Making My Collection Usable - Part I - The Classic Computers (photos)

Bill Loguidice's picture

As mentioned previously, I've been re-thinking my collecting activities, including selling off the non-working and duplicate portions of my collection, which presently consists of over 430 videogame and computer systems and countless thousands of related software, accessories, and literature. Naturally, part of that reasoning was "thinning the herd" after all these years, because - even though I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space for these types of activities - it has long since reached the point where I well and truly have too much to handle. Why has this become an issue? There's simply too much stuff, there's no time to use it (that would need to be my full-time job), and, when I do want to use it, it takes up most of my available time just setting something up, only to have to break it down and put it back on the shelf again. It's innefficient, and frankly, no fun anymore.

With that in mind, in addition to the thinning - which will take a very, very long time of course in a collection I've been cultivating for over 30 years now - I've been plotting how I can make better use of what I have. Like I said, I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space. I have a large basement area, with about half unfinished, which is used for storage, and the other, finished half, consisting of an office room, hallway, workout area, and den area. The main floors of our house contain our active systems, including the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Co-Star, various computers and handhelds, etc., but they are not an option for me to make use of for classic items, other than on an occasional basis. That just leaves the basement, which is, of course, fine, but also limits my flexibility.

Anyway, even though each area of the basement is brimming with stuff and each section serves a specific purpose, either on a permanent or temporary basis, I decided that my best course of action is to pull out the truly must-have-accessible systems from the hundreds available and make them accessible at a moment's notice. This was not easy to do, as I have a genuine passion for each and every system I own, but the bottom line is is that some systems are more interesting, more "useful," or I simply have a critical mass of items for them that they can't be ignored. I decided I'd tackle that task with my classic computers first, followed by my classic videogame systems at a later date. I cleared space on my big L-shaped computer desk in the office area and proceeded to select the systems that met my criteria and would fit on the desk (I'll have some flexibility when I set up the classic videogame consoles to make a little use of the den area as well).

While I have many different models in most of the specific computer series I selected, I tried to choose the one model in my collection that would give me the most bang-for-the-buck. This in and of itself was not easy, as there's rarely a "most perfect" choice when it comes to choosing the ideal model in a series, which in this case also involved being a good fit for the available space. The systems I chose were as follows: TI-99/4a, Apple IIgs, Atari 600XL, Atari Falcon, Commodore Amiga 2000HD, and Commodore 128DCR, with a special appearance by the Radio Shack Color Computer series, which I'll explain at the end. So yeah, as hard as it was, no Sinclair Spectrum, BBC, IBM PCjr, Coleco Adam, Imagination Machine, MSX, Interact, Exidy, etc., etc., items, even though I'd love to have those out and ready to go as much as the others.

My initial goal - which I was able to accomplish - was to set up a basic system configuration for each and make sure it was working properly. I actually had a slightly different mix of specific systems, but, after testing, found some things didn't function as expected or didn't work at all. Over time, I'll add to each system I've set up (and address the other stuff that's not working) until each and every one is set up properly with their respective disk drives, flash cards, transfer cables, etc., to be fully usable with all of the stuff I have available. At the very least, with these minimum configurations, they're ready to go for most quick usage scenarios. I also decided it was important not to have any of them plugged in full-time, so everything gets hooked up and powered up on demand. This is actually simple and will not delay my usage in any way. In fact, the way I have the various monitors and TV's set up, I can hook up other systems as needed without too much fuss, which is another bonus. Anyway, here are the photos and additional explanation:

IMG_2239
So the first system I set up is perhaps the clumsiest, the TI-99/4a. I decided to go with the classic silver/black model rather than the later cream colored unit, but that will be easy enough to swap out as the mood suits me. The big unit is the Peripheral Expansion Box, or PEB, which houses extra memory and the two disk drives. It's a beast, but necessary. I have a flash unit for this device that I'll set up, as well as other peripherals, but for now, this will suffice in terms of usability. That's one of three 1084S monitors you'll see, and the TI-99/4a is connected through its monitor output. There should be enough room here for me to add a composite modded Atari 7800 or ColecoVision next to it when I do the videogame stuff and make additional use of the same connection.

