Jump to content
bluejay

What computer would you recommend for people who are just getting into the hobby of retro computing?

Recommended Posts

On 10/11/2020 at 3:04 AM, potatohead said:

Yeah.  It is one of the better, limited small RAM machines for sure as far as games and the overall experience goes.

 

 

The VIC-20 isn't even that limited in RAM compared to other systems of the time.  It can be expanded up to 35k (or 32 + 3k) which exceeds the stock model B BBC Micro and isn't too far off the C64's 38k.  The VIC-20's lightweight ROM Basic makes economic use of the memory while the C64's bloated Basic eats up almost half of its system memory.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, adamchevy said:

 

That’s the sad fate of classic cars as well I think.

 

There's one major difference between classic cars and old computers: the classic car market has become one where the cars are increasingly viewed as investments.  Granted, this doesn't apply to every car ever made, but a Ferrari 250 GTO selling for $70M has a palpable knock-on effect on a lot of other cars' prices.  We don't really see that in this hobby - every Apple 1 that sells for $500,000 doesn't really affect the value of, say, a C-64.

 

Quote

It’s strange how something that was so wonderful to a generation a couple before you can be viewed as crap.

 

I think that phenomenon won’t take hold of gaming as strongly because it reaches so far.

 

If anything, what is going to preserve retrocomputing is likely to be emulation, and I mean that both figuratively and literally.  As mentioned previously, the kids don't want to keep Dad's collection of stuff and have no idea of how to contact people who might want it, or don't want to invest the effort in doing so.  This will shrink the available hardware pool over time (thus nudging hardware prices ever-higher), leaving emulation as the only reasonable option for experiencing old systems.

 

One of the worst days I ever had at the junkyard was finding a 50,000-mile Rover P6 (2000 TC, IIRC) in really nice original shape waiting for the crusher; even the leather was still decent.  Then, to put a cherry on top of that, there was a similar-mileage Renault 16 automatic in equally nice condition about three rows away from the Rover.  Both were Southern California cars, so were rust-free and complete.  Chances are the kids didn't know what to do with the weird cars left in the garage, and junked them instead of trying to find a home for them.

 

It's the same thing with old computers, except that we've been so inculcated to believe that old electronics are obsolete and worthless that they tend to just get tossed without a second thought no matter how functional or otherwise they may be.  Or they end up on eBay at a ridiculous price no collector would pay, but that's a different story.

Edited by x=usr(1536)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, we do have these reproduction projects making new stuff.

 

Maybe genuine old machines end up collector / museum items.

 

Frankly, I am somewhat surprised at the ongoing development.  And we do see younger people checking it all out, wanting to learn from the roots of it all, like we did.

 

There may always be 8 bit computers in some form for a long while yet.  

 

They are just the right size for people to really get something out of them, while not being a huge burden.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Imho only reason we find it sad that most if not all of this stuff will disappear is that it is engrained in our memory of our youth, so its doom reminds us of our own fleeting situation, and of course our own life experience must be the most valuable/interesting one because ... you know ... it's our own.

Other than that it's no different than tons of other tech that disappeared without a peep and nobody really cares as much .... anyone remembers TACS or AMPS phones? ... or anyone think we should keep the fax alive? How about that scanner that became so important after you had your rig sized up and a printer to boot ... should we really care for dot matrix printers?

I have no sympathy for the tape cassette of yore ... I was lucky I had lots of free time to be able to "please wait while loading ..." but other than that ... the disc-jokey of 16bits systems multi-disc games ... nope, I'm good.

There is just too much stuff anyway .... let it go, enjoy it while you can but don't get hung-up on it, don't make yourself "the custodian" of old-computers ... have some fun but don't obsess.

 

When it is all said and done you'll remember people, experiences and places .... the rest is there to keep us busy and add some color but it is not inherently valuable ... no more than say a calculator or a monopoly board.

The 8bits, then the 16bits then the 32bits will all be just a footnote on a course on computing, exactly like when I took mines and we barely talked about bit-slice processors and 4bit processors and I am sure a lot of other tech that came and went but was at a point hot-stuff.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, potatohead said:

Frankly, I am somewhat surprised at the ongoing development.  And we do see younger people checking it all out, wanting to learn from the roots of it all, like we did.

 

This past weekend, I drove the project car while running some errands.  While at the supermarket, a man and his roughly 12-year-old grandson were walking by as I was parking, and stopped to chat.

