back to article BOFH takes a visit to retro computing land

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns So I'm digging around in the Pit of Despair - ie, the IT Storeroom, when the Boss wanders in, having no doubt been drawn in by the tractor-beam of obsolescence. "Look!" he says, pointing at a chunk of off-silver on a shelf. "Is that an M1330?" "An old laptop," I say. "Yes!" he gasps, …

  1. Sam not the Viking
    Pint

    A phrase to remember

    'Thames Quality': Brilliant. ---->

    You haven't got an hp-45 calculator in there have you? Asking for a friend.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A phrase to remember

      Yeah, and I have a "friend" wondering how much for the TRS-80 Model 100 :-)

    2. Schultz
      Facepalm

      Re: A phrase to remember

      Just repaired an old HP-42s, so my kid could have a calculator for school. Turned out to be a real PITA, but free42 somehow violates the school's no-phone policy :(.

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: A phrase to remember

        " . . .somehow violates the school's no-phone policy :(."

        Time for carpet and quicklime. There are Darwinian levels of stupidity that need recognition.

    3. Terje

      Re: A phrase to remember

      I still have my fully functional hp-48gx, the fools that haven't seen the superiority of a stack based reverse polish notation calculator are just fools!

  2. Locky

    Environmentally Responsibility

    Much easier in the old days, it just mea.....

    .. is that a fax cable for a Nokia E90?

  3. Sampler

    I always thought I was bofh, we even have the same name, but, it turns out, today at least, I'm the manager...

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Pirate

      If this manager gets all excited about a Soundblaster and CDROM then he has (had) much more clue than the typical manager.

      This can't end well, I hope he's avoiding stairwells and windows...

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Joke

        If you're old enough to remember that kit, then you will already be avoiding stairs to save your knees and dicky ticker.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Joke alert? No joke!

        2. David Austin

          It's true, but you didn't need to say it out loud, jeeze...

        3. ITMA Silver badge
          Devil

          I remember pretty much all of that kit. I even had a collection of Commodore PETs (with 3040 and 4040 dual floppy units).

          And I do NOT avoid the stairs to save my knees, thank you very much.

          I only avoid stairs if there is no supply of oxygen bottles at the top.

          And I was wondering what caused that spate of flat types around Elephant & Castle......

      2. TekGuruNull

        Take care indeed

        Every episode without a defenestration increases the risk...

      3. the spectacularly refined chap

        If this manager gets all excited about a Soundblaster and CDROM then he has (had) much more clue than the typical manager.

        Mid 90s is more into the EIDE era. You can still find new optical drives for a pittance if you go to the right places The days of the e.g. Matsushita interface were already past. In that era it would have been an SB16 and the Gravis Wavetable daughterboard everyone lusted after. The AWE32 was on the market but wasn't as well regarded.

      4. doublelayer Silver badge

        "If this manager gets all excited about a Soundblaster and CDROM then he has (had) much more clue than the typical manager."

        Why? What does this prove other than that the manager knows what good 1990s computer parts entail? It doesn't necessarily indicate that the manager is good at using them, even if we assume that the manager has an intended use for them because they're not so unique nowadays.

        I am younger than most of the people telling stories in these threads, which means as a side-effect that I have much less interesting hardware in my storage. However, it doesn't sound like the stuff we're nostalgic for, no matter our age, was necessarily the best equipment but rather the stuff we were familiar with. If I had a ZX81 around, it sounds like people would want it because it's a computer well-beloved by those who started with it, but it's not exactly the apex of hardware from the era or any real use today.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Windows

          "If this manager gets all excited about a Soundblaster and CDROM then he has (had) much more clue than the typical manager."

          Why? What does this prove other than that the manager knows what good 1990s computer parts entail? It doesn't necessarily indicate that the manager is good at using them, even if we assume that the manager has an intended use for them because they're not so unique nowadays.

          When I made the comment I was thinking back to the days of mscdex.exe, autoexec.bat etc. In order to use a computer in those days for gaming you had to be more tech-savvy than just clicking buttons in Steam like you do today.

          God I'm old -->

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            That doesn't necessarily indicate technical knowledge, though. I wasn't around for those, but I did use computers not long thereafter, and I learned to get the more complex setup working. However, I managed that by reading and memorizing instructions and guides, not by having a lot of knowledge of why the settings had to be configured the way they were. The better understanding of what the components were doing when I issued commands only came later when I started focusing on understanding what was happening and why, not what I had to do to make it work.

            Throughout my childhood, I assumed that someone who was good at using a computer must be really knowledgeable about how it worked. I knew a couple people, for example, who were quite at home with DOS commands and thus the Windows command line, and I assumed they must be technical people. Eventually, though, I learned that they were just people who had done work on DOS machines and that, although I hadn't, I had a better understanding of what was happening when they ran commands which is why they were asking me to fix things. For context, one of these people was convinced that a Bash session running on Linux must be DOS, no matter how I tried to clarify that it wasn't and that it was 2010 so they should know that a modern laptop running DOS was unlikely.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Well, a ZX81 wasn’t any real use then either, but it was what we could get.

          1. spold Silver badge

            ...makes a good doorstop :-)

      5. Adrian 4

        > This can't end well, I hope he's avoiding stairwells and windows...

        He's safe while his wallet is getting refilled

    2. Hot Diggity

      It turns out that we all are. Sigh.

      Oh to be in that put of despair. It would be weeks before I came out.

      1. theblackhand

        Find an emulator....