IMG_2241
This is a ROM 01 Apple IIgs. Amazingly, the battery still keeps the time and date, but I haven't opened it up in a long time to see if there are any mods to make that possible (the original batteries only lasted five years or so). I initally had a ROM 03 IIgs here, but it was choking on the 5.25" disk drives for whatever reason and I decided to stop troubleshooting and just use this model. I was debating about putting one of my Apple IIe computers here instead, so I'd have a bit more flexibility with the internal slots and better overall legacy compability, but this setup does afford me access to most of the legacy stuff as well as all the IIgs stuff, so IIgs it is for now. It's hooked up to its companion monitor via its RGB connector. I'll add in things like the CCFA at a later date, but for now, this setup works just fine. I'll see about swapping ROMs with the other unit as well at a later date, if needed.

IMG_2243
I have a fondness for various Atari 8-bit models for various reasons - the uniqueness of the 800, the feel of the 1200XL, etc. - but I decided to go with my 600XL for its nice size. It's also modded for monitor output and 64K, so it doesn't have the usual 600XL drawbacks, and I even have a small dongle that pushes the memory many times that. I'll need to add a disk drive here for compatibility, but I do have various flash options that will be added into the mix. This is hooked up to the LG LED TV/monitor through the monitor output (composite).

IMG_2236
Behind the 600XL is the Atari Falcon, shown in the photo above during testing. I knew I wanted an ST-series system and had most of them (including the STacy), at my disposal, but I thought I'd go with the top available unit and take my chances on legacy compatibility. It has 14MB of RAM and all kinds of SCSI-drives, which are not hooked up at present. I'm using Atari's VGA adapter to go the LG. It looks fantastic, though I may use the same type of SCART to HDMI conversion I'm doing with the Amiga since I should be able to control the sound output better that way.

IMG_2237
I'm not going to lie, this one was a bit disappointing. I tried both an Amiga 600 and Amiga 1200 here, and couldn't get either one to work properly (or at all), even after much troubleshooting. Those systems would have been ideal because I have a wonderful compact flash card with all of the Amiga software on it that would have made these a dream to use. Unfortunately, that will have to wait. Of my remaining Amiga systems, the 500, 1000, etc., this 2000HD was the next best choice, and it even has an 8088 bridge card in it, so I have the added advantage of some classic PC DOS compatibility for a bit more flexibility. Overall, it's still a nice system and a worthy choice. I'm using a SCART to HDMI conversion, which looks great on the LG.

IMG_2245
The last system in the "always available" line-up is the Commodore 128DCR. I have many systems in the C-64 series, but this particular unit is by far the most flexible. It's hooked up over both the monitor and RGB outputs to the 1084S, so I can switch between 80 column and 40 column modes without issue. I also have various flash-based solutions that I'll get going on this as well.

IMG_2247
This is the Color Computer stuff in the center of the room on its own desk, though you can't really see everything, including the additional systems. I'm working on a Color Computer history book at the moment and there's no better place for a wild card system that I'll need front and center for the next several months than right here. The main CoCo 3 will be hooked up to the 1084S with an RGB cable, so it should also look great. This is next on my list to test and organize, so it can prove its value when writing.

IMG_2248
This is the one other available table in the room. It has ancillary Color Computer stuff - offshoots and near compatibles and what-not. This is part of the process of getting all of my CoCo-related collection (except the boxed software, which remains with the other boxed computer software in racks in the hallway) out. Obviously, I have some duplicates to sell here.

So, that wraps up part 1. I'll try to provide some updates over time, and am now planning on what classic consoles I absolutely need out and/or can fit somewhere. Collecting like this is obviously not for the feint of heart - or particularly sane - but I ultimately enjoy it, so you take the hassle with the fun...

Comments

Pressurizer (not verified)
Just ... wow. I am almost

Just ... wow. I am almost speechless with envy. This is an awesome playground, good work!