 

Turned out the kid knew way more about the car than his grandfather did.  To my mind, that's really cool - I'm happy to see someone else sharing the same interests regardless of age.  That also applies old tech, but the unfortunate fact is that that kid was the exception rather than the rule.  That's fine; I don't expect many others to share my points of view on these things, though it is nice to find out when they do.  It does mean, however, that the pool of people who are interested is small and getting smaller.  That's just the nature of these things, along with everything else that comes with that.

 

13 hours ago, potatohead said:

There may always be 8 bit computers in some form for a long while yet.  

 

They are just the right size for people to really get something out of them, while not being a huge burden.

 

Oh, they're not going to evaporate for quite some time, but it is already happening.  Without sounding morbid, it would be a good idea to make provisions in your will for what you would like to have happen with this stuff after you're gone so that it (hopefully) doesn't just get tossed out.

 

5 hours ago, phoenixdownita said:

I have no sympathy for the tape cassette of yore ... I was lucky I had lots of free time to be able to "please wait while loading ..." but other than that ... the disc-jokey of 16bits systems multi-disc games ... nope, I'm good.

 

Yes.  This.  Having nostalgia for how we did things back in the olden days is fine, but we need to keep some perspective on it all.  I can clearly remember how happy I was to get a US Doubler into my 1050 because I was tired of how slow its loading times were.  Waiting six or seven minutes for software on cassette to load, only to have it crap out in the last 5% of the process was never fun.  Line noise killing my connections to BBSes: pure frustration.

 

Sure, that was all part of the experience.  But this is also why I'm 163% behind devices like the FujiNet - they let you enjoy that experience again without some of its less-pleasant aspects.

 

5 hours ago, phoenixdownita said:

There is just too much stuff anyway .... let it go, enjoy it while you can but don't get hung-up on it, don't make yourself "the custodian" of old-computers ... have some fun but don't obsess.

 

When it is all said and done you'll remember people, experiences and places .... the rest is there to keep us busy and add some color but it is not inherently valuable ... no more than say a calculator or a monopoly board.

The 8bits, then the 16bits then the 32bits will all be just a footnote on a course on computing, exactly like when I took mines and we barely talked about bit-slice processors and 4bit processors and I am sure a lot of other tech that came and went but was at a point hot-stuff.

 

Exactly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, phoenixdownita said:

There is just too much stuff anyway .... let it go, enjoy it while you can but don't get hung-up on it, don't make yourself "the custodian" of old-computers ... have some fun but don't obsess.
 

When it is all said and done you'll remember people, experiences and places .... the rest is there to keep us busy and add some color but it is not inherently valuable ... no more than say a calculator or a monopoly board.

This is more or less why I emphasize to keep only one or two vintage favorites and emulate the rest. Emulation enables quick access to platforms without clutter. Clutter of the mind and of living space.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re:  Plans

 

For me, the older game systems that work will go to the kids who play them.  Easy.

 

The rest will probably be grandpa's old stuff and maybe someone scores at the yard sale.

 

As for other old tech nobody talks about:

 

It will be kept in an academic sense.  Lessons to be relearned.

 

FAX?  Still see em a surprising amount of the time.  Legal, corporate. 

 

The only phones I miss are the old Bell ones and analog voice.  When I was young, I thought they sounded crappy.  Seeing what we have done with audio compression?

 

They are accurate, just low fi.  5khz or so.  Basically AM radio quality and that is often better than the whittled down mess we get via modern carriers.

 

I do have HD calling, which seems roughly 10 to 12khz wide.  It compares to the older Bell phones nicely.  So, there is hope!

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, English Invader said:

 

The VIC-20 isn't even that limited in RAM compared to other systems of the time.  It can be expanded up to 35k (or 32 + 3k) which exceeds the stock model B BBC Micro and isn't too far off the C64's 38k.  The VIC-20's lightweight ROM Basic makes economic use of the memory while the C64's bloated Basic eats up almost half of its system memory.

The thing is, for a vic-20+32k ram expansion, you can buy a working c64.

Maybe if my 35k ram design works I might be able to sell them for super cheap(IF it works) but that's not the case as of now.

Edited by bluejay

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Vic 20 is a good computer, no doubt it.  But, The C64 is the better computer all way around.  Still, either one is a good choice depending on which floats one's boat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I still have an Apple ][c and a IIgs "on ice", for whenever the time comes when my son (or daughter?) and I want to experience it together. I also know that may never happen, and it could be just me in an empty nest, booting it up to remember how Thexder wasn't really all that great (in my 60's maybe?).

 

Let's face it, whatever you used, you could barley control that damn robot.

 

The other computers came and went in my life in one form or another (all the titans- c64, vic-20, atari 800, amiga, b/w macs, 8088, even most of the crazy european computers), but it all boiled down to trying to recapture the experience of the Apple ][c and IIgs, since that's what I had starting in 3rd grade and 6th grade, respectively.

