online.

The NeXT Cube

"Reproduction case + mouse and a prototype 20th Anniversary Mac keyboard"

"Found on German eBay - a weird super sturdy (the construction quality is amazing) luggable"

"It is something I would like to spend more time on"

"ELO TouchSystems touchscreen CRT monitor"

reddit

"Time to hook this up to the modern world"

reddit

"The creators of the PET are said to have wanted to call the first model of the computer HAL 9000. They had to settle on PET 2001"

ADM-5 terminal

DRS - LXI military laptop

"It's like you're living 25 years in the past and moving forward"

Commodore 8032

Shuttle SS59G and a MonsterGecko PistolMouse

Commodore PET

"Sid Meier's Civilization. No words needed"

Image by u/Veddermandenis

"This is the Pravetz 8c. It’s a Bulgarian made Apple II clone"

Image by u/r3vange
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