Shawn Delahunty
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I will NEVER get tired of looking at that stuff

Bill,

Just... wow. That is such an awesome collection!

If it ever cools off here in Houston (maybe next month) I'm going to do another set of retro-computing videos in my garage with a blog post here. I need to swap out a bad character ROM chip in my VIC-20 and a bad kernel ROM on my C-64. So I'll get a chance to show folks the innards of those systems, as well as booting them. Any chance you'd do something similar with the Amiga machines? The hardcore geeks like me would love to see the electronic-porn of the innards... "Amiga Centerfolds Exposed!" heh heh..

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Bill Loguidice
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Sure
Shawn Delahunty wrote:

If it ever cools off here in Houston (maybe next month) I'm going to do another set of retro-computing videos in my garage with a blog post here. I need to swap out a bad character ROM chip in my VIC-20 and a bad kernel ROM on my C-64. So I'll get a chance to show folks the innards of those systems, as well as booting them. Any chance you'd do something similar with the Amiga machines? The hardcore geeks like me would love to see the electronic-porn of the innards... "Amiga Centerfolds Exposed!" heh heh..

Yeah, I have no issue with that, particularly since I need to get inside that Amiga 2000HD at some point anyway and see what's doing.

Looking forward to more of your videos...

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Very nice

Bill, love this overview. Please keep them coming!

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Bill Loguidice
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Thanks
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Bill, love this overview. Please keep them coming!

I know you try to do something similar, Mark, i.e., try to get as much out and usable at all time as possible, right? I'd love to hear any tips you might have.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Just when i think i got alot

Just when i think i got alot of room with a new house.. I must admit that is a computer geeks wet dream.. I could get lost on each one for hours.. That TI/99 and its bread box sure brings back memories of my mine. it does sound like you are more fond of it than me. My first REAL computer but after purchasing it I wished i had went with my original pick (atari 400).. dang Kmart and its OOS items when they had sales. The TI may have been a better learnig tool in the end (and worked out the best for me) as the Atari would have had to many games and I would have just played and not learned in the end Im sure. I really only fualt the TI for the massive prices on those addons (which at the time where right in line ) but to a kid spending money.. it was a big let down to need that stuff (in reality or not) to do "more". Cool to see the speech box too!

And the IIgs, i have a HATE for that machine.. through no fualt of its own, but 100% my own. I picked it up (on sale) but for way to much money and never felt I got much out of it. Especially as I had picked my A500 up earlier that year and .. well it impressed me :) so much that i stuck with it for 4 years.. no other computer has ever lasted as long as it did.. unless you count Intel PC as a whole ( but I upgrade those at least every year, maybe 2).

I can tell you when Im moving to the new house ( in fact all that is left is my closet of "toys", and my current Desk and PC to move) they are currently LOW on my loved list.. boxes and boxes that I am not sure where I will put that have to be carried out to the van, moved ot the new house and put away.. I was moving my Consoles last week and sorta had to take a break with my Turbo Duo (still works) though Im wondering how Splatter House got a remake.. it wasnt a good game to start with. Ninja Spirit is still awsome.

Bill Loguidice
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Value changes over time
clok1966 wrote:

Just when i think i got alot of room with a new house.. I must admit that is a computer geeks wet dream.. I could get lost on each one for hours.. That TI/99 and its bread box sure brings back memories of my mine. it does sound like you are more fond of it than me. My first REAL computer but after purchasing it I wished i had went with my original pick (atari 400).. dang Kmart and its OOS items when they had sales. The TI may have been a better learnig tool in the end (and worked out the best for me) as the Atari would have had to many games and I would have just played and not learned in the end Im sure. I really only fualt the TI for the massive prices on those addons (which at the time where right in line ) but to a kid spending money.. it was a big let down to need that stuff (in reality or not) to do "more". Cool to see the speech box too!