        Digging up old hardware starts with a "bargain", is briefly interrupted by some failed hardware, encouraged by buying a replacement card for a small fortune before entering the world of resoldering and buying dead cards and motherboards in the hope that you can find that elusive working component.

        If the game you were hoping to play was "1990s hardware technician" then you're in luck, for other games you have emulators to get to the really fun task of configuration settings to try and make them them work properly...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Emulators don't give you the warm glow of - well, a warm glow. Nor the faint whiff of PCB substrate although PCBs have never been quite so fragment since fibreglass replaced Paxolin.

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            PCB Substrates

            ...since fibreglass replaced Paxolin. ...and also replaced Bakelite. Some of the smell of older electronic devices comes from the dust accumulated on the vacuum tubes getting hot.

            Memories of my Telequipment S52 ServiceScope spring up..

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: PCB Substrates

              Bakelite? I used to dream about bakelite...

              Seriously though, I once many years ago had a valve radio where the "circuit board" was wire wrapped components mounted on a piece of cardboard. Not regular cardboard because everything became rather warm. Probably something awful like asbestos-impregrated cardboard.

              1. omikl
                IT Angle

                Re: PCB Substrates

                Bloody iPad interface…

                Anyhow, what I meant to say was:

                I bought a 1981 Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp [1] about twenty years ago that had suffered a long and hard life in the rehearsal studios of Kuala Lumpur, and as a result had become somewhat less than Bullet proof.

                The construction of these amps, even as late as 1981, was based on tag board. Discrete components soldered to metal tags mounted to fibreboard and hooked up with wires.

                Anyhow, thirty-some years exposure to the tropical climate around these parts had lead to the fibreboard becoming a less than perfect insulator, and one of the many problems that the amp was suffering from was current leakage in the HT circuit. Valve amps have 300-400 VDC floating around inside them. Not for the unwary.

                One major advantage of these older amps of this type is that they can be repaired by anyone with a soldering iron who knows how to safely discharge a power supply smoothing capacitor.

                Speaking of repairs though, I used to work for ICL back in the day, and one of the things that came to light after the fall of the Iron Curtain was that an enterprising engineer in Poland had managed to keep a late ‘70’s 1900 series mainframe running by means of field expedient repairs, which included their building a whole new backplane from scratch with only a service manual to guide them. They had hand wired the whole thing using a wire wrap tool.

                1) For those who aren’t partially deaf old guitar players, a Twin Reverb is a large valve amp of a type known as a combo, meaning that the speakers and amp are in the same box. This particular variant was rated to put our 130 Watts at 5% total harmonic distortion through two 12” speakers. Translation: Loud enough at full volume to curdle milk in the next county.

        2. MCPicoli

          I believe most fans of retro hardware want just to relive the experience of bygone years. That being the case, this - the 1990s hardware technician "experience" - is just what most want. They WANT to fiddle with cards, WANT to "score" that rare card with unobtanium components, they WANT to dirty their hands, and then savour the result.

          Others are like old cars enthusiasts, trying to preserve and maintain old hardware and software just for the sake of keeping it working as it was decades ago. Their pleasure also is derived from the challenge, or the exclusivity. "I own the only working $old_computer this side of the pond", etc.

          Emulators please the archivists, that want to avoid any and all losses in software, sometimes from acknowledging that old hardware is limited and will more so every moment in the future, sometimes from an almost pathological "accumulator" side of their (ours?) personalities. Or just to make things easier? Most (of all) old software and games would fit in a few modern HDDs.

          With a few exceptions, my opinion is that old games and software are usually crap. Nobody builds a retro PC to USE Lotus 1-2-3 in real scenarios or to play some obscure DOS game unless it has some special meaning to them. Again, in my opinion, the retro computing is much more than just that.

    3. Rafael #872397
      Windows

      Short, shameful confession

      I keep punch cards (the ones I used at the university!), 8-inch floppy disks, and such in my office, in a small museum/shrine. Recently I got hold of some Jaz disks and some hard disks for 1980's computers. I'm still looking forward to buying a ZX-81-like model we had in Brazil in the 1980s...

      Old fart icon because...

      1. H in The Hague
        Pint

        Re: Short, shameful confession

        "I keep punch cards ..."

        Lucky you. I so regret not keeping a few of those, and mark-sense cards and paper tape - in those days digital data was actually visible and tangible.

        Have a good weekend -->

        1. Charlie van Becelaere

          Re: Short, shameful confession

          "Lucky you. I so regret not keeping a few of those, and mark-sense cards and paper tape - in those days digital data was actually visible and tangible."

          Ah, I know exactly where I've stored my stack of punch cards (with a COBOL inventory control program) and my roll of paper tape (with something in BASIC approaching the level of a "hello world" program).

          Unfortunately, it was on a shelf in my cupboard two houses ago.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Short, shameful confession

          I think I might manage all three providing the carbons of OU marking sheets from my Tutor-Counsellor days can count as mark-sense. I'm sure I most have a few old files of those somewhere.

      2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Media Conversion

        I dumped my punched cards, punched paper tapes, and 9-track mag tapes because there was nothing I could afford to read them into a microcomputer with, although later I did interface my Commodore-64 with an ASR-33 Teletype as a printer-only device.

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: Media Conversion

          because there was nothing

          My Dad never did fully adjust to the 'smart phone' option.

          So he was using punch cards till the day he died. Handy shirt-pocket size, and don't wad up the way plain paper does.