 

I don't know if it's really possible to re-experience the total thrills of what made the Apple IIs special... they were totally intertwined in the times. Having the ability to play California Games and Wings of Fury at home really meant something to my schoolmates. Also, being boss in the elementary school computer lab was part of the real thrill... when I could effortlessly fly through AppleWorks or Logo, and of course Oregon Trail and load up pirated arcade games on the sly for friends when Teacher wasn't looking.

 

And who could beat one of the most amazing experiences ever!  Having a cool dad who was hep to the extremely early piracy scene and knew how to use Copy II+.  I'll never forget the evening he charmed his way into volunteering to help set up the school's computer lab floppy 5.25 "data disks" for all the teachers, and we got complete unsupervised use of the computer lab for hours!  We spent the whole evening making personal copies of every educational title in the school district's inventory.  About 3 dozen Apple IIe's were singing the crank of the disk-copying song all at once like some kind of 80's industrial tech symphony.

 

We also made all the data disks for the teachers too of course... but there's nothing more awesome in 3rd grade then high-tech espionage with Dad. 

 

Of course all the countless hours programming and playing games (and cataloging all my comic books into an AppleWorks Database file), were amazing... but how can anyone now have this experience without it being some kind of antiquated exercise? It was cutting edge then, and that was the drive. It's not anymore, and I don't know what feeling one would need to drive the experience.

 

Anyways, that's my little zine entry here.

Edited by CaptainBreakout
flowery language
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, CaptainBreakout said:

Of course all the countless hours programming and playing games (and cataloging all my comic books into an AppleWorks Database file), were amazing... but how can anyone now have this experience without it being some kind of antiquated exercise? It was cutting edge then, and that was the drive. It's not anymore, and I don't know what feeling one would need to drive the experience.

I'm enjoying learning Basic on the BBC Micro in 2020 because I like the system.  Python and a Raspberry Pi just doesn't cut it for me.  I don't care if I do anything special or not or if I ever make programs that are of interest to other users; it's just something I do for fun like playing games.

 

There are a lot of people who enjoy flying as a hobby.  That tiny little two seater plane is never going to qualify them to fly for a commercial airline and it's never going to be of any practical use and it's never going to be anything but a huge money pit but people still do it.  Why can't I fly the BBC Micro?

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, CaptainBreakout said:

The other computers came and went in my life in one form or another (all the titans- c64, vic-20, atari 800, amiga, b/w macs, 8088, even most of the crazy european computers), but it all boiled down to trying to recapture the experience of the Apple ][c and IIgs, since that's what I had starting in 3rd grade and 6th grade, respectively.

Yes I had a II series machine early on in grade school too. And I loved it. The sense of exploration and discovery was awesome on many levels. T'was especially fun imagining things the computer couldn't do and then imagining (more) about how to make it so. Or at least what kinds of future hardware would be needed. Like what kind of chips would be needed for it to run software from other systems. And especially the arcades. CP/M was solved with the Microsoft SoftCard. But the other 8 and 16 bit machines? I'd have to wait for emulation to become a thing.

 

But it was still nice to imagine memory crystals like from Superman or the Running Man (digital video CF-like modules). Or processors that could jump forward in time, start calculating, and by the time the real CPU arrived the answer would be waiting. More power to the chip the further into the future it could send the problem. And that meant more time to solve it. That's the best description a 6 year-old could give for out-of-order speculative execution with cache.

 

4 hours ago, CaptainBreakout said:

I don't know if it's really possible to re-experience the total thrills of what made the Apple IIs special... they were totally intertwined in the times. Having the ability to play California Games and Wings of Fury at home really meant something to my schoolmates. Also, being boss in the elementary school computer lab was part of the real thrill... when I could effortlessly fly through AppleWorks or Logo, and of course Oregon Trail and load up pirated arcade games on the sly for friends when Teacher wasn't looking.

Well for me it was learning about computers. The bulk of the games had yet to be made. There were tons of programming tutorials and articles and hardware descriptions. Articles on futurism and sci-fi use of computers. Some really quite fanciful. Anyhow, I would have to wait a few years for the games, as we know them, to be made.

 

4 hours ago, CaptainBreakout said:

Of course all the countless hours programming and playing games (and cataloging all my comic books into an AppleWorks Database file), were amazing... but how can anyone now have this experience without it being some kind of antiquated exercise? It was cutting edge then, and that was the drive. It's not anymore, and I don't know what feeling one would need to drive the experience.

