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Retrocomputing in small spaces


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Lots of folks wind up with "retrogaming" and "retrocomputing" rooms, museums, man caves, whatever they want to call it.

 

Aaaaand some of us live in small apartments. If you live in a small apartment, or you otherwise haven't got a whole lot of flat space for setting up lots of retrocomputers, how do you manage in your little corner? Pics, people, show off your small setup. :D

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Probably want to go down the emulator path if space is limited. These old beauties can take up a lot of space and power sockets. I lived in an apartment so I feel your pain at trying to set stuff up every time you want to use it. Looking forward to seeing how the 'spatially challenged' cram everything in! :)

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Emulation is OK but I am a fan of multicarts, etc. The consoles and controllers still take up room but at least you get it on real hardware!

 

You can do a lot with a closet! Here's my old one and I have another in progress now!

 

IMG_0562.jpg

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My IIgs doesn't take too much space. My C64 does, only because it needs a big flippin' disk drive. It shouldn't be too bad otherwise. My TI-99/4A wouldn't be too bad if I had an external keyboard on it since I don't use a PEB. That's three machines. Ideally I'd like two more in my full setup, but I don't have them yet: An Atari and a CoCo. I'm thinking like 18x24" restaurant shelves could hold systems pretty well in a vertical space if I can arrange some way to use them all. PS/2 keyboard adapters? Hm.

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When I lived in an apartment about 10 years ago, I had the majority of everything I owned in the master bedroom closet. Of course, you can't have everything on display or ready for access immediately but I never minded changing out a system to connect another to play. I did make it a habit of changing to another system after a week generally, if I hadn't already done so.

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I'm in the same boat, we live in a small house and it's a shared office between my wife and I so space is at a premium. It's one of the reasons I downsized my collection dramatically over the past year, which was painful at times. Now that things are more organized, I'm getting ready to start collecting again but in a more focused way.

 

Right now I do the switch-out, which can be a pain in the ass but is liveable if you're cramped for space. For instance my Atari 400 and the small TV I use it with lives in the closet when not in use, then will come out and sit on my desk for a few days at a time. My Gamecube sits in the entertainment unit in the living room, but the games and controllers have to hide in the closet as well. It's basically just being smart about organizing, you'd be surprised what even a small closet can hold. Retrocomputers can be trickier than consoles due to the fact they tend to "sprawl" more often than not.

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The major issue seems to be that I kind of find myself always wanting space for two keyboards and depending on the machine, two mice. I can't always currently get it done with a single monitor. I'm using a 19" Dell right now. If the 20" Dell is about the same size and just a little wider (4:3 instead of 5:4), then my monitor is at about the right height. On this desk, the keyboard is at a fixed height, but I can see that the keyboard could be raised or lowered a few inches without being uncomfortable. That suggest to me that the most ideal thing would be to do both: Extend the width of the desktop a bit and lower the front bit where the keyboard would go, not necessarily by much.

 

The "standard" cheap IKEA tabletop (Linnmon and similar) is 35mm/1.35 thick. Actually, my example here is about 34mm according to my good-enough digital caliper. If your keyboard and mouse are wireless, you could literally screw a piece of laminate-covered MDF and that'd give you the width for a second keyboard a bit lower. Ideally your monitor would be mounted on an arm that you could swing out of the way so it's easier to reach the back side of machines like the Apple // that are longer and expect to have things like disk drives and monitors atop them. My monitor sits atop a pine shelf with some cabinet feet attached. Not tall enough for a //e with drives stacked on top of it, but drives to the side is what I'd do I think.