      3. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Short, shameful confession

        Punched cards, we used to dream about being allowed punched cards… We were issued with OCR cards with the same format, that you used a 4B+ pencil to black out the marked oblongs. When the program didn’t work, you rubbed out the mistakes and tried again. Eventually, you might be allowed to make the cards permanent by punching out the graphited bits. If the program was thought useful, sometimes it was transferred to paper tape.

        1. Sam not the Viking

          Re: Short, shameful confession

          Is there no one (else) in this elite commentary-group who has used punched-tape?

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Short, shameful confession

            I'm not that old. 5¼" disks and C90 audio tapes are the oldest storage media I remember.

          2. Bebu Silver badge

            Re: Short, shameful confession

            I remember mid '70s when VDUs were displacing teletype terminals ASR 33s(?) in the client room of the computer centre that some if the teletypes had paper tape readers attached. Because we were billed on connect time as well cpu x core x time I worked out you could use the teletype offline to write punch your text to paper tape and later when logged in could use PIP or somesuch to copy the paper tape to the disk (file.) It was Fortran IV or Snobol for a course but I remember an Algol 60 compiler (luxury) was also available.

            I am dangerously veering towards the famous Monty Python sketch :)

          3. WereWoof

            Re: Short, shameful confession

            Used punched tape at school in the late 70s and of course my parents business in the Middle East had a TELEX machine that used punched tape.

            1. JulieM Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Short, shameful confession

              The punched paper tape used for Telex was 5-level Baudot code, not 7-level ASCII.

          4. Potty Professor
            Boffin

            Re: Short, shameful confession

            I was for many years the Tape Centre Supervisor of the Tuesday Night Crew at Royal Observer Corps Headquarters in Coventry Group. As such I had under my purview several tape punches/readers and a fair few minions to operate them. Everything that came into or left our Ops Room went through that department (I nearly said "my department", but I couldn't honestly claim it as mine as I had to share it with the other two TCSs on the Monday and Wednesday crews). On one exercise, we were told to stand to attention at our posts because we were to be inspected by the "Scrambled Egg" and the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire. I was told off because I was seen holding my new wife's hand (she was on my team), but the Lord Lieutenant was highly amused.

          5. Ghostman

            Re: Short, shameful confession

            Like the ones I used to program the CNC machines to produce the brackets to hold coffee pots on the KC-135?

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Short, shameful confession

          That sounds like the ones we had to use, at school. I can't remember much about those days, half a century ago, but I'm pretty sure that we used a thick, soft pencil, sent our stack of cards off ( to Manchester Uni) and waited for them to come back with errors, then tried again. The fun was in trying to create a major loop in the programme that wouldn't get picked up. The intention was to try and bring the computer to a halt as the loop value grew too big.

          Sadly I can't remember any details- I might not have even known some, like what language ( if any - since it was of course all in numeric code, because that's what eh cards were, not these high level wordy things they use nowadays) we were using. I guess it must have had a name, to us it was just code.

          1. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: Short, shameful confession

            I was working for the government in the mid-late 70s - Some were for adding records to dedicated databases and some were FORTRAN.

      4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Short, shameful confession

        They're awfully handy for shopping lists and telephone notes. Folded in half, the fit nicely in a shirt pocket or wallet.

    4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Happy

      Tractor beam on!

      Fancy an Adaptec 2940UW SCSI control, Viking Quantum-II hard disk, and an iOmega ZIPdrive with SCSI port? I also have an Adaptec 1542 somewhere.

      I also just found an original 8" floppy disk (128 kB storage) of Digital Research CP/M 2.0 in my Pit of Despair. Please enter bids now

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Tractor beam on!

        " iOmega ZIPdrive"

        Was that the Apple version?

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll let the Boss have my

      ♫ ♪ ♬ ♫ ♪ ♬ ♫ ♪ ♬

      La-La-LAAAAAAAAAAAA!

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: I'll let the Boss have my

      I'd be very surprised if no-one would take that - ebay is your easiest option, but there's also various retro sites out there. Are you in the middle of nowhere where no-one wants to travel to?

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: I'll let the Boss have my

        I have a load of ancient crap (that once upon a time you couldn't give away), but I really can't be doing with the hassle of putting it on eBay, even if the stuff fetches silly money these days. Stuck in a box, easy to ignore. Plus in another twenty years (if I live that long) I might be able to flog the stuff for WTFdude amounts... not that I'll be bothered to do so then, mind you.

  5. Franco

    I moved house a few years ago and had a clearout, sold an old Win98 PC that had a Soundblaster (AWE32 I think) and a 3DFX Voodoo3 GPU in it. Couldn't believe how many people were bidding on it and emailing me offers to end it early.

    1. John Riddoch

      Probably for some old games which don't play on newer Windows. I know Hogs of War is one which plain refuses to start on XP or newer; never managed to figure out a way to get it working, sadly. AWE32 and Voodoo3 were pretty much the gold standard in gaming specs back in the day, I think almost everyone used them.

      1. WonkoTheSane
        Linux

        The trick with Hogs of War is to run it using WINE on a Linux box.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Alert

          Can anyone help me get the sound working on original TETRIS (CGA/EGA/Tandy graphics, with the Matthias Rust Cessna in the red splash screen) on DOSbox? I distinctly recall 8-bit tunes through the PC speaker, but need to purchase a clue.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            The Tandy 1000 had a 3 channel AY-3-8910 sound chip in it and some games supported that. That would sound more like "8-bit tunes" than anything from the PC speaker. Maybe DOSBox needs setting to emulate the Tandy 1000 Sound device. Try setting machine=tandy in the config file.

