Saturday, May 23, 2015

My collection

I talk to a particular friend of mine frequently, and he seems more fascinated by the number of computers I now own instead of what they actually do.  So I thought I would write down a quick summary of my hardware collection, so that the next time he asks how many computers I have, I can answer.


I started with Commodore both back in the day, and more recently when I picked up vintage computing.  In terms of expense, this is still my largest group.  In terms of computers, I have:
  • 1 C64C
  • 1"breadbox" C64
  • 1 C128 (my favorite computer out of all of them, though I'm really liking the CoCo - time will tell if the C128 hangs on to the top spot)
The two C64's were actually my original computers from back in the day.  One was mine, one was my Mother's, and when she passed I got both.  The C128 was my first vintage acquisition off of eBay, and I mainly got it because I was listening to the Retrobits podcast at the time and Earl Evans did a show on it where he stated it was his favorite computer.  So I purchased one and pretty quickly found that I shared his enthusiasm for it, even though I actually don't use it much anymore.

In terms of peripherals, both old and new, I have:
  • 2 1541 floppy drives (one non-functional, both from original collection)
  • 1 1571 floppy drive (purchased with C128)
  • 1 SDIEC (SD card drive for the C64/C128)
  • 1 1541 Ultimate II (SD card/USB reader and more - easily the best of all the new hardware upgrades I've purchased for any platform)
  • MPS802 dot-matrix printer (from original collection - actually went through the effort of buying a new printer ribbon for it, but haven't yet tested it)
  • Teknika MJ-10 monitor (from original collection - composite video works but chroma is off, use an LCD tv now instead)


I started reading a little bit about Atari computers but never actually used one until recently.  I did not have good luck with getting Atari computers, and I think that's why I actually don't use them that much, though I still have an interest in them.
  • 2 Atari 800's (both non-functional, first machines I picked up but neither worked)
  • 1 Atari 130xe (semi-functional - it generally works, but the Reset/Select/Option keys above the main keyboard do not work.  In fact, clearly someone has modified it because there are actually two keys labeled "Reset", replacing the Start key.  None of them work.  But the computer did boot and all the other keys worked.  This is the Atari computer I actually wanted to use, btw.  128k and I like the look of it better than any of the other models.)
  • 1 Atari 800xl (Works!  This was the last computer I got, but by the time I did my interest in Atari had waned somewhat because of my prior bad luck.)
My list of peripherals is very small:
  • Atari 410 (non-functioning, came with one of the non-functioning 800's - yeah, that was a bad purchase)
  • Lotharek's SIO2SD (SD card unit for Atari computers)


Although I really associate myself much more with Commodore computers, I go back a long way with Tandy computers.  The first computer I ever programmed on was a Color Computer 1, but it was my brother-in-law's computer, not mine, so I didn't actually do a whole lot with it.  But when I got to housesit for a weekend, I sat down with the "Getting Started With Color BASIC" book and went through it all.  It was my introduction to computers and programming.  A little later, I did a fair amount of programming and gaming on both a TRS-80 Model I and Model III, but neither were actually mine.
  • Tandy 102 Portable Computer
  • 32k Color Computer 1
  • 64k Color Computer 2
  • 512k Color Computer 3 (most recent acquisition)
  • Cassette drive with cable
  • CoCo SDC

Honorable mentions

What I list above are all the actual vintage computers I own, but there are some other computers that fall sort of into the vintage computing area.
  • Apple 1 Replica - A replica of the Apple 1 done by Briel Computers, I purchased the initial version (assembled) a long time ago.  When I first got it, I didn't know much about electronics and didn't actually get it running.  I could get it to work with the AT power supply I had.  Since picking up electronics more recently, I pulled it out and hooked up a 5v power supply that I built and was able to connect to it from a serial terminal on my Mac.
  • KimUno - An emulator of the Kim-1 that I purchased in kit form.  It was built with all modern components, of course, and was considerably smaller than an actual Kim-1, but it had the same button layout and used a hexadecimal display like the original.  It used an Atmel328P (the same chip that powers the Arduino Uno - thus the Uno in the name) to emulator the 6502.

So what am I missing?

I feel like the two biggest gaps in my collection right now are an Apple computer and a Z80/CP/M machine.  With the Commodore and Atari computers, I've obviously done a lot with the 6502, and I really like the chip, and I like those computers a lot as well.  But obviously Apple was really the biggest producer of 6502-based computers, and I would really like to play around with one.

As for the Z80 and CP/M, I'm pretty familiar with the 6502 and am learning the 6809 now with the Tandy CoCo computers, but I still don't know much about the 8080 or Z80.  I've done some assembly coding on more modern Intel cpu's, but nothing before the 386.  I'd be interested to see what the 8080 looks like and how the Z80 improved on that platform.  And with the Z80, I'd really like to explore the CP/M world.  I used CP/M only a little bit back in the day, but there's a lot of software for it, and since I'm not really a big gamer, it's an environment that I'd still find interesting.  Incidentally, I'm aware that my C128 does have a Z80 processor and is capable of running CP/M, and I've actually used it to do so.  But I'd still rather have a dedicated CP/M machine.

I'm also quite enthusiastic about the PDP-8 emulator that is being developed by the same guy who did the KimUno kit.  In addition to just emulating a PDP-8, it will have LED's and switches on the front panel to really give the feel of working with a basic PDP-8.  When that kit comes out in July, I intend to add it to my collection.

Wrapping it up

So there you have it.  I have 8 working computers, or 11 if you include the non/semi-functioning ones, with far too little space to actually set them all up.  I generally only have 1 or 2 out at a time, and the rest end up getting kind of stuffed into a closet.  I definitely need to organize them and probably will move some of them down to the garage (e.g., I don't need my CoCo 1 or 2 since I now have a 3).  But I don't see myself getting rid of any of them.

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