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Which classic computers have stood the test of time the best and worst?


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#1 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:50 AM

We all have our favorite classic computers, but some have aged more gracefully than others.

  

Some have yellowed so badly that they look much older than they really are...

Some had built-in monitors and drives that hampered or limited upgrading options...

Some used crappy components that have not lasted...

 

Any other reasons that come to mind?

 

What do you think are the best and worst of the classic computers standing the 'test of time'... visually... and why?



#2 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:13 PM

Best:

Apple II, Apple II+

Commodore PET

Exidy Sorcerer

 

Depends:

TRS-80 Model I, Model II, Model III, Color Computer 1 (depending on "wrist wear" or other paint loss)

TI-99/4, Silver 4/a (Depending on how dented or scratched up the metal parts of the case are)

KayPro (Depending on any or how much rust/corrosion it has)

Atari 400/800 (Depending on how well the natural beige color downplays any yellowing going on)

Commodore 64 (Ditto)

 

Worst:

Apple //e

VIC-20

Most PC/AT/XT clones

Basically anything that had an unpainted white or light-colored plastic case

...more often than not, these things seem to turn up in some shade of puke yellow and need repeated retrobriting. And if not the cases, then the keycaps.

 



#3 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:28 PM

 

Depends:

TRS-80 Model III

TI-99/4, Silver 4/a (Depending on how dented or scratched up the metal parts of the case are)

 

Worst:

Apple //e

VIC-20

Most PC/AT/XT clones

Basically anything that had an unpainted white or light-colored plastic case

...more often than not, these things seem to turn up in some shade of puke yellow and need repeated retrobriting. And if not the cases, then the keycaps.

 

 

I'd add the MAC's to your worst list.  Not only do many of them look 'puke yellow' like you mentioned, the design limits their evolution.  I guess if you are a purist, a small B&W screen is 'okay', but at least with some of the other computers, they could be upgraded/updated with newer more useful display technology.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Old Yellow - B & W.jpg


#4 thetick1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:30 PM

haha my VIC-20 is a really an ugly off cream color now.  I remember when I got it was nice and white.

My C64s have keep their color and with a damp cloth look brand new. :)


Edited by thetick1, Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:31 PM.


#5 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:32 PM

Strictly visually, I'd say the best are:

 

Original IBM 5150 - not a lot of ABS plastic, probably the most solidly built of any computer ever. I've seen them rust, but they don't generally yellow, and if they're even marginally taken care of they clean up like new.

 

Atari XL line - the beige part does yellow a bit, but usually not to the point that it's even noticeable. Most of the computer is black, which usually holds up well.

 

TI-99/4A silver - I don't know what metal it's made out of but it looks like stainless steel, and almost all of these still look like new unless they were heavily abused. The TI-99/4A is the Delorean of computers. (Probably in more ways than one.)

 

All of these also just have a classic design that still looks good beyond the lack of wear. Some early computers, like certain Radio Shack models, are just ugly to look at now even if they're in good shape.

 

The worst:

 

Pretty much any Apple II - they just yellow so horribly. The IIGS is marginally better than the other models, but not much. The II/II+/IIe also have the problem of losing their keycaps way too easily. I can't believe how many of these I see with missing keycaps. What are people doing that keycaps are just popping off all over the place?

 

Most Amigas - same problem. I had an Amiga 1000 that was practically orange. And it was unevenly discolored, which made it even worse. I couldn't even look at it. This was before retrobrite, so I actually sold it because of this.

 

Atari ST - mostly because of the keyboards. The keycaps yellow more than the case, and they always do so unevenly too because I guess they were made in different batches from different plastic.



#6 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:10 PM

I'd add the MAC's to your worst list.  Not only do many of them look 'puke yellow' like you mentioned, the design limits their evolution.  I guess if you are a purist, a small B&W screen is 'okay', but at least with some of the other computers, they could be upgraded/updated with newer more useful display technology.

They look best in black. 

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Macintosh_TV



#7 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:22 PM

I will be the defender of the mac screen, when they are in good shape they are especially easy to read, and fun fact if the factory adjustment has not been tampered with, you can load up mac write (or probably any other program) and align a sheet of letter paper to the one on the screen and it will be exactly 1/2 a sheet of paper ... true WYSIWUG 

 

everything around the screen is a different story  

 

back on topic, yea anything with a unpainted beige or white case after a few years looks like cheese is in my worst bucket, in my best bucket the sharp X68000's look baller, especially in black 



#8 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:37 PM

I should add that a lot of MSX computers still look mighty sweet. Especially the original models that often came in weird colors like red or yellow. How cool is this Sony model at the top: https://www.msx-cent...-this-msx-thing



#9 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:50 PM

Personally, I think the Apple IIe and Atari ST looked cool then and look cool now. Oh, and the Sharp X68000 and Sony MSX machines are reeeal purdy.



#10 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:14 PM

Strictly visually, I'd say the best are:

 

Original IBM 5150 - not a lot of ABS plastic, probably the most solidly built of any computer ever. I've seen them rust, but they don't generally yellow, and if they're even marginally taken care of they clean up like new.

