Thoughts on vintage Macs collection

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bengi's picture
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I am the proud owner of a good collection of vintage Macs (see signature) but I am reconsidering this hobby as compared to, say, reflex cameras or in general mechanic things. If you don't use you Mac collection for some time, and with more than 30 of them it is not easy to even power them on, you end up with Macs not booting or showing weird behavior. Today I fired up the Color Classic and the SE/30 after probably more than one year. The CC has a well documented symptom: the power key produces one or more audible clicks, and the front green power-on LED blinks in sympathy for as long as I hold the key down, while the SE/30 is showing again the sismasi mac thing (last year I replaced a couple of capacitors). PowerBooks with the NiCd batteries and the internal backup cells are even more prone to misbehave. The Wallstreet that I left in the drawer for some months with two fully charged and good batteries no longer boots off the batteries and one is dead. I could keep writing a book! On the other hand yesterday I picked up the 1980 Pentax LX, that had been seating on the shelf for the last 4-5 years, and managed to take a whole 36 exposures film. I know, everything ages, also mechanic cameras (http://homepage.mac.com/bengi/files/LX.html).

So my speculation is: is it still sensible to keep collecting and preserving electronic devices?

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eeun's picture
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Sensible? I'd say it's a very

Sensible? I'd say it's a very subjective decision. Like any other collecting, the deciding factor is whether or not you enjoy it.

I recently picked up an old Atari Mega STe computer, and have spent a vast amount of my free time working on hardware modifications, installing software and upgrades. However, no matter what I do to it, its functionality will be very limited, and anything it can do I can do faster and easier using an Atari emulator on my PC.
But I enjoy working on it, so I consider it leisure time well-spent.

I've kept a few of my favorite Macs, and just had the 840av out for testing video on the Atari (I still think the 840av is an incredible Mac). I had to re-start the 840 a couple times before I got video - likely due to dead PRAM battery - so I understand what you're saying.

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Eudimorphodon's picture
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Car collecting > Mac Collecting < Beanie Babies

bengi wrote:

So my speculation is: is it still sensible to keep collecting and preserving electronic devices?

This is a gross generalization, but for the most part there's two schools of thought when it comes to collecting. One camp values "specimens", and creates collections composed of individual objects chosen because they're either interesting or popular examples of a (usually large and diverse) class of items. The other camp favors "completeness", and focuses on collecting as many specimens as possible of a (usually much smaller) class, with the ultimate goal to have at least one of every item in that class. If you were to then take a survey of collections and sort them according to that criteria, you'd probably notice a pattern emerging. If the object is large, expensive, or high maintenance "specimen collecting" is the rule. Antique cars would be a prime example of this sort of thing. If the objects are "relatively cheap" (at least for the common yet still "collectible" examples) and simple to house, store and trade then achieving completeness becomes a strong driving factor. Think "Beanie Babies" and Barbie Dolls here.

The problem I see with "Mac Collecting" as a hobby is, to be blunt, it's the "Beanie Baby" mindset applied to a cumbersome and high-maintenance set of objects. Computers are large, unwieldy, difficult to store neatly unless you have a *large* area to keep them set up in, and they're full of components which in the process of aging may release toxic or corrosive chemicals. (The whole computer is itself mildly toxic, if you're counting the infinitesimal amounts of mercury, lead, and aromatic polymers which are slowly leeching off those old circuit boards and plastic cases. It's probably not a good idea to sleep in a room full of old computers.) This applies to any computer or electronics collection, of course, but I guess the hangup I have with having "30 Macs" is, well... can you really argue that any more then, I dunno, two or three Macintosh computers, are really "significant" in the broad sweep of computer history? Is there really anything that interesting about the differences between a Color Classic and an SE/30 to anyone *other* then an obsessive Mac-head? ("Uhm, that one's in color, but it's uglier then the other one?") If you're going to have 30 high-maintenance and poisonous things around the house it might pay to, I dunno, be able to show a visitor your Apple II, Commodore PET and C64, TRS-80 Model III... etc. At this point they're hardly any more useless then an SE/30, and the differences between them are far more profound then the variation you'd find in even a 100% complete collection of Apple Macintoshes.

But, I dunno. I don't understand Beanie Baby collecting either.

("See, this *EXTRA RARE* "Princess Bear" is a slightly different color of purple from the more common one that most people have, although I have one of them too, see?...")

--Peace

gsmcten's picture
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Collecting...

Bengi,

Eeun and Eudimorphodon both bring up excellent points, but in the end folks collect what they want to. They have an interest in a time period, or in certain technologies. When I was a kid I built 1/24th and 1/25th scale cars. In particular from an outfit called AMT. They had what they called the 3 in 1 kits. I've collected Baseball Cards, Ho Scale trains, and Apple II's.
I still collect these things except in more limited quantities. I now look fo particular items in each genre, rather than try to get everything. Someone might say that I'm spending too much for my hobbies. I say it keeps me occupied and happy. And thats all folks collect for... is to be happy. Smile

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Hawaii Cruiser's picture
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Hi, my name is...

There's always the question of when is it collecting and when is it hoarding. Hoarding is an obsessive compulsive behavior right up there with the other great addictions. I'm sure there's a twelve-step program called HA. Since with obsessive hoarding, you're not going through your windshield for the third time at 2am or robbing your child's piggy bank for a fix (or maybe you are?), determining when it's hoarding and when it's collecting seems to me a pretty fine line and I'll not pretend to know how to diagnose, but I guess like all addictions, it has to do a lot with control and denial. I can easily see picking up old Macs rather thoughtlessly and throwing them in the walled-up garage and finding yourself with a "collection," or so you begin to call it. When you start to recognize that there's problems with the situation, then yes, it's probably time to start getting rid of them, or sitting down and seriously reconsidering how important this pile is to you, and determining if the old adage applies, when in doubt, throw it...to someone else at Applefritter!