            On the other hand, I remember speech coming out of the basic PC speaker. Poorly, but understandable :-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        1. Franco

          Good option for a lot of games from that era, but there are also a good few that only ran on top of Windows as well. A few I had that I can remember were Need for Speed (II SE and 3: Hot Pursuit), Wipeout 2097 I think. Quite a few were also rewritten from their original DOS versions to run on Windows, Doom and X-Wing are some I remember.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Need for Speed II SE was never a DOS game - it was a Windows native game from the get-go.

      3. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

        ahh, Hogs of WAARR sonny.

        RIP Rick...

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Stop

      Is it still being sold, I erm used to have a P2 with an AWE32 and I just prefer its midi sound to the software crap these days.

      What do you mean you sold it a few years ago!

    3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Soundblaster? I still have a Gravis Ultrasound (in a 80486DX2) somewhere in the attic... Have to hold on to the good stuff ;-)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've got a 286 processor, some ram and a massive 40mb hard drive knocking about somewhere. Pretty sure I've got a sound card as well but not a sound blaster and a Voodoo2. Recently put an FX8350 processor and some memory into storage. Don't ask why. I think it's just nice to be able to look back at them in the future at some point.

  6. GlenP Silver badge

    Depreciation

    I once worked for a company where the FD had capitalised everything with 15% reducing balance depreciation, in effect it would never be written off and she refused to allow anything with a book value to be disposed of.

    She got really upset when she needed a valuation on the sale of the company, equipment she'd got valued at a few £1,000s was only worth, in real terms, £90 and that was if we delivered it to the recycling company. Apparently that was my fault!

    1. Mark Honman

      Re: Depreciation

      It happens... once I was very keen to buy an old HP1000 L-series off my employer, but it turns out that it had been purchased with SW which had been included in the book value - and it was to be depreciated over 10 years!

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Depreciation

      Apparently that was my fault!

      Depending upon your job description, it may have been.

      NB: Scapegoat is also a job description.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Scapegoating

        NB: Scapegoat is also a job description. ... applicable to Chief Security Officers in bad companies. Company's computer(s) are breached, CSO is fired, the standard "We take security very seriously ... an officer has been fired ... we will be making changes to address ... a small number of customers may be affected ..." announcement is made, and business continues as usual.

        Disclaimer: I was not, am not, nor ever will be a CSO.

        1. Mostly Irrelevant

          Re: Scapegoating

          Having a job like that can be good business, as long as the pay is good. You can get another CSO job at a bad company pretty easily if you have experience. Like most executive roles, they get fired all the time but it doesn't matter for the next job.

    3. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: Depreciation never written off

      I 'inherited' an asset register where someone (i.e. the chairman) had done that, but negotiated with the auditors that once any item reached £50 it was removed from the register. After the few years everything settled down and only the worthwhile things remained, making everyone's lives far easier.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Depreciation

      She was a pretty shit FD then. Everyone knows that kit has a selling cost, ie there is a cost to be factored in to the process of actually selling the item(s). If the deprecation is allowed to fall below the selling cost, then it costs more to dispose of it than it's sale price value. You get shot of it before that happens, unless it's being scrapped, in which case you price up the scrapping costs too. And annual depreciation of 15%? Sounds like she had no idea of lifecycles and was depreciating based on heavy machinery with a much longer expected lifetime. Even our company cars are depreciated at 25% to 33% annually.

    5. Mostly Irrelevant

      Re: Depreciation

      15% for computer equipment isn't compliant with GAAP. You're supposed to use a realistic number so the book value is always slightly lower than what you can offload it for. Otherwise you end up with a balance sheet full of turds.

    6. Ozan

      Re: Depreciation

      Two companies ago, we had a junkyard to store all those old cars and buses. Dropping them meant that we had to pay a lot of taxes defered so instead they just kept them.

  7. Ozan

    Lovely reference to one of my favorite BOFH story. He is one dedicated gamer.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone who has a loft full of Infocom Games and associated newsletters / ads, I can sympathise with the boss on this one....

  9. Paul D Smyth

    Apple Lisa

    If BOFH has an Apple Lisa he's lucked out for sure. Easily £3000+ lol

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Apple Lisa

      Maybe he'll take the cash and then use some of it on carpet and quicklime...

      We used to have a BOFH icon, as we're now Paris-deprived could we have it back -->

      1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Apple Lisa

        we're now Paris-deprived

        You miss her? Me too...[*]

        [*] Hey! It's an experiment! In olden days the Moderatrix would've approved, I am sure.

    2. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      Re: Apple Lisa

      The director will probably have an unfortunate accident between paying up that £3k and receiving the goods.

      As might his replacement.

    3. Sudosu Bronze badge

      Re: Apple Lisa

      Its probably resting atop the Cray-1

  10. Trygve Henriksen

    The TRS 80 Model 100 should have been among the stuff 'responsibly disposed of'...

    What a pile of sorry code. They say that it's the last computer BillG was in on the programming of the OS on.

    I believe it. If you start any of the built-in programs fresh out of the box you'll get an error.

    Also, unlike what the Americans think, it wasn't the first 'laptop'

    the Epson HX-20 came first.

    And is a much more capable machine, too.

    Yes, I have them. I also have the TRS 80 Model 102. Mostly a slightly slimmer 100.

    I have the Osborne.(First portable. No, I don't count that movable IBM), the Commodore SX-64, and a few others.

    The Epson PX-8 is extra nice...

