We have moved so far so fast with personal computing that older machines are acquiring a cultural patina. Everyone, seemingly, has a memory of ”old computers,” even if some people think having a hard drive under 100 gigabytes fits the definition.
There are perhaps two ways to think about obsolete computers. One is as trash or e-waste, which is a serious environmental problem. The issue has been building for years as computers and related peripherals age-out after a few short years and are replaced by equipment that itself will be tossed in the near future. Even if they work just fine, older machines often are perceived to be too slow, too clunky or too uncool to keep around. Recycling is possible, but it doesn’t always happen the way it should, resulting in exposures to dangerous chemicals and other materials.
Ironically, some older machines that escaped being dumped have a second life that far exceeds their original intended purpose. All you have to do is glance at the vintage computing section of an online auction website to see how valuable certain kinds of equipment has become. And, if you are lucky, you can even find good stuff for free: I liberated a fully functional Osborne 1 portable computer from a trash heap a few years ago, for example.
The rarest personal computers are the original models dating back to the 1970s. I found a great picture on Wikimedia that shows some of the earliest models, now exhibited at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
All this goes to say that if you know about a stash of old computer equipment it might be worth checking to see if it has secondary value. Older machines can live on for functional purposes, such as reading old software. Or they might simply have aesthetic value as reminders of the early days of computing. Either possibility beats adding to the e-waste problem.