You know, that's a good point. Back in the day, I would have disliked owning the TI-99/4a because I wouldn't have likely been able to have anything for it except for the main system, speech synthesizer, and a tape deck. The advantage of today's collecting world (and the fact that we're adults with jobs) is that "dream" configurations for these classic systems can now be built, showing a potential and a usefulness that would have been difficult to achieve when these were relevant. Of course, most of these systems also have flash solutions as well, making them better in many cases then even the best configurations from back in the day.

clok1966 wrote:

And the IIgs, i have a HATE for that machine.. through no fualt of its own, but 100% my own. I picked it up (on sale) but for way to much money and never felt I got much out of it. Especially as I had picked my A500 up earlier that year and .. well it impressed me :) so much that i stuck with it for 4 years.. no other computer has ever lasted as long as it did.. unless you count Intel PC as a whole ( but I upgrade those at least every year, maybe 2).

Even though the prices have risen dramatically since the death of Steve Jobs, these Apple II series machines - IIgs included - are perfect examples of what we're talking about above. The prices for those Apple machines when they were current were outrageous and only the lucky few could afford them. On the other hand you had the Commodore stuff, with the C64 and Amiga, that were usually a far better value and performed better (at the very least in the showy categories, like graphics and sound). Now we have the opportunity to appreciate them all and not have to choose a favorite. The IIgs really is a pretty special machine - running both Apple II and IIgs stuff easily - sort of like if the Amiga were designed to run both C64 and Amiga stuff (the Amiga did have an emulator, but what it wasn't built-in and didn't offer the same level of compatibility--in fact, you could upgrade a IIe to a IIgs if you so chose - you certainly couldn't do a C-64 to Amiga upgrade).

clok1966 wrote:

I can tell you when Im moving to the new house ( in fact all that is left is my closet of "toys", and my current Desk and PC to move) they are currently LOW on my loved list.. boxes and boxes that I am not sure where I will put that have to be carried out to the van, moved ot the new house and put away.. I was moving my Consoles last week and sorta had to take a break with my Turbo Duo (still works) though Im wondering how Splatter House got a remake.. it wasnt a good game to start with. Ninja Spirit is still awsome.

When we moved several years back to this current house, I think it took me almost a year to get everything into reasonable order. Moving - especially with lots of stuff - has to be one of the more unpleasant things on the planet.

n/a
Mark Vergeer
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tips

- making sure the amp rating in the room is high enough if a lot of equipment is hooked up, even if switched off.
- use switchable power strips that make it possible to switch on/off a device and it's peripherals.
- ergonomics, make sure the tables and desks you use don't have you sit at them in wrong postures.
- use solid state storage solutions whenever possible, it saves wear and tear on the originals. Of course these must be pluggable and not modify the system if you want to keep things original. Besides often it loads in the programs much faster which saves precious time.
- ventilation - these old machines turned on heat up and also plastics and other materials heat up. Small quantities of those can be released into the air. To prevent toxics in the air it is best to ventilate properly.

- consoles, especially the older ones work best with CRT TVs, these don't have lag and offer scanline capabilities. LCDs or other modern TVs need a special game mode in order to work without lag. A game mode is needed otherwise the controls and responsiveness will be very sluggy due to huge delays. Often the game mode of an LCD mercilessly cuts down on picture quality and not all LCDs are good at scaling up low resolution images. I use manually sswitched but preferably electronically switched RGB/composite video switchers -for convenience and to save wear and tear on the leads, then plugs and the sockets in the display device.

- it is better to have the games you love and play accessible and setup than tucked away in a box. ;)

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retroc64
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Joined: 05/11/2008
Just no words.

Your room has always been an inspiration to me. As I live in Westchester, I always hoped you would open your basement as a paid museum... LOL. Why don't you just keep all your equipment and use emulators when you want to "use them?"

Bill Loguidice
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I thought about simplifying like that, but...
retroc64 wrote:

Your room has always been an inspiration to me. As I live in Westchester, I always hoped you would open your basement as a paid museum... LOL. Why don't you just keep all your equipment and use emulators when you want to "use them?"

I have debated doing the emulation thing exclusively, but I'm too far down the rabbit hole and like the real hardware too much.

I'm also open to visits...

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