Retrocomputing is the use of older computer hardware and software in modern times. Retrocomputing is usually classed as a hobby and recreation rather than a practical application of technology; enthusiasts often collect rare and valuable hardware and software for sentimental reasons. However, some do make use of it. [1] Retrocomputing often starts when a computer user realizes expensive IBM systems like mainframes , Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) superminis , or Silicon Graphics (SGI), even NeXT ComputerSystem workstationshave become affordable on the computer market, usually in a relatively short time after the computers’ era of use.

Many hobbyists-have personal computer museums , clarification needed ] with collections of vintage computers working Such As Apple IIs , IBM PCs , ZX Spectrums , Amstrad , Atari , Commodore , Amigas and BBC Micros . Early personal computers based on the S-100 bus sont également very popular Among collectors, as well as a wide variety of machine running the CP / M operating system , Such As Kaypros and Osbornes. HOWEVER, Many users use emulation software is more modern computers Rather than using real hardware, in order to enjoy the experience, while preserving the aging electronics of the original. This is not considered to be retrocomputing by some, as it is rather an application of modern computer hardware. A third option is the use of home computer remakes, dedicated appliances, which do the emulation using dedicated hardware.

Historical retrocomputing

A more serious line of retrocomputing is part of the history of computer hardware . It can be seen as the analog of experimental archeology in computing. Some notable examples include the reconstruction of Babbage ‘s Difference engine and the implementation of Plankalkül in 2000 (more than half a century of its inception).

“Homebrew” computers

Some retrocomputing enthusiasts also consider the ‘Homebrewing’ (designing and building of retro-and-retro-styled computers or kits), to be an important aspect of the hobby, giving new enthusiasts an opportunity to experience more fully than the early years of hobby computing were like. [1] There are several different approaches to this end. Some are exact replicas of older systems, and some are newer designs based on the principles of retrieval, while others combine the two, with old and new features in the same package. Examples include:

  • Device offert by IMSAI , has modern, updated, yet backward-compatible version of the original and replica IMSAI 8080 , one of the Most Popular early personal systems;
  • Several Apple 1 replicas and kits have been sold in the past few years, by different builders, such as the “Replica 1”, from Briel Computers; [2]
  • A currently ongoing project that uses old technology in a new design is the Z80 -based N8VEM ;
  • The Arduino Retro Computer Kit is an open source, open hardware kit that you can build and has a BASIC interpreter. [3] There is also a version of the Arduino Retro Computer that can be hooked up to a TV .; [4]
  • There is at least one remake of the Commodore 64 using an FPGA configured to emulate the 6502 .; [5]
  • MSX 2/2 + compatible do-it-yourself kit GR8BIT , designed for the hands-on education in electronics, deliberately employing old and new concepts and devices (high-capacity SRAMs, micro-controllers and FPGA).

Vintage computers

1976. But in that time, obsolescence de la machine de la machine de la machine de la machine de la machine de la machine. Nevertheless, en ce que time, thesis Otherwise useless computers-have spawned a subculture of vintage computer collectors, Who Often Spend broad sums to ACQUIRE the rarest of These items, not only to display purpose restore to Their fully functioning glory, Including active software development and adaptation to modern uses. This often includes so-called hackers who add-on, update and create hybrid composites from new and old computers for use. Ethernetinterfaces have been designed for many 8-bit machines to allow limited connectivity to the Internet ; where users can access user groups, bulletin boards and databases of software. Most of this hobby centers on those computers manufactured after 1960 , although some collectors specialize in pre-1960 computers as well.


Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) produced the Altair 8800 in 1975, which is considered as a microcomputer revolution .


IMSAI produced a machine similar to the Altair 8800, though considered by many to be more robust design.

Processor Technology

Processor Technology produced the Sol-20. This was one of the first machines to have a box that included a keyboard; a design feature copied by many of later “home computers”.


Southwest Technical Products Corporation ( SWTPC ) produced the SWTPC 6800 and later the SWTPC 6809 kits that employed the Motorola 68xx series microprocessors. The 68xx line was later by the 6502 processor that was used in many early “home computers”, such as the Apple II.

Apple Inc.

The earliest of the Apple Inc. personal computers are among some of the most collectible. They are relatively easy to maintain in an operational state of operation.

  • Apple I : The Apple-1 was Apple’s first product and has been paid for a microcomputer at auction.
  • Apple II : The Apple II series of computers are some of the easiest to adapt, thanks to the original expansion architecture designed into them. New peripheral cards are still being designed by an avid thriving community, thanks to the longevity of this platform, manufactured from 1977 to 1993. Numerous websites exist to support not only the legacy users, but new adopters who were not even born when the Apple It was discontinued by Apple. [6]
  • Macintosh : Perhaps Because Of icts friendly design and first Commercially successful graphical user interface as well as enduring icts Finder Application That Persists on the MOST current Macs, the Macintosh is one of the MOST file Managed and used of the vintage computers. With dozens of websites around the world, old hardware and software. Many maintain large collections of functional and non-functional systems, which are generally maintained and discussed. The Macintosh had a strong presence in many early computer labs, creating a strong nostalgia factor for training students who recalled their first computing experiences.