 

Atari XL line - the beige part does yellow a bit, but usually not to the point that it's even noticeable. Most of the computer is black, which usually holds up well.

 

TI-99/4A silver - I don't know what metal it's made out of but it looks like stainless steel, and almost all of these still look like new unless they were heavily abused. The TI-99/4A is the Delorean of computers. (Probably in more ways than one.)

 

All of these also just have a classic design that still looks good beyond the lack of wear. Some early computers, like certain Radio Shack models, are just ugly to look at now even if they're in good shape.

 

The worst:

 

Pretty much any Apple II - they just yellow so horribly. The IIGS is marginally better than the other models, but not much. The II/II+/IIe also have the problem of losing their keycaps way too easily. I can't believe how many of these I see with missing keycaps. What are people doing that keycaps are just popping off all over the place?

 

Most Amigas - same problem. I had an Amiga 1000 that was practically orange. And it was unevenly discolored, which made it even worse. I couldn't even look at it. This was before retrobrite, so I actually sold it because of this.

 

Atari ST - mostly because of the keyboards. The keycaps yellow more than the case, and they always do so unevenly too because I guess they were made in different batches from different plastic.

 

Yes, some of the Atari's like this 1200XL look pretty good!  I actually think the Atari 1200XL was one of the nicest looking computers ever.  

 

Atari_1200XL.jpg

 

The Radio Shack silver CoCo with the chiclet keyboard... yep, I agree looked like crap then and now!  Many of the TRS-80's had the silver wear off by the keyboard which even looks worse.

 

coco1.jpg

 

 

I can't argue with you about the TI-99/4A!  :-D  It's well suited to modern upgrades too and if done correctly can look fairly modern. 

 

gallery_35324_1027_148063.jpg



#11 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:21 PM

@BassGutairi 

 

Best:

Commodore PET

 

 

About the Commodore Pet... I saw this cute little miniature project << CLICK HERE >> it's kind of neat!



#12 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:32 PM

How long are we going to discuss looks, before we get into functionality, compatibility, quality and so on? I thought the topic would cover all aspects at the same time, but the majority of the posts so far have concentrated on the visual appearance as also indiciated by the OP would be the first sub topic.



#13 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:36 PM

How long are we going to discuss looks, before we get into functionality, compatibility, quality and so on?

 

Anytime you're ready go for it!   :)  :thumbsup:



#14 x=usr(1536) OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:36 PM



How long are we going to discuss looks, before we get into functionality, compatibility, quality and so on? I thought the topic would cover all aspects at the same time, but the majority of the posts so far have concentrated on the visual appearance as also indiciated by the OP would be the first sub topic.

 

Besides, we already have a thread for Sexiest Old Computer...  That's the one for just looks ;)



#15 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:07 PM

yea looks wise the best looking computers are not that functional 

 

lets say the pet as presented early on, those things look boss, but functionally they are a smart terminal, or even the X86000 I suggested on looks, reality is its a overcooked genesis with a very narrow national focus when one really looks at it



#16 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:37 PM

Functionally, the Apple II series, the //ee, //ep, IIgs. And to lesser extents the //c, //c+, II, II+, //e. I may be biased.

Evolutionarily, the PC. And on that there can be no question.

Reliability, the Apple //ep and most PCs. And while I can't speak from direct experience, I've heard good things about the early single-board micros, some S-100 rigs, and various TRS-80 models. I do have good direct personal experience with the TRS-80 Pocket Computers however.

#17 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:59 AM

Atari XL line - the beige part does yellow a bit, but usually not to the point that it's even noticeable. Most of the computer is black, which usually holds up well.

 

FWIW, my 600XL and 800XL (and 1050 disk drive) have yellowed so much they're almost brown. The most frequent problem I see with Atari XLs is that the aluminum Option/Reset/Start/etc keys are always trashed.

 

As far as functionality or reliability, my candidates for "worst" are:

Commodore 64 - failing SID chips seem to be more rule than exception.

Aquarius - I've owned two and they both seem to have bad RAM (per diagnostics provided by my Aquaricart) or some other underlying issue which precludes them from being expanded.

Timex/Sinclair 1000 - The keyboard *will* be nonfunctional if/when you get one. And the RF output is far and away the worst and most inconsistent I've seen on any computer or video game console. (On the bright side, modding and upgrading the thing is a cinch!)

 

I've had generally good luck with the dozens of other systems I've owned. Maybe a part to be replaced here and there, or something that needed a good cleaning, but nothing too major. Although, repairing the keyboards for my TRS-80 Model II and Compaq Portable came down to finding a suitable keyboard to cannibalize for those stupid foam+mylar key assemblies that dry out and disintegrate in the originals.



#18 davidcalgary29 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:21 PM

My 800 has worked flawlessly since 1983 and have only had a 1050 and a 1200XL die over the decades. On the other hand, I stopped buying modern laptops (and XBox) after they all crapped out after thre or four years of light use. Cosmetics be damned! I’ll stick with machines that were built for a lifetime of use.

