Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Computer collecting heyday for historical microcomputers 1985 - 1999

bugbook Microcomputer Museum, David Larsen
Altair 8800 microcomputer- January 1975

I am fortunate to have been collecting historical microcomputers from the very first day they were available. I was not thinking at the time how nice this would be 44 years later.  Obtaining them from the original purchasers was a hayday in the years 1985 to 1999. During this hayday period many owners of these early computers had their first computer stored in the closet or basement and had not used it for years. 

These early owners were pioneers in many ways and they had their heart and sole in their first computer. They often paid what the wife considered a lot of money for a toy that could do very little or in fact nothing useful to the family. Remember prior to the microcomputers a minicomputers cost from $10,000 to $30,000 and was not possible to own one for most individuals. That was the price of a small house in the 1960s .The early users of  these machines invested a lot of time and money and wanted to have someone  preserve their computer. 

I placed a small wanted advertisement in several electronic publications for 35 or more years. hundreds or really their were thousands of responses to my request "Wanted pre1980 microcomputers for historical collection" . Most of my collection was acquired during this time including the 4 original Apple-1 computers in the collection. 

 I recorded all the phone calls in log books and kept all the letters with offers. Looking though some of these letters in the past few days I found them very interesting and decided to share several.  Most people thought I had lost my senses for collecting these unwanted computers however it was great fun for me.  A very big part of the fun was the hunt to find a new computer.

 Sometimes I would wait months or even years before working toward getting the computer offered. You will see this in the letter below taking 5 years between first contact and receiving the computer.
To read CLICK on the letter to enlarge
First letter September 29,1990 about the Altair #21

This inquiry letter from Dean was received in 1990 and it was 5 years later I ask dean if he still had the computer. This resulted in my very best Altair 8800 ( Serial Number 21) . When I received the first letter in 1990 I already had a number of the Altair 8800 computers and did not think too much about adding one more.  

To read click on image 
January 10,1995 letter ready to send the Altair 8800
Five years after the first letter I began to understand that the computers with low serial numbers were much more desirable for a collector and remembered the offer for the Altair 8800 serial number 21. To my surprise and pleasure Dean still had the Altair and was glad to work out a deal for me to add it to my collection.

    The receipt for the Altair is dated December 17,1974. This is the month before the computer was announced in the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. This has to be the very first batch of  Altair computers. The CPU card in the computer is serial number 10.

I loved this part in the letter "The first program I ran was a music program which used an AM radio to pick up bus signals so that music would come out of the speaker. My wife was politely interested." I seem to remember that this music technique was one of the early programs to run on a PDP-1 minicomputer in the early 60's. 

Video of Altair 8800 SN 21 "CLICK" a real good look at this computer


Bugbook Computer Museum
Apple-1 computer offer from Craig Solomonson
Here was a great offer in July 1996 of an Apple-1 from Craig Solomonson. The offer was for more than $15,000 but less then $40,000.  It was a bit short sited of me not to purchase this computer - here is the history of this computer.

Purchased from Frank Anderson, an electronic dealer in Great Falls, Montana by Craig Solomonson for MECC.  Craig reports that this computer was sold by Jobs and shipped from his parents address. Woz seemed a bit confused when Craig showed him the invoice and asked about it. He said "Not sold by us, although Job's may have sold it without telling me." 
  • Sold by Craig to Jesse Sackman in California
  • $50,000 unit sold in Ebay auction 320447681957, late in 2009
  • This is the unit auctioned by Christies in London for 133,250 pounds in November of 2010 to Italian businessman and private collector Marco Boglione
  • Marco continues to have this computer in his collection. 

However this was not the only offer I received for an Apple-1 computer. I had about 10 offers during this period and did purchase 4 Apple-1's - see this for the story of the four Apple-1's.

David larsen, KK4WW
Letter from Jim Trent N3EGE September 1996
Here is a letter from Jim Trent who had been seeing my advertisement in "World Radio" and other publications.

His wife was very glad he found my advertisement now he could get rid of all that old stuff and not have it tossed out in the junk. 

I seem to remember getting all his items for the historical collection.


bugbook computer museum
Post card from Tim Walker N2GIG

Sometimes I would get a simple card like this one from Tim Walker N2GIG.


David Larsen KK4WW
Macintosh Computer
Current Steve Jobs Movie "News": Aaron Sorkin on Steve Jobs, Facebook, and why he ignored the iPhone

David Larsen

I am glad I saved all these letters offering computers as many of them are humorous and often include interesting stories about the owner. I think an interesting book could be written from the stories told by these letters from early microcomputer users.  Thank you for reading my blog and have a wonderful holiday season for 2015. Dave

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