    I have the Amstrad NC-100 and 200. Anyone got a 150 for sale?

    I have Apples, I have Newtons, I have the eMate...

    Even a non-toasted PowerBook 5300.(Popularly known as the Hindenbook because of its tendency to catch fire... But only the model with Li-Ion batteries, supplied by Sony, did that. Mine's a Ni-mh model)

    I have Psions, a cratefull even, and a Geofox among them. I have Palms, I have REXes.

    I could use a BBC Model B, though. Is it export limited or something?

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: The TRS 80 Model 100 should have been among the stuff 'responsibly disposed of'...

      If you are going on the Epson heritage, then what about the EHT-10?

      This was a hand-held, touch screen portable.

      It could have a printer attached to the top and was used in this configuration by Traffic Wardens in many London boroughs.

      Just to put the age in context (released in 1982), they were used by the Concord load handlers to distribute the weight evenly in its hold. (That was my first exposure to 'C' code.)

      https://randoc.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/epson-eht-10

      Icon, because Epson UK used to come to me to get their technical questions answered.

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: The TRS 80 Model 100 should have been among the stuff 'responsibly disposed of'...

        I actually have an Epson EHT, can't remember the correct number. With some accessories, but no documentation. Haven't had time to search it out.

        I'm more a Psion fan when it comes to handhelds... ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The TRS 80 Model 100 should have been among the stuff 'responsibly disposed of'...

      I had a TRS 80 Model 100 back in the late 1980’s - great m/c. Even had a disk drive for it. I remember a trip to the USA in 1989 to visit several key suppliers; I took it to type up reports that I was then able to transfer onto my office PC (a DEC Rainbow) on my return to Aberdeen. The Tandy ran for a month on 4 AA cells, had a decent keyboard and, whilst the screen was limited, it was very usable (for the time); it even has a built-in modem - slow but, again, usable for transferring text files.

      I sold the Tandy a couple years later and got a Toshiba laptop (I needed to run WordPerfect 5.1). Regretted the move now.

      I regularly pass a road sign to Cortins and get pangs of nostalgia (the Tandy had a core program called CORTNS that always appeared on its home display). I passed on the opportunity to buy one a few years ago (enough old hardware and program disks in my attic already) :(.

  11. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Windows

    cluterr free mee

    Best place to enjoy this hardware is on the LGR youtube channel , and keep your attic clear

    see also Emulators

    1. Robert Moore
      Mushroom

      Re: cluterr free mee

      LGR is a gateway drug. Manyl of my machines were purchased after watching one of his videos.

  12. John H Woods Silver badge

    NMOC

    Taking the kids round the National Museum of Computing (yes, you really must go) it was "Dad, haven't you got one of those at home?" on an endless loop.

    I remember they suddenly 'got' logarithms by playing with a wall mounted slide rule...

    But the real revelation for them was seeing a 3.5" disk: "Oh that is why the save icon is that funny shape!"

    This was so hilarious I relayed it at work. Whereupon the reaction of almost all those I told was, you guessed it: "Oh that is why the save icon is that funny shape!"

    1. CowardlyLion

      Re: NMOC

      I once heard "why have you 3D printed a save icon?" in reference to one :)

      1. Adrian Harvey

        Re: NMOC

        I told my kids that joke when I found an old 3.5” floppy in the attic - my daughter’s reaction was ‘what’s a save icon?’ Growing up in an age of Google Docs and the like she had never seen or used a save icon. That means to some kids even knowing what a save icon is makes you ‘old’. So actual floppy disks are 2 ‘generations’ back I guess….

      2. Sudosu Bronze badge

        Re: NMOC

        I actually have a bunch of old IBM licenses that are stickered onto fake solid 3.5" floppy disks that could easily pass for 3D printed ones.

        We used to use them as coasters.

    2. Blitheringeejit
      Thumb Up

      Re: NMOC

      Or for those prepared to venture further north. I can highly recommend this:

      https://retrocomputermuseum.co.uk/

      A wonderful collection, quite a lot of which is available for visitors to play on.

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: NMOC

        Ahem. Both of them are South of my current location. (Both of them are well worth a visit).

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: NMOC

          Ooooh...me too. That's more than half-way to London for me :-)

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: NMOC

        And for those on the continent, especially the Netherlands and neighbouring parts of Belgium and Germany:

        Home Computer Museum.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: NMOC

          And for those in/near Switzerland, Musée Bolo. It includes some rather tasty bits of old supercomputers.

      3. Sudosu Bronze badge

        Re: NMOC

        Look Mum No Computer (youtuber) opened the Museum of Everything Else which looks pretty interesting.

        He is self taught and I truly believe he is a real "mad scientist"

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dug out my old Psion 5mx just this week to show a whipper snapper. Powered up, but memory backup battery flat, so blank. Did install the PsiWin software, was some warning about 16 bit software on Windows 64 bit - it does seem to run.

    Just need to find a RS-232 adapter / card /cable now....

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      The adaptor cable is easy (I have 2) but getting an IR port on your modern phone is far more difficult these days ...

  14. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    The minor shock here is that those are actually decent prices

    ebay is probably overpriced, but you'll pay more there than slipping several notes to Simon. Prices were going up, and the pandemic just made it even worse.

    You can still get Pentium 4 systems and Core through relatively recent PCs for absolute buttons however.

  15. Joe W Silver badge

    BT?

    The boss worked for them... ok. Explains a bit, doesn't it?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: BT?

      That's just the current Boss. There have been and will be others.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you've got a spare Acorn A5000 in there, preferably with "Chocks Away", I'll take it.

