First off, I want to say this: I am still working on finishing my collections and, sadly, am no good at rebuilding stuff. Also, I mostly play games on my vintage computers as I started late into the computer game (Windows 98) and most technical stuff goes right over my head. Still, I think there is room to further invest in one of the lines of 8-bit computers I have to make them daily drivers for more than just games and I have narrowed the field down to two makes. Atari and Apple II. Now, which one is the best choice?
Several models to choose from, both computers and disk drives seem to have that famous Atari durability to them. Nice graphics and sound. A lot of programs on cartridge and most will run on the earlier 800 that uses the near bullet-proof 9 volt power brick. Diskettes seem to be durable as well.
You need a separate power supply for every accesory you hook into the 8-bit line, which can add up to a lot of wires and power bricks. XL series is very closed-box and the XE series is a bit shakey due to cost cutting the Tramiels did. Black ingots!
Apple II computers:
Built in one form or the other and supported from roughly 1978 until at least 1993! Very easy to work on, just power down and pop the top. Units seem fairly rugged and the Disk II drives seem durable. I've had even better luck with the later 5.25" unidrives. If the power supply smokes, it doesn't seem to take the computer with it and it also seems it can be repaired and put back into service. Most diskettes boot up by themselves, with no need to fiddle with DOS. Just power up the computer or hit reset. First computers I can remember getting to touch and see when in grade school. Just seems like an overall workhorse and there is an odd friendliness to the design.
Downsides are: You can't just plug these in to a TV. (Well I don't think so at least.) So, you need to find a working monitor which is getting harder to do. All programs are on aging diskettes which need to be run through aging disk drives. (I think there is a work around for that though.) Keyboard keys are REALLY easy to break off compared to the Atari. Graphics are ok, sound can be kinda meh. Oh, and too many of them and their parts are still getting ground up!
Downside of both: All are getting older and will eventually need rebuilds of some sort. I currently have three dead and one spare power supply for the Apple II, but those come out in one chunk and probably could be shipped to someone for rebuilds. Power supplies in the Atari models seem split between power brick and on the board.
So, which of these two makes would be the most practical to make into a daily driver? A computer that might still be able to have use in our modern world? I'm not ditching any of my vintage computers, but I would love to see if I can make one do practical things while still remaining what it is. Anyways, thanks for looking and sorry for the long post.