 

I suggested before using Regency shelves (restaurant wire shelving) in 18x24" size to one side, probably with the 18" side facing foreward. At about table level, I'd set up disk drives and a cord catcher to hold on to the drive cables when not in use. Behind them I'd shave the power bricks set up, taking advantage of of velcro onewrap and the wire shelves themselves to wrangle cords a bit. Above the drives I'd set up shelves for each of the retro computers in my collection. The assumption would be that I'd take the one I want to use off its rack and move it to the table, plug in the necessary cords, and I'd have access to it, my iPad, and a Raspberry Pi or a NUC or something. Possibly one of each, they're small. (I can't afford a current generation NUC, but this is kind of a more long-term plan for me anyway. :)

Below the drives I'd have space for media and other storage.

 

How this is going to work out is kinda related to my agreement with my fiancee: One per model, and differences need to be significant. So a C64 and a C128 are fine, but a C64 and C64C aren't. The differences are often just cosmetic, and when they're not the substantive differences are in the SID chip. And she knows that there's two sound chips but that it's possible to spend a little money and put both in the same system. And she's encouraged me to spend the money to do that. :D (She's a keeper.) Of course that means since I now have a C64 and a C64C, I'll have to sell one.

 

So the representative machines are:

 

Apple: Apple IIgs

Commodore: C64C (not sure long or short board), flat C128

TI: Black and silver TI-99/4A, may eventually use a QI board that's "fixed"

 

What I don't have yet:

 

Apple: //e card Mac that can handle displaying on LCD

Atari: Atari 800XL

Tandy: CoCo probably 2 (can't afford 3)

 

What I want but don't have a good way to get yet:

 

Sinclair: ZX Spectrum

*: MSX(2?)

 

What I've decided I just can't afford:

 

Atari: Atari ST or Falcon or something

Commodore: Any Amiga

Acorn: BBC Micro

 

The ST just isn't on my radar. I dunno what I'd do with it. I'd ideally want a Falcon because I like the looks of that machine so much, but I can't justify paying what those go for to get one, especially since I don't know what I'd do with it. I could get a 65XE instead of an 800XL if I wanted one--I haven't seen 65XE prices to be significantly higher and I know the 800XL has the better keyboard by far and there's a lot more of them.

 

The BBC Micro isn't often for sale, so there's a few of them and they tend not to go cheap. First glance says ZX Spectrum is far worse, but second and third glances tell you that they can be had easily and on the cheap before postage to the United States. The Spectrum is kinder there by far than the BBC Micro again. ;)

 

And then there's Amiga. I'm told they don't really have a helpful community--they have a heavily factionalized "scene" with a lot of hostility. Strike 1. If you're just interested in vintage games, the A600 would've been the ideal machine: Just grab a PCMCIA to CF adapter and consider a Gotek floppy emulator if you're done with the magnetic media. And then some of the fancy "essential" upgrades became available for the machine and the asking price went up almost overnight by quite a bit. That was strike two. It all seemed to me to be about generating the most profit possible to prove, giving the whole platform a reputation of being the platform for the rich o the exclusivity of anyone else. And that was strike three.

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And then there's Amiga. I'm told they don't really have a helpful community--they have a heavily factionalized "scene" with a lot of hostility. Strike 1. If you're just interested in vintage games, the A600 would've been the ideal machine: Just grab a PCMCIA to CF adapter and consider a Gotek floppy emulator if you're done with the magnetic media. And then some of the fancy "essential" upgrades became available for the machine and the asking price went up almost overnight by quite a bit. That was strike two. It all seemed to me to be about generating the most profit possible to prove, giving the whole platform a reputation of being the platform for the rich o the exclusivity of anyone else. And that was strike three.

 

I suggest you research this on your own rather than rely upon others' comments. My comments would be the opposite, for the most part. Yes, there are some factions which prefer the Classic to OS4 to MorphOS to AROS, but the majority of the helpful folk will use any or all of them. As for pricing of components, there are some older classic stuff which are astronomical, but essential upgrades expensive? I suppose that depends upon your perspective, but you might want to mosey on over to AmigaKit and check them out for yourself -- the Indivision, RapidRoad, CF card hard drive replacement, etc. Maybe check AmiBay, too, as there are quite a few people there who like to keep prices reasonable as part of their own love for the platform.

