How would you folks approach a vintage computer project?

Vimmer

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For a while, I have thought about finding a fully built old computer, from the 90s or earlier, or building one from parts. There are plenty of VMs but to me that is not interesting.

Have any of you done this in the past 10 years? What are the best people to talk to about this, best vendors, or ways to find old computer junk in decent condition?
 


We don't really have a 'vintage computer' community here, but some of us have some older stuff kicking around. I've got an old Trash 80, an IIe, a Vic20 that needs a power brick 'cause they keep baking like ovens, an IBM clone or two, etc...

I only keep them as hobby devices. I don't even talk about them as I don't spend any real time with them, other than to sometimes revisit Zork. I'm an avid fan of more modern hardware for efficiency's sake. So, performing actual work on those machines would be wasteful.

Which is to say, I do modern things on modern hardware. You can even get solid refurbished modern gear and still be reasonably efficient. I quite like reducing my energy footprint but I'm kind of weird like that. I'm not a zealot, I don't think. I mean, my plow truck gets single-digit fuel economy when loaded with sand but it has a purpose. My daily driver might top out at 18 mpg.

So, I'm obviously not a zealot. But, I do like my computational hardware to be effective and efficient, which means I don't try using a P4 as my daily computer. I use Linux. That could be done. I'm just not going to do so. I also value my time quite a bit.
 
So, performing actual work on those machines would be wasteful.
it would also be a pain, but yeah I'm not interested in this at all for anything "productive", it would just be for fun and exploration. I saw some windows 9x and DOS gaming computers on ebay for between $200 and $400, but to me it would be better to find parts and put them together, or find some old refurbished machine for almost nothing.
 
Welcome to the forums.

What does this have to do with Linux? Computers like the Commodore Amiga loved so well by "retro-fans" won't be able to run any Linux distro, beginning with the original and best Slackware from 1992. Even less could 8-bit and 16-bit computers do it. Around that time GNU was "nascent" or "getting around"; in the 1980's Linux was in the process of "being invented".

For anything that makes like Linux on 16-bit computer in the 1980's, might have to get Microsoft Xenix. :/

To be able to use Linux you would need, in the very least, a box with an Intel 486DX or equivalent CPU. That's for the distros that were available around 1995 which some of them were Debian, Slackware, the original Red Hat and Yggdrasil. Sadly the desire to have GUI's all around caused by the Windows "explosion" made sure that Intel Pentium or equivalent, and into the 21st Century became almost a requirement. A while ago we had someone asking if a Mac G4 or G5 from the late 1990's would be able to run Linux. We had to tell them that it could handle one of the early distros, or FreeBSD.

It is a bit shocking, not even an Apple Macintosh from the 1990's could work with a Linux distro with GUI?!
 
ways to find old computer junk in decent condition?
1. Drive around on trash pickup day... especially right now. There's a fair chance a lot of folks are throwing away old computers after getting new ones for Christmas. Use extreme caution if you pick up a computer that has been left in the rain.

2. Yard sales, estate auctions, pawn shops

3. Ask friends/family who has old junk they don't want

4. Small "mom-and-pop" computer stores. These may take old computers in on trade and then re-sell them. I had a friend once who owned a place like this, and he gave me a truck load of trade-ins that weren't really worth his time/trouble to make ready to sell again. I turned many of those into working Linux boxes and gave them away. (I also recycled a lot of dead or crippled junk!)

5. Refurbished anywhere... Amazon, BestBuy, etc... or dealer direct from Dell, HP, etc. These won't be 90's era, but you'll get a better computer to play with.

6. I would approach your project as cheaply as possible, but maybe you have the means and resources to acquire better junk! ;)

Good luck!
 
It would be a complete waste of time and nothing to be gained. It wouldn't work with modern software and couldn't connect to the net.
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Back in 2002 I was given a computer from the 90s some thing like this to pull apart and put back together...
Packard-Bell-Multimedia-D160.jpg


Had a CD burner...Floppy drive...USB 1 and I got a CRT Monitor with it. Had a 20GB Pata HDD and those old blue ribbon cables...how would you install Linux on it you couldn't. Back then I had USB 2 Flash Drives...they wouldn't work...my LED Monitor wouldn't either and no SATA ports...it's best to learn modern Computers and how they work as there's much to be gained.
m1212.gif
 
LOL I wanted one of those! Wasn't patient enough to get it, and settled for something lesser...

One of my friends had an earlier model of Packard Bell to be able to play Gunship 2000, that my computer couldn't handle at all. :O

 
I agree that vintage/ancient computers aren't really usable as "daily drivers". But they sure as hell are fun to mess around with....

I've always been a bit of a vintage freak. I love taking really old computer hardware, maxing it out to the absolute limit of its abilities & seeing just what it might have been capable of, back in the day. But that IS for "fun". It's a hobby.....MY "hobby".

Puppy helps enormously with this kind of endeavour. Our community archivist, Ally - from Lincolnshire, here in the UK - has a paid account at archive.org, and has archived every piece of Puppy software ever created.......along with every Puppy ever built, going all the way back to beta-0.1, from mid-2002. The early Pups were ultra-lightweight, with extremely modest hardware requirements, and would run on almost anything back then.

My current HP Pavilion desktop rig is the first truly "modern" computer I've had. It's a real eye-opener, comparing it to what came before.....but I shall never be a true geek, that absolutely MUST run the very newest of everything, the instant it appears. Hell, I didn't adopt CDs until 2001; nearly 20 years after they first appeared.....and by then, they were all but obsolete, already being dropped in favour of solid-state MP3 players.

