March 30, 2023

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Apple, Atari, and Commodore, oh my! Explore the deluxe home computer lair – Ars Technica

Zoom in / A view of Brian Greene’s home computer lab, filled with ancient treasures.

In a world where millions of people carry a ’90s supercomputer in their pocketsIt’s fun to revisit technology from a time when a 1 megahertz machine on a desktop was a huge leap forward. Recently, a collector named Brian Green Show off his old computer collection on Twitter, and we thought it would be fun to ask him why and how to set up his home computer lab.

By day, Green works as a Senior Systems Engineer based in Arkansas. But in his spare hours, the “Ice Breaker” (as he’s often known online) focuses his passion on a vintage computer stack he’s been building for decades – and a bulletin board system (BBS) called “Particles” that he’s been running since 1992.

Green’s interest in computers dates back to 1980, when he used the Apple II+ for the first time in elementary school. “My older sister brought home a hard copy of a basic program she was working on, and I was impressed that she could tell a computer what to do using something like English,” Green recalled. “Once I realized you could code games, I was hooked.”

Despite its early encounters with the Apple II, the 1982 Commodore 64 really won his heart. As the first computer with a disk drive, it came at a steep price for a kid, so he spent the entire summer saving money from his paper way to buy one. “Most of my friends had one at the time,” he says.

Today, Green’s line of vintage computers spans a wide variety of machines, even the rarest of them Commodore B128-80 from 1982. As part of the failed Commodore B series of computers, the model barely made it out the door before pulling the plug, according to Green. “Of the B-Series, this is the most common, with about 10,000 manufactured,” says Green. “Whereas other supermodels only had a few hundred.”

We asked him about the computer, which was difficult to track down, and he pointed to the ill-fated Apple IIIwhich Apple launched in 1980 as a business-capable follow-up to its more famous predecessor: “I might have been looking for the taller Apple III. Most computers can be had if you’re willing to spend the money on eBay, but it’s not as fun as picking something up in Show or flea market The Apple III has finally found a worker Midwest Vintage Computer Festival Well priced and proudly displayed.

Create his own computer lab

From these photos, it becomes clear that Green’s home computer lab is an exercise in technological nostalgia on a weapons level. His goal is to recreate the computing experience of the 1980s, when he grew up reading magazines like Family Computing.

“Every month, there was a new computer announced or reviewed,” he says. “I was a kid at the time and couldn’t afford any of those computers, but I’ve always been fascinated by all the different machines. I wanted to try them all! I try to use as much ‘slot correct’ hardware as possible, though there are a few The latest in these devices too.”

When it came to displaying his collection of vintage computers in a relatively small space, Green was meticulous. He came up with an ingenious solution using shelving from wall controlwhich provides color-coded options for metal shelving and accessories.

Three bookcases hold old programs and magazines, and Amazon’s various-sized desks support usable machines. “It was about measuring the space I had and mixing and matching everything to fit,” he says.

While his friends are free to visit and use his old computers, Green says they aren’t as fascinated by the history of the machines as he is, so the online community of vintage computer enthusiasts he found on Twitter and Mastodon meant a lot to him. His girlfriend is happy to listen to him talk about his recent acquisitions, but she is not interested in the hobby itself. However, his daughter enjoys typing on old keyboards and playing games Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? In the rooftop room.

Veteran BBS for 31 years

One of Green’s most impressive legacy accomplishments comes from running Particles BBS since 1992. Over the past 31 years, he’s migrated BBS between various platforms, including taking a decided turn for retro when mainstream BBSing faded and became mostly a nostalgic pastime.

“BBS started on a Commodore 64, then moved to an Amiga 600, then to a Windows PC, and it’s been on a Commodore 128 for the past 20 years,” says Green. “I’ve had tens of thousands of callers from all over the world, from all walks of life, from all different types of computers. I’ve met so many people who have become real friends.”

BBS offers a variety of features such as message rules (where callers can leave messages for other callers to read and reply to), downloadable files, and the Internet door gamesmaking it a period-right virtual meeting space to meet people who are interested in old technology.

For those who want to check out Particles BBS, their website includes a “Telnet now!” Menu item that connects directly to the BBS through a standard web browser. Green says anyone with the means is welcome to visit. “If you want the original experience, pick up your favorite old computer and connect to port 6400 of particles,” he said.

We’ll see you there.

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