One of the more surprising developments in the collecting community (at least to me) is the rise of old computer collectors. Old consoles inevitably develop a collectors’ base because the games you can play on them are usually exclusive. But a modern PC is backwards compatible with pretty much every old PC game, if you tinker around, and the controls (keyboard and mouse) haven’t changed one bit.
However….computers have changed just enough in the past twenty years for nostalgia to become prominent for how they used to be. They were once noisier. The pixels were bigger. The monitor was a glowing heavy CRT, not a smooth LCD flatscreen. Installing a game took the insertion and removal of several floppy discs, not the simple act of hitting a Steam button. If you miss all those things, hey, you do you.
Journalist Benj Edwards has a ton of old computers — he’s been saving them since 1993. Now he’s in the process of moving, and he doesn’t want to lug ten thousand boxes of monitors and floppy drives with him. On Monday he announced he wants to sell it all, and it is a LOT. He attracted immediate attention. From this one photo alone, we see several Macintosh Classics, two iMacs, a Commodore PET, a KayPro, and more.
As for why he would dump such a large collection, Edwards gave a pretty heartwarming speech on Twitter:
I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to this. I’ve had 100s of emails, offers to make docs, asked to rent stuff, news crews want to film, etc. I am happy that you love tech culture as much as I do. It touches a nerve in all of us, because it is part of who we are as humans.
I have talked to several museums who are willing to take it all in, and my daughter told me yesterday, “Daddy, if you sell your computers, you will be sad.” So I have a lot to digest and consider. I am grateful for your help, and glad that you appreciate what I have preserved.
As some of you have noticed, this is a lifetime pursuit for me. I’ve dedicated my life’s work to the preservation of tech history since I was a teenager, and I have continued that work as a journalist. This collection was my museum when there were none to be had; it’s how I’ve learned, and how I have known how to interface with some of the most influential people in the 20th and 21st centuries. It has been a great privilege. For now, the collection’s fate is up in the air, but I know it will be treated well whatever happens.
Never make excuses for what brings you joy. The rightness of that feeling is what brings good things to you. I am grateful to be accepted as someone who threw himself into tech history and came out with a career that can help us understand how we got to where we are today.
The “stuff” has never really been the main issue. Technology is the story of people. My collection has always been a means to an end; a way that I can study tech history and understand how people have lived, how times have changed. People who get that have my attention.
As of this writing, the exact home for Edwards’ collection has yet to be decided.