#19 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:35 PM

Functionally, the CoCos are pretty reliable.  There are a lot of them out there that are dead because someone plugged a joystick in with the power on.  
Swap a chip and they are good to go again.  A few need a RAM chip or two replaced but no more than with other machines.

Appearance wise, the painted ones look okay if it hasn't worn off where you rest your palms on the keyboard.
The white ones are prone to yellowing.

The MC-10s usually look really good if they were stored properly.  They didn't get a lot of use so they didn't have time to yellow from sunlight.
The most common problem with them, is when the TV lead was stored touching the computer's case.  
Something in the cable melts the plastic and leaves a clear indentation from where it made contact.
Hmmmm... I wonder what that chemical does to the human body...

As for functional upgrades...
Now that the CoCo has a good SD card interface, there seems to be an explosion of hardware development.
I know of several sound boards, serial interfaces, multipack replacements, etc... in the works, and a few have already been released.
Previously, almost all of the work had been centered around the CoCo 3 and OS-9, but that seems to be changing a little.
*edit*   There is also a RAM upgrade in the works for the CoCo 1/2 that would let it run OS-9 Level II... which may be driving some of the software development.

The MC-10 has a 128K RAM+BASIC expansion with support for using the serial interface as a disk like interface.
It's still impossible to type on unless you roll your own keyboard upgrade like a couple people did back in the day.
Most of the enhancements have been stalled though.


Edited by JamesD, Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:40 PM.


#20 Airshack ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:42 PM

Best:

Worst:
Apple //e
VIC-20
Most PC/AT/XT clones
Basically anything that had an unpainted white or light-colored plastic case
...more often than not, these things seem to turn up in some shade of puke yellow and need repeated retrobriting. And if not the cases, then the keycaps.
 


The Beige-Era was the computer Dark Ages of sorts for design esthetic as far as I can see.


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#21 pacman000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:03 PM

The TRS-80 Model 100 Laptop has a nice keyboard, a simple user interface, & a surprisingly clear screen. It's not a bad little computer for typing, even today.

It's also fairly lightweight, durable, compact, & it can run quite a while on AA batteries.

And it looks cool. The tan case doesn't yellow much.

Now if I only knew how to get what I type off of it & onto a modern format. :/

#22 Arnuphis OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:55 PM

I would say the Acorn BBC Micro/Master are good robust machines. The only thing that usually goes on those is the caps in the power supply and that is easy to fix. They were designed to take a battering in schools and withstood it pretty well. Plus they have lots of ports and an open bus that allows a second processor to be attached. Check out this video one one with a Pi co-processor!

 



#23 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:28 PM

I believe the Amiga with a Vampire upgrade comes closest to still being actually useful in the real world today. And MAC is a runner up.

What I disliked about the video is he said HD and 4K are irrelevant. Or not important. A couple of times. That's just continuing to propagate the "standards issue", or lack of file interchangeability the Amiga has always been saddled with.

On the PC you can get a freeware program that will open up 400+ types of graphics files and convert between some of them. Or, rather, "down convert" the exotic ones into more industry standard files.

Edited by Keatah, Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:59 PM.


#24 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 15, 2018 5:22 PM

The TRS-80 Model 100 Laptop has a nice keyboard, a simple user interface, & a surprisingly clear screen. It's not a bad little computer for typing, even today.

It's also fairly lightweight, durable, compact, & it can run quite a while on AA batteries.

And it looks cool. The tan case doesn't yellow much.

Now if I only knew how to get what I type off of it & onto a modern format. :/

 

All the Model 100 really needs is a backlit screen. That thing is impossible to look at. I agree though, it's a good system.



#25 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 15, 2018 5:57 PM

Aquarius - I've owned two and they both seem to have bad RAM (per diagnostics provided by my Aquaricart) or some other underlying issue which precludes them from being expanded.

One thing to remember about the Mini Expander Diagnostic in the Aquaricart: it tests only the expanded RAM, not the 4K of RAM built in to the computer console.  If you run it without any expanded RAM modules installed, it will fail the RAM test for that reason, not necessarily because the built-in RAM is bad.

 

When it comes to looks and reliability, I think the classic computer of mine that has held up the best is the black/aluminum TI 99/4A.  The biggest cosmetic problems I've seen with those involve scratched, dented, or missing aluminum, but that's a function of rough handling and not specifically of aging.  Fresh, NOS, black 99/4As have always looked and worked like new.  The beige 99/4A is okay, too, but its plastic is more vulnerable to discoloration, and the keyboards also seem to have a higher rate of failure.  I'd also say that the Aquarius holds up remarkably well, considering that it was such a short-lived, budget-priced computer.  I've had as many as two dozen of them in my collection at once, many of them old eBay beaters, and I can only recall two or three that had serious issues beyond mild discoloration.  My Atari computers have proven to be very reliable, too, but their lighter colors make discoloration more noticeable.

 

If I had to name the worst in both looks and reliability, an easy choice is the Commodore 64.  That machine was just plain fugly to begin with and only looks worse with age, and almost all of the ten or so that I've encountered "in the wild" were defective in some way.






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