  17. Luiz Abdala
    Pint

    Don't mention Soundblaster.

    I spent more time fine tuning dos boot sequences to free the 600 kilobytes of base memory to make those DOS games run properly, than actually playing them.

    Then their original media got destroyed before I could setup a dosbox for them, eons later. Never bothered with them again, chasing a bootleg copy, whatever.

    Now they are so cumbersome to play, they belong in the past, behind several layers of rosy, laser-etched colored glasses.

    A drink to those memories.

    1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

      Re: Don't mention Soundblaster.

      Apart from fiddling with the boot sequences I used to run EMM286.exe to get paged access to the whole 4Mb RAM in my 286 IBM. Had to fit a huge stack of individual chips to the motherboard to get that much RAM. Allowed me to run Wolfenstein 3D and a few other games that were spec'd for 386 and higher. Also made a 1024x768 Raytrace possible in under 48 hours. The amount of time I spent on various BBS's trawling for performance upgrades and patches was ridiculous, but then that was before the WWW existed when social media was confined to chat-rooms on BBS's, so I guess it kept me out of trouble and gaol. I ditched all my old kit years ago, like most did, but I still have my Dad's AVO Model 8 that he bought new in the 60's.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Don't mention Soundblaster.

      Some retro games are still excellent, easiest option is to buy them again for not much from GOG.com, where they've done the work to let you single click install your way to gaming.

      Otherwise it's around a long evening of effort to set up all the boot menus and find modern memory efficient drivers. IBM PC DOS 2000 is very capable at freeing up a lot of memory. It's generally easier than it was originally as people have had years to develop new drivers.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Don't mention Soundblaster.

        And/or a trawl around archive.com. Lots of games for almost any system you can think of saved on there for posterity. Some you can even play in your browser through their own emulators, other you can download and try setting up yourself.

  18. Red Ted
    Go

    Embarrassed in to having a clear out...

    ...after having my partner say "oh look, the contents of our loft" every time we went to the computer museum!

    1. gryphon

      Re: Embarrassed in to having a clear out...

      Like the contents of my garage with loads of bits and bobs, DIY tools and so on.

      Esteemed spouse - Why don't you throw all that rubbish out, you've never used it in 10 years

      Me - You never know today what you might need tomorrow

      I've not got too much in the way of old computer stuff that I don't use really.

      AMD Athlon something with Windows Vista in a clear perspex case

      2009 Mac Pro with single Xeon and 16GB RAM

      2010 or 2011 Mac Pro with Dual Xeons and 64GB RAM

      2x Libretto 100CT with docks

      Oh, and 2 HP MicroServers, 1 of which is BNIB

      And a Celeron something or other

      And several spare 24" monitors that I got from Asda for £50 each brand new because I might need them at some point

      And several boxes of cables and bits and bobs

      i.e. Nothing at all

      Oh, and a Mac Classic that I bought about 20 years ago and has sat in cardboard box in the loft thereafter. Have no idea what I thought I was going to do with it and is probably suffering from capacitor rot by now.

      I don't have a problem letting go of things, not really.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Embarrassed in to having a clear out...

        "Oh, and 2 HP MicroServers, 1 of which is BNIB"

        There's an ancient HP MicroServer in my loft too. It's got a 250GB boot drive in the CD-ROM bay and 4x4TB HDDs[*] in the main drive bay and has been running for quite some years now.

        * upgraded a couple of times, running ZFS filesystem in RAIDZ, so 12TB of space, mostly filled and thinking about another upgrade :-)

  19. tezboyes

    Wondering which CBM and dual floppy.

    The PET4000 was the one that lead to my inevitable downfall !

  20. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    There was a weird desktop that HP made as a lab. computer. Silicon on sapphire with tungsten interconnects. They must have expected it to get a bit warm.

    1. Platinum blond(e)

      SoS was also very rad-hard.

      The company i worked for out of college had a SoS line. It never yielded better than 0.5% though....

      Oh the halcyon days of misspent government funding!

  21. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Angel

    Well another

    good idea from the BoFH

    I can foresee getting a pretty penny for the 23 inch CRT moniter I know of

    Just need to call my brother in law and retrieve it from being a boat anchor for the past 5 yrs.

    Hopefully 5 yrs will be enough to have washed the blood and DNA off it where it fell on that beancounter from the trolly I was using to move it to the skip.......

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Well another

      "Hopefully 5 yrs will be enough to have washed the blood and DNA off it where it fell on that beancounter from the trolly I was using to move it to the skip......."

      The way I read this was that someone (hmm) dropped a Sony CRT monitor on top of a beancounter trussed or otherwise incapacitated in a (shopping?) trolley with all three - monitor, beancounter and trolley - en-Thamed. Waterways being the natural habitat of feral shopping trollies. DNA is inconveniently persistent so the wisest course might be to let the three rest in peace. While the absence of one beancounter provoked little interest, the sudden reappearance of the residual of said beancounter is very likely to entail a great deal of unwelcome interest and equally intense inconvenient scrutiny.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Well another

        Well the PFY did warn me beforehand that the trolly had a broken wheel axle and I had no right to be loading it so heavily above a 20 foot drop into the carpark access way right at the moment when someone could be walking below.....

        But the trolly is still in storage (if it should be needed again) and the PFY is long gone* and replaced by another PFY

        *Dont worry.. he is still alive and learned from the best about what to do when the beancounters cut your overtime and expenses payments......

