[vcf-midatlantic] How old is "vintage"?
hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Thu Aug 5 17:38:28 UTC 2021
> Joshua Abraham
> I would agree that the time range and qualifications are varied.
> By the book though, vintage usually is defined as an authentic and significant item about 20 years or older. So a good example: The IBM AT would be vintage. A random 286 clone... perhaps not.
> Now defining retro, that’s a whole other can of worms. Haha.
> -Josh “Singularity”
So, I read this post offline. I composed a response to this, and took
some time to do so. Before I posted, I looked ahead and saw that others
made similar points.
I see common themes of PROCESS, on matters related to "vintage
computing". Putting hard dates on what-is-vintage, well, pardon me,
that's an operational decision one makes for specific purposes. Here's
my considerations on process.
There is no "book", as there's no authority that establishes vintage
Vintage isn't about significance. Significance is about "interest" and
then "value". Vintage is primarily a measure of age, then largely a
matter of out-of-use. The notion of "authenticity" means "not a modern
copy"; there are copies of vintage computing items; some were copied in
the era, some later, some now.
Two ways one can look at age. 1) "things from when you were a kid". 2)
"things older than *now*". So 20, 25 years from now-present computers -
one or two computer "generations" - is an convenient way from both
views, human and tech, to describe some "vintage" computers if only as
"too old to be current".
I'm old, so age matters to me, I can look back multiple human
generations. And: computing advanced rapidly, so "a generation" of
computing is a short HUMAN span of time. Here's what I mean about each.
Given, personally owned computers became generally available, sometime
in the mid-late 1970's (That's me.). MITS Altair era. Technical
professionals and those learning-about.
So "about a computer generation" after 1975 was an era of lots of home
gaming, mass-produced and distributed computers. While thousand of
people had original experiences with MITS Altairs; *millions* had
experiences with C64's and Atari's and Apple II's. Numbers matter (it
goes to value too). Also: mass small-business computing, as in IBM PC's
which became PC's in-the-home, but still for doing business, finance,
word processing, and so on. People often separate "home gaming" from
"boards in a box" computing - I do.
Another "generation" is 2000. Everyone had some kind of personal
computer, at home and work. You could find them in thrift stores. They
started to become disposable. And yet, with Linux, they were still
useful. Availability and use was called at the time "the digital divide".
People had programmable cell phones by then, kind of small computers and
certainly calculators. Also: tablets, and then "netbooks" - tablets that
use remote programs not locally-operated programs. "computing" was
becoming about connectivity to services.
And now, in the 2020's: it's quite possible to not own "a computer" at
all. One owns a smartphone, it's not a computational device. TV's are on
cables and networks: they are not "computers". We know what people do
with smartphones and TV's. And most old smartphones don't have value -
if you think about it, it's because they can't do much by themselves,
So now, personal information technology is about connectivity, it's
about apps which are connected to services including a service to
provide content. Example? Remember owing a DVD player and lots of DVD's?
Or CD's? Or "video tapes"? Depends on how old you are.
What's the "vintage computing" interest counterexamples? No disrespect
meant. Calculator collecting may have peaked in general interest in the
1990s? Smartphone collecting, doesn't seem to be too popular. Anyone
collect LCD TVs? These are out of my collector-experience zone, I'm
trying to make sense of historic trends.
So in a certain sense, in 2020 we may be at the end of "personal
computing", as valued items obtained for private experience with
information technology for "programming" or running arbitrary programs.
Current "tech" are items for consumption, access to services. No
service, slow service - no value. These devices become disposables - not
as failed devices but from owner's BOREDOM; or because of
end-of-service. Some were disposable when *sold*.
Converse argument? Under-30's who collect 286-386-486 systems, to run
classic games. It's stuff *outside* their age-experience, but
conceptually it's like playing a gaming device or app "now". Social
trends can "invert" to become trendy. It's an interest!
I'm not trying to start fights. I'm making points about being
retrospective about "vintage computing". "how old" just starts the
It matters more about how old you are, your relationship "back then"
with some kind of information technology, and your relationship NOW with
either your past or with present information technology. And it matters,
how these technologies were designed, then sold and marketed and used.
And, what they can do now (if functional). You can divide eras by those
criteria. I and others argue, those are the factors that determine
interests (and also values-of) in "vintage computing".
Regards, Herb Johnson
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 comcast DOT net
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