 

I have no idea where the Amiga gets the "reputation," or perception for that matter, of being for the "rich," but that is, frankly, bullshit.

 

I can spend the same amount on my Amiga systems as I spend on my Commodore or TI. As all of them are essentially the same "age" in my setups, I would say that over the years I have spent the same amount of money on them all, though the past few years I have spent the bulk of my money on TI and Commodore stuff. In all on my TI I would say I have invested over $1,000 over the past four years and perhaps a little less on my Commodore setup. Of course, not including travel to events :)

 

 

 

In terms of Amiga, FWIW, I have a 4000D with a Deneb USB, Picasso IV video card, DVD-RW, and a CyberStorm MKIII with 50Mhz 68060, a 1200 with Blizzard 1260 and 1230 SCSI, 8GB DoM, SCSI CD-RW, 192MB RAM, a 2000 with Blizzard 2060, Spectrum 28/24, Ariadne network card, CD-RW, an A500+ with varying specs, an A1000 which is being rebuilt and renewed. I just picked up a USB card for the 2000 for around $100. When I sold my spare X-Surf II about five years ago (I still have a 3cc which, for some reason, I just cannot let go,) I got $125 for it.

 

In the Commodore realm, I have a couple of 64Cs (Rev E mobo,) a 64, and a 128D, several of many different types of drives for various purposes, a couple of SX-64s (one works,) some USB-to-IEC adapters, a CMD-HD which will soon house a SCSI2SD with 4GB microSD.

 

My TI systems are not as impressive. I have a QI which I used for general purposes, a silver with F18A and CF7+, and I just got a nanoPEB for travel. The NOS PEB has a SCSI, SID, and DSDD floppy card, and a Myarc 512k card, oh and I just got a 1MB SuperAMS, FlashROM 99. I think that about does it there.

 

I also have an 800XL I picked up 26 years ago which finally died, but its spirit lives on in a 130XE I just got, and an Indus GT to keep the 1050 company.

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If anything. Apple II material tends to be overpriced - especially some of the earlier units. Not for any practical reason other than the machines are old and "because Apple". Or because they were owned by somebody "special" I never understood that. It's not that these older machines do anything special other than buff someones ego. I mean the functionality is the same or less as the more common ~$100 rigs.

 

I never thought the Amiga to be an expensive elitist computer back in the day. I don't know what it's like now though. But I do know the Apple scene is gaining speed there.

 

And another thing. Do you want to explain how computer X or peripheral Y belonged to previous owner Z, then get a blank stare back? It's pointless. I just don't get it. A 48K Apple II+ owned by me neighbor should be the exact same price as one owned by Jobs or Woz. They are functionally and cosmetically identical. What are you expecting to find? Pubes in the keyboard? Dandruff in the fan?

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And another thing. Do you want to explain how computer X or peripheral Y belonged to previous owner Z, then get a blank stare back? It's pointless. I just don't get it. A 48K Apple II+ owned by me neighbor should be the exact same price as one owned by Jobs or Woz. They are functionally and cosmetically identical. What are you expecting to find? Pubes in the keyboard? Dandruff in the fan?

 

I was watching an antique-themed show last night. The item in question was a pair of vintage leather hockey gloves from the 1920s. As is, they were worth about $100. If they could be linked to a famous hockey player, they would be worth several thousand! The provenance makes all of the difference. (No, I do not claim to understand the reasoning either, but it is not limited to vintage computing hardware.)

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Ok, don't laugh, this was my apartment back in 1999.

 

ent.jpg

 

 

I was proud of this apartment. This was back in the day when big TV entertainment centers were still cool. I had every kind of stereo and A/V equipment you could imagine. Laser Disc player, DVD player, Minidisc player, 6-head VHS player. I had dual cassett 5-disc CD player, all kinds of stuff. When you opened the middle cabinet, I had a 27" Sony Trinitron TV that just barely fit in there. On the right, you can make out a Sony PlayStation to the left of the VHS player, and directly underneath that was my Atari Jaguar, hahah.