  22. Dave559 Silver badge
    Angel

    Let me know if you happen to have an Amiga 4000 in there, will you…?

  23. Mostly Irrelevant

    I'm not going to lie, I'd be tempted by an Apple G4 Cube or maybe a QuickSilver G4 Tower...

  24. Baudwalk

    Nobody is touching...

    ...my two C=64s.

    I wonder how Bruce Lee will look on our 55" OLED.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Nobody is touching...

      Blocky! It's surprisingly sad how poor old games look on modern LCD/OLED screens. The imperfections and foibles of CRT displays where used to advantage by games programmers and they can look shite on a modern screen unless you use "shaders" to simulate scanlines etc to attempt to recreate the old look and feel. I recall some NTSC games that simply never looked as expected on PAL systems because of the different foibles of the two system. Probably vice versa too.

  25. dmesg
    Alert

    How about a campus tour for the Boss?

    If the boss ever visits the States, I'm sure I could arrange a tour of the old storage rooms on campus. Entire computer labs stashed away as new models came in, no time for overworked staff/faculty to do the paperwork to de-acquisition (state uni system). Bottom layers may go back to the mid-80s. Gotta buy 'em all though, guv, just to make sure you have enough spare parts.

  26. GBE

    I'd laugh, but...

    I'd laugh, but I've got an Osborne 1 on a shelf in the garage.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: I'd laugh, but...

      I found a couple disused NeXT boxes in the basement old-stuff storage area at work. My officemate and I each hauled one up and set 'em up on our side desks. Monochrome displays, keyboard and mouse, no manuals, no bootable media, and no root password. Both successfully booted from hard disc. Disassembly and connection of the hard drives to a *BSD system for external hacking was next on our list till our boss came in, saw them, and said, "I don't know where you got those from, but put 'em back."

      1. spuck

        Re: I'd laugh, but...

        I had a sales brochure for a NeXT cube that I'd picked up in the mid 90s. Lovely life-size color photos of the motherboard, and lots of Jobs-esque marketspeak about the optical drive and whatnot.

        Back around 2010 I was doing some cleaning and ran across it. Rather than toss it in the recycling, I listed it on eBay on a whim. It sold and I mailed it to a German address for $50. For a brochure I was going to throw away.

  27. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

    from a wormhole that opened from 30 years in the future

    Is that an X1 Carbon? What is the depreciation on that. I wrote my first project plan on one of those. Would you be able to dispose of it responsibly?

    Ooh look an M1 Mac. They were soo cool with their combined CPU/GPU.

    10TB nas box. I had one of that to stash all my pr0n.

    and so on

  28. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    I unloaded an old HP95 pocket DOS based organiser, not that long back. I nearly fell over with what it went for.

  29. J. Cook Silver badge
    Boffin

    Heh. While my cubicle at work nominally has a 'trophy wall' with bezels from selected servers and storage appliances we've gotten rid of, I might have an active item to add to it in the form of a JACE2 building automation controller (and it's expansion box) and an "L-Vis" display that was programmed to control it. I'll need to get a power brick for it and some temperature sensors to wire into it, but it might be something amusing to have a blinkenlight display...

    (said controller was replaced this week with something newer, supported by the manufacturer, and can be tied into the software that monitors our data centers...)

  30. Terry 6 Silver badge

    All this leaves me cold...except..

    There's one retro computer I'd love to get my hands on again.

    Early '70s IBM gave my school a red box.

    It was their attempt to introduce a computer for education, pre-empting the BBC Micro by a good few years. It closely resembled the digital tills they had in one of the supermarket chains. None of that graphic stuff. Or even high level language. Coding was all alphanumeric.

    Half a century on and it's still fondly in my memory. And it's that which lead me to my life long interest in all things computery, and made doing school IT training and support my side area when I became a teacher.

    Clearly it never caught on.

  31. _Elvi_

    .. Overdrive upgrade CPU ..

    What's better than an unobtanium and much advertised " Overdrive " CPU ?

    Two of the little buggerz ..

    They were provided to our team in case a customer called, and wanted to purchase one.

    With all the hype and angst over that marketing feature, no one ever asked to purchase any. None, zed, ziltch..

    ( they make awesome paperweights )

  32. revdjenk

    Extras ...

    Went to a computer shop close-out sale with a friend who was looking for a certain old model computer. He found it ... but the proprietor said to get this great low price, we had to take 10 CRT monitors along with it. For my friend, the price, it was a deal even with the need to dispose of the monitors later.

    I took them off his hands, however.

    I lined our back deck railing with the monitors ... you see, my wife had been begging for a screened in porch!

  33. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    You had me at

    "IS THAT A COMMODORE CBM?!" he gasps once more. "WITH THE DUAL FLOPPY DRIVE!!!"

    *opens wallet with a heavy sigh*

    Ackshually, I a number of years back I picked up a B128 with 8050 floppy. Need to get that all running for exhibit at some point.

    You can try to float any Apple or Atari stuff. It will not float, but I have no problem with you trying, anyway. Makes great coral reef material. For the environment, of course.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: You had me at

      "You can try to float any Apple or Atari stuff. It will not float, but I have no problem with you trying, anyway. Makes great coral reef material. For the environment, of course."

      Naaah. Plastics slowly degrading in the oceans isn't the best idea :-)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sold asset

    Buying it from the company for a nominal fee allows the company to write down the value and recognize the true value as a sold asset.