Now you've stimulated my standard paranoias, Eudi. I often do sleep in a room with computers. It's a small room with a QS, a DA, and right next to the head of the bed, a Beige G3. Am I also sucking up mercury during all those dreams of me and Uma Thurman and her nice Apple II's?

Eudimorphodon's picture
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Re: Hi, my name is...

Hawaii Cruiser wrote:

There's always the question of when is it collecting and when is it hoarding. Hoarding is an obsessive compulsive behavior right up there with the other great addictions. I'm sure there's a twelve-step program called HA. ...

I can easily see picking up old Macs rather thoughtlessly and throwing them in the walled-up garage and finding yourself with a "collection," or so you begin to call it.

I suppose there are worse things one could thoughtlessly hoard then old Macintoshes. Cats, for instance.

(Okay, maybe it's a bit of a stretch to compare Mac hoarding to that, but... I dunno. There *are* the hardcore "collectors" that feel so strongly that *any* Macintosh should be preserved forever regardless of either its practical value or its rarity it's hard to not suspect there might be pathology at work. I don't know if it's simple anthropomorphism or something worse, but for some of these guys tossing a useless computer into a dumpster is akin to sending poor loyal Fido off to the pound. As to gutting an old Mac and reusing the pieces for something not Apple-related, well, that's a thoughtcrime of unprecedented scale. It's like using Hello Kitty for a vivisection experiment.)

Quote:

Now you've stimulated my standard paranoias, Eudi. I often do sleep in a room with computers. It's a small room with a QS, a DA, and right next to the head of the bed, a Beige G3. Am I also sucking up mercury during all those dreams of me and Uma Thurman and her nice Apple II's?

I doubt having a few *functional* computers in your bedroom is much of a problem. If you have carpet on the floor it probably emits a lot more chemical fumes and potential harmful particulates then the computers do. But if you're sleeping on top of piles of aging and/or broken machines and bare circuit boards or have such things in the house in sufficient quantities then you might start crossing the line to "potential health hazard". Some of the nastier things you find buttoned up in modern electronics are more likely to be "venting" in broken items then working ones. (Cadmium and mercury are more likely to leak from dead batteries for instance, while corrosion from dead capacitors can generate dust containing lead and other good stuff.) And of course if you were to have a house fire a large collection of plastic boxes has the potential to make a bad situation much, much worse.

I'm sure the health hazards posed aren't really *that* significant in the grand scope of all the other dangerous things we have happen to us every day, and I'm sure a house stuffed full of Beanie Babies has nearly equal potential to go like a bonfire as one stuffed full of Macs. But both *are* factors to consider when deciding whether your hoard, er, collection is *really* something you need in your life.

Personally I still "need to find homes for" three old UNIX workstations that I'm loathe to throw away, so I'm not totally guiltless on this count. Although they *are* out in the garage so maybe they're dead by now. Then I wouldn't have to feel bad chucking them. :^b

(I would be more sentimental about them, but I'm realizing that as "cool" as an SGI Indy + Presenter flat panel is in the context of being "ahead of its time" for 1994, well... in China they're making MIPS CPU laptops for $98 with CPUs over twice as fast. Time marches on, and as "neat" as that SGI might be it's nothing but a minor pothole in the freeway of history. No one's going to remember it in twenty years, and no one needs to.)

--Peace

Dr. Webster's picture
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Re: Hi, my name is...

Hawaii Cruiser wrote:

There's always the question of when is it collecting and when is it hoarding. Hoarding is an obsessive compulsive behavior right up there with the other great addictions.

Collecting usually involves only having one of a particular item. I would see a Mac collector, for example, as having just one of every compact Mac. Hoarding, as far as I can tell, has no logic to the specific items being hoarded, and often involves multiples of the same item ("look, I have an entire wall of Mac Classics!"). Where it gets really extreme are the people who try to justify their hoarding with an exchange like this:

Me: "So, um, why do you have an entire wall of Mac Classics?"
Them: "Because they were going to be thrown out! I had to rescue them!"
Me: "But what use do you have for them?"
Them: "I kept them from being thrown away! They're safe now!"
Me: "Unnggghhhhhh...."

Sadly enough, I've seen similar to the above exchange several times right here on AF.

I used to collect a few Macs, years ago. With the exception of the newer computers we actually use at home (I have an aluminum iMac, my wife has an Intel Mac mini, and we share a new aluminum MacBook), I'm down to two: a Color Classic (because it's semi-rare and I dig the design) and a grape iMac DV (being kept more for sentimental reasons than anything). I've even started getting rid of a lot of my pro audio gear after I realized I'll probably never use it again.

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Re: Thoughts on vintage Macs collection

Would this be considered as having a problem
http://www.flickr.com/photos/21701975@N03/
Maybe I shouldn't admit to having a dozen more yet to be uploaded

bengi's picture
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If they do not boot and you a

If they do not boot and you are happy I do not see any problem, but if (in case you realize that one does not boot any longer) you get a crisis and try hard to fix the no longer working device, may be looking for the replacement part on the internet, well... welcome to the club!

Ben

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