I like to let tech "prove" itself before investing..!


Mike. :p
 

I forgot to add that I had a similar computer to this, which was Hewlett-Packard. I would embrace one of these with WindowsXP 32-bit. The problem is that it's very dusty where I live, and pretty soon the motherboard and other inside components could get wrecked. I'm not very keen about opening a box to remove dirt from places difficult to reach and to clean. I have to use laptops because they have lasted me way longer than desktop computers. I used to have two Toshiba computers that endured 11+ years each one and even longer only if it weren't for their leaking monitors. The later one that I bought had a SMART failure and finally, toward the end of 2021 I was forced to stop using it because that hard disk was very near total failure. (sniff)

I would also gladly be the free receiver of a portable computer that has or should have had Windows7. I would wipe the disk in favor of Debian "Wheezy" or Ubuntu Studio "Precise Pangolin", both 32-bit. I would use them without Wine. :)
 
I agree that vintage/ancient computers aren't really usable as "daily drivers". But they sure as hell are fun to mess around with....

I've always been a bit of a vintage freak. I love taking really old computer hardware, maxing it out to the absolute limit of its abilities & seeing just what it might have been capable of, back in the day. But that IS for "fun". It's a hobby.....MY "hobby".

Puppy helps enormously with this kind of endeavour. Our community archivist, Ally - from Lincolnshire, here in the UK - has a paid account at archive.org, and has archived every piece of Puppy software ever created.......along with every Puppy ever built, going all the way back to beta-0.1, from mid-2002. The early Pups were ultra-lightweight, with extremely modest hardware requirements, and would run on almost anything back then.

My current HP Pavilion desktop rig is the first truly "modern" computer I've had. It's a real eye-opener, comparing it to what came before.....but I shall never be a true geek, that absolutely MUST run the very newest of everything, the instant it appears. Hell, I didn't adopt CDs until 2001; nearly 20 years after they first appeared.....and by then, they were all but obsolete, already being dropped in favour of solid-state MP3 players.

I like to let tech "prove" itself before investing..!


Mike. :p
Agreed, it's a fun project, but one should not expect to be able to run the software they need for work or connect to the internet. I just remember how loud those old hard drives used to be, they have a charm in and of themselves, yet pretty slow and pathetic at the same time. How fun that would be if you and your friends could set up those old printer-computers for teletype, and then just send messages through a network.
 

I forgot to add that I had a similar computer to this, which was Hewlett-Packard. I would embrace one of these with WindowsXP 32-bit. The problem is that it's very dusty where I live, and pretty soon the motherboard and other inside components could get wrecked. I'm not very keen about opening a box to remove dirt from places difficult to reach and to clean. I have to use laptops because they have lasted me way longer than desktop computers. I used to have two Toshiba computers that endured 11+ years each one and even longer only if it weren't for their leaking monitors. The later one that I bought had a SMART failure and finally, toward the end of 2021 I was forced to stop using it because that hard disk was very near total failure. (sniff)

I would also gladly be the free receiver of a portable computer that has or should have had Windows7. I would wipe the disk in favor of Debian "Wheezy" or Ubuntu Studio "Precise Pangolin", both 32-bit. I would use them without Wine. :)
About 6 years ago, I found this windows ME computer that I used to use stored away, i hooked it up to a monitor, and it still worked! Yet, when i opened it up, pulled out the RAM, and put it back in, it stopped working probably because of the huge amount of dust. If i wasn't so stressed at the time, i would have just sprayed out the insides and tried it again before giving it to recycling.
 
it would also be a pain, but yeah I'm not interested in this at all for anything "productive", it would just be for fun and exploration. I saw some windows 9x and DOS gaming computers on ebay for between $200 and $400, but to me it would be better to find parts and put them together, or find some old refurbished machine for almost nothing.
200-400$ for a piece of garbage ?
Somebody has the nerve.
For curiosity I search amazon and found an I5, brand new and cheaper than that.
 
Just like some people insisting to sell a Volkswagen Beetle or Mazda rotary-engine car or American clunker, visibly falling apart from the 1970's for 800 quid or a bit more. Or selling such as Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera coupe from the early 1980's for about two grand. Nice car (I was able to drive two of them briefly) but that automaker and Pontiac were eliminated from existence within General Motors so those cars really should cost next to nothing. Just an opinion.

Getting back to computers. Because a high value is obviously being placed on Commodore C64 and a few others, then especially that indicated online site (other than Amazon) could have an, um, Tandy Color Computer 3 for about the same price that could be had on Radio Shack back in the day. :/

I wouldn't mind paying 200USD for a computer that could only run WindowsXP Service Pack 2 or earlier. But that's all. The external display unit is extra and I don't want to have to think about that.
 
I wouldn't mind paying 200USD for a computer that could only run WindowsXP Service Pack 2 or earlier. But that's all. The external display unit is extra and I don't want to have to think about that.
that's the problem, is that if you are going to spend hundreds on old junk computers, it's only really worth it if you can be sure they will work for at least a year of continuous use. I like the idea of buying or building antique computers, but as @ML_113 seems to be insinuating, it's a lot riskier than just buying a cheap modern computer.
 
If you're going to REALLY get into the hobby, you should be more than proficient with a soldering gun. You should be comfortable removing components, including surface mount with reflow. Your ability to read and understand schematics is as important as your ability to follow traces on a PCB.

This is simply so you can maintain and repair said devices.

These are also skills you can learn online. You can learn them for the low cost of nothing if you're willing to put the effort into it.
 

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