    A firm I briefly worked for had exactly that issue, but it was a problem. The company made a bunch of robots that were licensed copies of the American made ones they were selling. Unfortunately corners were cut on the material specification and they were rubbish. They looked like their American cousins but had the accuracy of something driven by rubber bands. The couldn't be sold, but a lot of money had been spent and on the companies books they were "valued" the same as the good ones. Unfortunately that made them the companies main assets and without them the firm would be insolvent. They couldn't even sell any of them as scrap as that write down would recognize their true value as assets. There was no room for them in the companies premises so they ended up renting an old chicken shed to store them, forever. About a year later the shit (chicken?) finally hit the fan and they went bust.

  35. Blackjack Silver badge

    I have fond memories of several 286 computers with orange display only CRT monitors. Never owned one myself but I both learned BASIC using one and also played several games on them.

    Go to the Web Archive and you can play most of those old games online for free, although they don't have an "orange filter" option yet.

  36. ShortLegs

    Please stop. Please

    I lost my dual drive TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2, my Video Genie with 32K expansion box and disk drive, my beloved 3032 CBM (with v4 ROM and SYSMON ROM) in a house move, my C128

    I foolishly sold my B2000 40MHz 68030, my A4000 with Warp Engine and Picasso IV, my A4000T PPC 603/060 and Cybervision 64, my A1200T/060

    Not that I ever did anything on the old 8bit stuff after about 1999, nor used the Amigas in anger after 1996 (the AGA models cam later 90s) but they were all such a joy to just OWN.

    The piles of PC stuff, including various "God" boards from the last 20 years (my god, are Opterons really 20 years old!), just dont have that same retro appeal.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      I foolishly sold my B2000 40MHz 68030, my A4000 with Warp Engine and Picasso IV, my A4000T PPC 603/060 and Cybervision 64, my A1200T/060

      I had a WarpEngine 4040 and traded up to a CyberStorm MK-III, and I have the Picasso IV. Great stuff. I envy your former A4000T. Having gotten rid of things I later needed or wanted, I feel your pain. Really sad how much it would cost to replace those these days. But, I have, through thick and thin, held onto my C64, C128, and Amiga stuff, knowing that the relief selling it would bring would only be temporary, the pain would be long-lasting, and a better way was to be found.

  37. spold Silver badge

    I wish I had kept....

    My ....

    Sinclair Cambridge Calculator.

    Texas TI-59 programmable calculator with the small magnetic card reader - ahead of its time.

    My Sinclair MK14 including all the manual "adjustments" to make the thing fly (sort of).

    My paper tapes for the ICL 1902.

    My Commodore Pet.

    My Apple 2 (a couple of them, the second had twin floppies and a Pascal compiler).

    My Ferranti Advance 86.

    The IBM 3279 graphics terminal I used.

    The IBM PC convertible they gave me, and the second one with an orange gas plasma display.

    The Silicon Graphics Series 2000 I used.

    ...and a veritable cacophony of PCs/craptops after that - all with interesting peripherals and operating systems. More recently, I still have a stack of 100 unburned CD-ROMs and DVDs.

    I could have opened a freakin' museum!

    1. spold Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I wish I had kept....

      Oh and I am very proud to have been a graduate of Manchester University's Computer Science degree in the 80s - home of Computer Science - here's a pint to you Alan.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: I wish I had kept....

      In around 1982 I had a Sinclair programmable device. It ran simple algorithms for more complicated/lengthy/repetitive calculations.I left it locked in my desk in Tottenham School- in a locked classroom, at lunch time Some little toe rag still managed to get in to there and nick it .

  38. Caver_Dave Silver badge
    Boffin

    Old kit can be useful

    I used to work for a company that had long term (30 year) contracts in the Aerospace industry.

    The sort of place where if there was an accident the FAA could ask you to reproduce the binaries (software, firmware), or the customer could ask for a replacement board.

    Some of the early CPLD/FPGA design and programming software had hardware dongles and no amount of work arounds could get these to run on commercial emulators.

    So, there was a nitrogen filled room with DOS and early Windows PC's, dongles, software and "golden sample" boards for the purposes of support.

    Then we had new manglement who decided that these rooms would make excellent new offices, and employed a secure disposal (i.e. chipping the computers, dongles and "golden sample" boards into 2cm squares) company over a May Bank Holiday. The engineers were agast, whilst manglement congratulated themselves on the quality of the new offices. No heads rolled, but many engineers (me included) left as we didn't want to be around when the FAA or Prime contractor came calling with the 30 year LTA in hand.

    In the 6 months before my leaving, no-one had used the new offices, but luckily nobody had to use the disposed of kit either.

    Manglement!

    1. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward
      Trollface

      Re: Old kit can be useful

      Would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall just to see what would have happened had the FAA or the Prime contractor called in....

  39. Jean Stone

    Blasts from the BOFH past

    ""There's a guy I know who has a simh VAX-11/780 purely to finish playing the game of dungeon he started 25 years ago."

    "I WILL NOT BE BEATEN!" I snap back."

    I love it! Nice callback to a fun old episode, bravo. Though how Simon _still_ hasn't finished that game after all this time baffles me.

  40. RandomUsername

    In a kind of related way an old friend of mine left school at 14 to work at porting arcade games to Amstrads, Spectrums, C64s, AtariSTs, Amigas etc.

    He found a lot of the games he had written for long dead companies on various sites, downloaded them and released them for free on his own site. His line of thinking was that if anyone still had claim over the copyright it was him.

    I once asked him how to complete some game or another as 12 year old me could never manage to beat the final boss. His response was "its impossible.". 12 year old me could have strangled him.

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