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I suspect that many of the folk who are reading this were early-adopters in the area of personal computing.
In previous columns, I've recounted my long history of involvement in the microcomputer world and detailed the early hardware I either built or bought starting way back in the late 1970s.
I still fondly recall the many hours I spent browsing through the Signetics 2650 programming manual, trying to make sense of the myriad of instructions, addressing, indexing and auto increment/decrement modes this processor offered.
It was a large book with a relatively stark white cover and what seemed like a sea of pages filled with stuff that was decidedly cryptic to an old-school analog tech like myself. I actually found an HTML version of the manual for those who want to take a look.
Ah... those were the days when only real men could make sense of this stuff!
Sadly, I tossed all of my old gear when carrying out the "if you haven't used it in the past two years, get rid of it" cleanup strategy a long time ago. It's now just a memory.
However, those folk who haven't been so ruthless could be sitting on a gold-mine because it seems that early micro stuff is becoming increasingly valuable.
The most extreme example of this is the news that a prototype Apple 1 computer just sold for over a million (NZ) dollars (US$815,000).
That's a snot load of money for a thimble-full of silicon, some FR4 circuit board and a wonderful provenance.
I wonder how long before we have TV programmes bearing the title "The Antiques Microcomputer Roadshow", where presenters tour the country and invite folk to bring in for valuation, that old ZX80 or TRS80 they found in their grandfather's closet after the funeral.
To be honest, right now is probably an excellent time to start investing in some of this early micro stuff. There's still enough of it laying about that you can pick it up for a song but it's now starting to get old and rare enough that its value is likely to appreciate significantly in coming decades.
That Sinclair Spectrum or Amstrad C128 might be a wonderful inheritance for your grandkids and could earn them a princely sum in another 40 or 50 years.
Whilst it's true that some of these cheap early micros were sold in their millions, they really did represent the start of the "throw away" era. Because the advances in microcomputer technology happened so fast and prices fell so quickly, there was little incentive to hang on to the old, outdated gear for which support no longer existed. What's more, as newer computers produced newer and better software, "last year's" computer was often just tossed in the trash, rendered undesirable and unwanted.
So, of those millions of units sold, the number actually left (especially if you can find one that still works and has any amount of software with it) is probably pretty small.
Time will continue to take its toll on these machines. Capacitors will be drying out, EProms (which were not uncommon) will be suffering from gradual decay and the tapes or disks containing that essential software will be suffering increasing levels of bitrot.
Now might be exactly the right time to go on the hunt and find some of these diamonds, give them a bit of a clean, hermetically seal them (complete with printed materials and disks) in some light-proof containers (with some desiccant and a blast of argon gas) for posterity.
Just trawling around on eBay I see that the humble ZX80 is being listed for as much as NZ$896.50 so I suspect there's little time to waste!
What is the oldest/rarest computer readers have sitting in the back of their man-cave or closet? Do you have a rare gem that might now be worth a small fortune?
If so, what do you intend to do with it?
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