That's a toughie for sure! It might help to have some wintertime downtempo nights that are slow. Moody. With atmospheric space music. With wind and rain and a hot cup of soup on tap. And even some vintage gaming. Set aside specific times, and allow for enough of it. 3 hours is good.

 

There's always new stuff to discover in astronomy & space science or bio-sciences for example. Do you know how a virus works? It's surprisingly mechanical in how the chemistry does its magic. Life in the Venusian clouds? Or life built on other chemistries? Lots to contemplate! The sense of discovery and adventure need not always be about a specific vintage computer.

 

And while we may not live in the old times when everything was a new frontier - I found that rounding out my manual & book collection is satisfying today. It's still fun to re-read some of the tutorials and hand-holding examples. There still are things to be learned. I was always digging through the manuals for the tools for solving a certain problem. And that can still be done today. Learn a new software package! Shit. Man. There's still plenty of DOS 6.22 stuff I want to brush up on and perhaps figure out for the first time even.

 

It's fun to explore perspective and how we got here from the past. It's fun to learn the in's and out's of a new technology and how refined some of the old ones are. Such as storage, hard drives, flash chips, and more. It's fun to play with that one piece of software you never could understand back then.

 

Cataloging my disk collection was a big hit back then, too. I started using PFS and got to around 500 disks more or less. I was really gung-ho about it. Recording every little BASIC program, every file in excruciating detail. And it was working. I was really pissed off that only one field, a numerical field, could be searched fast no matter how big the database was. Searching by anything else resulted in minutes of disk grinding, especially with 500 records. And there were times that the amount of incoming was exceeding my time available to catalog stuff. So eventually I had to become less granular and eventually stop. I didn't get much into AppleWorks for that purpose as my time on the computer had morphed into writing and word processing. And not long after that I wanted more capability. I experimented around with the Amiga. But that didn't work out. Then came the PC. Took an interest in it during the waning days of the 286, skipped the 386, and got right into the 486 around 1992 and 1993.

 

Recently I dumped most all my disks, and I drilled deeper into my own personally created files and BASIC programs and BBS material. Commonplace tools today, like Copy II+ in AppleWin, CiderPress + MDC, and Windows' NTFS FileExplorer & Search would have been to die for back then. Let alone even a vintage copy of Office. These tools are beyond most anything we could imagine back in the day. And they by far exceed what was being taught in the Data Processing classes of that era. I have to pull out my data processing text! It's full of vintage pics of machines just prior to the home micro revolution. Big Iron. But all solid state.

 

Finally it's fun to write about your past experiences and save them for the future, for yourself, for descendants, for entertainment & nostalgia. Journal about your past computing adventures before you forget it all! Some of them I put here on AA in the form of these longer posts.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One other brief note. The Apple II seems to have been used by a lot of engineering-minded professionals back in the day. Likely moreso than any other contemporary micro. Some of those dudes are still around today in one capacity or another.

 

If you were into playing around with BASIC and utilities and trying to enhance and beef-up functionality then there are plenty of resources to explore. I'm still finding new and oddball tips and tricks from Beagle Bros Software. In fact I have developed a whole new appreciation for all the stuff they published. Endless fun in easily digestible byte-sized bits!

http://beagle.applearchives.com/

And currently 4am is on a Beagle kick at this moment.

https://twitter.com/a2_4am

 

Came across Deater's demos and stuff. It's possible to pick a demo and spend a couple of nights modding it and exploring the techniques used.

http://deater.net/weave/vmwprod/megademo/vapor_lock.html

http://deater.net/weave/vmwprod/seasons_demo/

http://deater.net/weave/vmwprod/demos/

 

This is like one one-thousandth of whats out there. So have fun!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Keatah said:

One other brief note. The Apple II seems to have been used by a lot of engineering-minded professionals back in the day. Likely moreso than any other contemporary micro. Some of those dudes are still around today in one capacity or another.

...

Apple probably had the engineering/science lead over other 8 bits for several reasons.
The introduction of 80 column cards made the Apple II more business/science capable.
Visicalc made a lot of the plain math or statistical calculations via computer possible.
The Apple language system brought Pascal & Fortran to desktop machines.

Prior to the introduction of personal computers, most computer access was via paid time sharing.
Suddenly researchers/scientists could have a computer on their desk that would be paid for in a few months or even weeks for what they would pay for access to a timeshare system,
and they could run programs that might cost more to run on a timeshare system than their entire budget for a one time cost of the machine.
I had a part time job as a "computer technician" at the university I attended, and part of my job was arranging the disposal of old machines.
The university disposal place was filled with CP/M systems donated by TeleVideo, as well as Apples, Osborn 1s, etc...
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...