[vcf-midatlantic] Hard drive art

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Mon Apr 15 23:30:31 EDT 2019

All good responses, Brian, you've thoughtfully described your process 
and activities. If my judgement matters, you're doing some of the right 
sort of stuff within the vintage ecosystem. As you state, you have some 
purposes and intentions that are certainly of value; and you produce 
items which are a product of your considerations and efforts and 
investment. I did not suggest your art lacked consideration, value or 

But you also compete for use of those drives you buy whole - "could have 
purchased" suggests that. You mention such use as "those who want to 
prolong their own vintage computers". Well, that's a limited view. So 
this discussion is not about "agitation", yours or mine. This is a 
mutual learning conversation, in principle why people post in forums.

I can tell you as a fact, not all of those whole-drives go to the 
landfill or become recycled. Several of my colleagues recently engaged 
in buying 8-inch hard drives, to restore Intel brand Multibus (call them 
"industrial") vintage computers. They were doing component level repair, 
and reverse engineering of their software and hardware. Whole drives, 
even not completely working, allow them to do this. And of course they 
hoped for working "HDAs" (hard disk assemblies, the working platters and 
heads) not only for repair, but to *recover original software* not 
otherwise available.

Some go to great lengths to extract operating information about vintage 
computers; they make it available, often freely, to others. I've offered 
S-100 manuals for DECADES. That's not about "prolonging my own vintage 

And, just as you suggest your art has an extended lifetime; so does 
purposeful recovery and restoration of vintage computers. Lessons 
learned and software and hardware recovered, as I've described, is and 
will be used to restore additional computers of the same kind. The 
effort is itself a demonstration of restoration possible for other 
computers. That encourages others who otherwise would give up such an 
effort. You can visit my Web site, to see many restoration examples. 
People tell me, they learned from my "art", and went on to other kinds 
of vintage computing, or modern "versions" of vintage computers.

The contents on some computer drives may happen to include data of 
personal value. Some start with wanting to "restore their own computer", 
or their first computer, or their parent's computer. But people who are 
*persistently* involved in vintage computer restoration restoration, 
recovery (or expansion) of *technology* is often their primary value. 
Most of that work is done by individuals or collectives, not (in my 
experience) by institutions. Few have a large budget; you mentioned 
yours; budgets vary.

Also: I have clients who use vintage computers for purpose; they lack my 
technical skills, or resources. They need drives for continued 
operation. Some purposes are industrial, unique control equipment hard 
to replace. Other clients, well, they are satisfied with their vintage 
software, which won't run on modern hardware; or runs poorly. Modern 
alternatives have needless complexity, or excessive cost. Who am I to 
tell them they are "prolonging"? Or to pass judgements on their personal 
interests?   Pardon me, or them, for being old and continuing use of a 
known tool! There was a time, when computers were not disposable 
consumables, and software worked adequately. That's another kind of 
"preservation", that point of view.

So, you have some feedback from me, representing the "other side" who 
have continued purpose, of value, some beyond personal; for these 
drives, those "personal computers". We have things in common, we both 
have our reasons, but we are in some competition. I'm glad you give "us" 
some consideration. If I determine some of my drives no longer serve any 
purpose, I'll consider offering them to you as opposed to scrap. And 
I'll see if you have some boards I may use for repairs. Thanks for the 
discussion and the exchange of considerations.

Herb Johnson

On 4/15/2019 7:50 PM, Brian Brubaker wrote:
> Thank you for your thoughtful comments,  I'm very sorry if I caused any 
> agitation as a result of my art.... 
Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT info

More information about the vcf-midatlantic mailing list