  • The COSMAC ELF in 1976 was an inexpensive (about $ 100) single-board computer that was easily built by hobbyists. Many people who could not afford an ELF, which was based on the RCA 1802 chip. Because the chips are still available from other sources, the ELF’s modern recreations are fairly common and a fan of web sites.


  • The IBM 1130 computing system from 1966 which still has a following of interested users, albeit via an emulator [7] rather than the actual machine.
  • The 5100 also has an avid collector and fan base.
  • The PC series ( 5150 PC, 5155 PC Laptop, 5160 PC / XT, 5170 PC / AT) has become very popular in recent years, with the earliest models (PC) being considered the most collectible.

Acorn BBC & Archimedes

  • The Acorn BBC was a very popular British computer in the 1980s with home and educational users, and enjoyed near universal use in British schools in the mid-1990s. It was possible to use 100K 5¼ “disks and it had many expansion ports.
  • The Archimedes series – the de facto successor to the BBC Micro – HAS aussi has enjoyed in recent Following years, thanks to icts status as one of the first computers to be based around ARM ‘s RISC microprocessor.

Tandy / Radio Shack

  • The Tandy / RadioShack Model 100 is still collected and used as one of the earliest examples of a truly portable computer. Other Tandy offerings, such as the TRS-80 line, are also very popular, and early models, like the Model I, in good condition.


  • The Sinclair ZX81 and ZX Spectrum series were the most popular British computers of the early 1980s, with a wide choice of emulators available for both platforms. The Spectrum in particular enjoys its popularity as a platform game, with new games titles still being developed even today. Original “rubber key” Spectrums fetch the highest prices on the second hand market, with the following Amstrad -built models attracting less of a following. The earlier ZX81 is still in its original form, but still unassembled ZX81 kits still appear on eBay occasionally.


  • In the United States, the MSX has had strong communities of fans and hobbyists worldwide, particularly in Japan, where the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Chile, the Middle East and others . New hardware and software are being developed.
  • One of the latest fundamental (from hardware and software perspectives) revivals of the MSX is the GR8BIT .


  • The Robotron Z1013 was an East German home computer produced by VEB Robotron. It had a U880 processor, 16 kByte RAM and a membrane keyboard.
  • The KC 85 series of computers was a modular 8 bit computer system used in East German schools


There are web sites , mailing lists, newsgroups, discussion forums, and so on. Some are dedicated to certain specific systems. Erik Klein’s Vintage Computer Forum [8] is one example of a discussion page covering all aspects of the hobby.

cctech , also known as the “Classic Computers Discussion List” , is an electronic mailing list of old computer technology, and is run by the Classic Computing organization. [9]

In popular culture

In an interview with Conan O’Brien , George RR Martin revealed that he writes his books using WordStar 4.0 , an application dating back to 1987. [10]


Retrocomputing (and retrogaming as appearance) has-been Described in one paper as preservation activity and as part of the Remix Culture . [11]

See also

  • retrogaming
  • History of Computing Hardware
  • List of home computers by video hardware
  • Computer Conservation Society
  • Computer History Museum
  • SIMH , the multi-system emulator.
  • Vintage Computer Festival


  1. ^ Jump up to:b “The Retrocomputing Museum” . . Retrieved 30 October2013 .
  2. Jump up^
  3. Jump up^ “Arduino Computer Retro with SD Card and LCD Display and Keyboard Input with BASIC Interpreter” . . Retrieved 30 October 2013 .
  4. Jump up^ “Arduino Retro Computer TV” . . Retrieved 30 October 2013 .
  5. Jump up^ “C-one Reconfigurable computer” . Retrieved 6 September 2012 .
  6. Jump up^ Weyhrich. Steven. “The Apple II” . p. 2 . Retrieved 30 October 2013 .
  7. Jump up^ “Simulating the IBM 1130 on 21st-century hardware” . . Retrieved 30 October 2013 .
  8. Jump up^ “Vintage Computer: My Collection of Vintage Machines” . January 2012 . Retrieved 30 October 2013 .
  9. Jump up^ http://www.ClassicCmp.orgClassic Computing
  10. Jump up^ “George RR Martin Writes on a DOS-Based Word Processor From the 1980s” . Retrieved 20 September 2015 .
  11. Jump up^ Takhteyev, Yuri; DuPont, Quinn (2013). “Retrocomputing as Preservation and Remix” (PDF) . iConference 2013 Proceedings . Fort Worth, Texas: iSchools. pp. 422-432. doi : 10.9776 / 13230 . Retrieved 2018-01-23 .This paper looks at the world of retrocomputing, a constellation of largely non-professional practices involving old computing technology. Retrocomputing includes many activities that can be seen as constituting “preservation.” At the same time, it is often transformative, producing assemblies that “remix” fragments from the past. While such “remix” may seem to undermine preservation, it allows for fragments of computing history to be reintegrated into a living, ongoing practice, contributing to preservation in a broader sense. The seemingly unorganized nature of retrocomputing assemblages also provides space for alternative “situated knowledges” and histories of computing, which can sometimes be quite sophisticated.


  • “Preserving Computing ‘s Past: Restoration and Simulation” Max Burnet and Bob Supnik, Digital Technical Journal, Volume 8, Number 3, 1996.

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