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1  Retro Computing / General Discussion / Re: Putting old computers to actual use on: April 10, 2009, 04:59:13 AM

Thats why I use my real stuff. Emulators are utterly unredeemable crap.

I think emulators are an integral part of preservation, for two reasons:

1. They're the only way to easily deliver these old computing environments to something approaching a mass audience. The set of vintage hardware that exists in the world is only going to get smaller over time, because there are far fewer preservationists like ourselves than there are people who simply aren't aware of the historical/monetary/sentimental value of these old machines and therefore stow them away in an attic or just toss them.  It will only grow harder and harder to get these systems in front of people who want to remember and work with them again - or who have never seen them before but may have a degree of interest that doesn't necessarily extend to the hassle of actually acquiring one off eBay and getting it running with appropriate software.  Thus, emulators and the Internet over which to distribute them.   

2. They assist in archiving data from decaying physical media.  Using Apple Disk Transfer (ADT), I rip images of my 5.25" Apple II floppies to .dsk and .nib files on my PC all the time - and the easiest way for me to test the integrity of those images is to load them into the AppleWin emulator. 

None of the original electronics or software will last forever.  There will come a point, decades, centuries from now, where the only form that any of these old computers will exist in will be as copies, replicas, approximations.  Look at the Apple 1 replica - it's made from modern components, and there are differences.  This isn't because the manufacturer is cutting corners or doesn't have enough love for the machine, it's a simple fact of dealing with what modern components are available to recreate this particular computing environment.  This kind of divergence will only grow wider over time as technology keeps changing (assuming no hypothetical future in which we have Star Trek-style replicators and can whip up an exact copy of a given historical object out of thin air).  Software, being relatively impenetrable bundles of code, will have a better time of it, but of course the imperfection comes in with the emulator itself, where you only see a representation of the computing environment as given through your modern machine. 

So, in the far future, "close" will have to be good enough, because that's all we'll have.

Regarding the points made about museums: I think that depicting the computers in historically accurate settings, keeping them 100% functional, and displaying their capabilities in a way that observers can grasp are all equally important priorities.  They're all different facets of the same goal.  When I talk about preserving these machines, I mean preserving all of them - both concrete tangibles like hardware, software, and the attendant skillsets, and more abstract aspects like an authentic historical context and the collective memory of What It Was Like.  Some museums, and individuals, are better at one portion of this at the expense of another, but the ultimate goal of this whole fractured community of retro-enthusiasts, old-school hobbyists, museum curators, academic historians, preservationists of all stripes, should be identical and all-encompassing.
2  Retro Computing / General Discussion / Putting old computers to actual use on: April 06, 2009, 05:01:50 AM
This will probably be a bit of a rant, but here goes:

It kills me whenever I see photos of a museum where computers sit under fluorescent lights 8 hours a day, cases discoloring, circuits steadily degrading from disuse - where the computers aren't complete or even functional, but just dead husks in front of (frequently inaccurate) signs.

Not all museums are like this, but some, many, are.  They fail horribly at preservation and are closer to tombs than anything else, places where some history is superficially presented, but where the computers themselves go to die.  I'd hate to think that this would ever happen with the machines in my collection... and it's not really a "collection" per se, since I detest acquiring things simply for the sake of acquiring them.  I strive to put all equipment that I have to actual use, and to pass on certain skills to curious souls that have maybe impulse-bought something off eBay and want to make the most of it. 

The function of museums, and of computer "collecting" in general, should not be simply to amass a lot of systems in one place and stick them under glass like jewelry, but to keep them actually operational and to preserve the relevant skillsets.  Computers were always here to be used, not stared at.

Anyone else feel similarly?  How do you employ your vintage machines?
3  Retro Computing / Commodore 64 Hardware / Exact date of Commodore 64 introduction? on: April 05, 2009, 08:09:19 PM
All the online sources I can find just say "August 1982" and I suspect they're just copying from each other. Does anyone know of a
precise date for the introduction of the Commodore 64?
4  Retro Computing / 8-bit Apple discussions / Post your non-Mac Apple collection! on: March 13, 2009, 04:16:40 PM
Apple ][, rev 0, Integer BASIC in ROM.  Works perfectly except for an iffy power switch, which is easily gotten around with a System Saver fan.

Apple ][+.  Has a custom character ROM that includes lowercase:

Apple ][+ cards - Language Card, Super Serial Card, Microbuffer II, Disk II:

Apple ///, 256K model:

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