 

On the very left of the room, there's a folding table. I had a Gateway 2000 486 DX2/66 which wasn't all together totally old back then, but my main computer a 733Mhz Pentium 3 was in my bedroom. Anyway, I played older games there. Under the cover to the left of the Gateway is an Atari MEGA-4 ST with hard drive unit. I only every played a couple of games on it, including Conquest of Camelot, but then eventually sold it.

 

When I invited a girl over, I would quickly take all the computer stuff, put it in my walk-in closet, and then put the folding table away like there was nothing there. I was worried someone might find out I was a huge nerd.

 

Looking at these pictures now, this stuff looks so outdated. It's hard to realize that 1999 was almost 18 years ago...

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Then by all means of provenance, my Hayes MicroModem II should be worth tens of thousands of dollars! It is a premier sample.

 

It connected to JPL in the days of the Voyager 1 & 2 encounters to download images sent back in real-time. It is very likely that there are electrons from the Voyagers' transmitters themselves trapped in the line filtering capacitors and semiconductor gate insulators.

 

It ran a prominent AE Line and BBS back in the day. It was the first modem in my neighborhood to call 8,000 numbers in one day, wargames dialing. It has modded firmware to let it operate at 450 baud. Up 150 from 300.

 

post-4806-0-52849300-1467333258_thumb.jpg

Generic picture I pulled from fleabay for illustrative purposes.

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I've seen the "once owned by" or "once used in" or similar claims made many times, and I generally regard that as total bullshit. The last one I saw was someone claiming this TI-99/4A was used in Revenge of the Nerds. Which of course was BS, because they used a CoCo in the movie and definitely not this one particular TI. Discussed in the Ti sub.

 

If eBay is your only metric, yeah Apple stuff is horrifyingly overpriced. $400 for a bog standard ROM01 IIgs, incomplete? Uh, how 'bout ... no? But if you're looking for a pretty basic A1200, $4-500 is what you're gonna pay for it. And then if you want any kind of storage, you're going to have to pay that on top of it.

 

I have two Apple IIgss, two C64s, a C128, and a TI-99/4A. I might be in about $600 total investment now. I've been fortunate, I've been careful, and I've encountered kind people who have been happy to share the hobby and encourage people who want to start out. But $400 if I'm careful will get me a computer that still needs a monitor and is otherwise a base system. The A1200 isn't a particularly rare system or high end or anything that might increase its price. A500/A600 are less, but still about twice the price of a //e and more than you can find a basic IIgs system selling for. A person can always get a really amazing deal or something and I have a couple of times now, but the Amiga is just out of my $800/mo income range without something that might be classified as a minor miracle.

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I've seen the "once owned by" or "once used in" or similar claims made many times, and I generally regard that as total bullshit. The last one I saw was someone claiming this TI-99/4A was used in Revenge of the Nerds. Which of course was BS, because they used a CoCo in the movie and definitely not this one particular TI. Discussed in the Ti sub.

 

<< BIG SNIP >>

 

I seem to remember in the, "Nerds" movies, a poster of a Franklin Computer, the Apple ][ Clone variety..

 

MarkO

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If I go by eBay, Apple //e goes for $150-200, IIgs goes for $200-400. Amiga pretty much anything tested and working has an asking price of $300-1800.

 

These are sold auctions (all but one of the 1200s,) but my point being it is not impossible to find nicely-equipped and working Amigas for the low-end of the pricing spectrum. IMNSHO, you cannot compare the price of an Amiga to a //e as they are completely different machines.

 

What it boils down to, however, is what you want out of a machine and what your inclinations and predilections are: if you cut your teeth on the 8-bit systems or have a particular love for Apples (or even Atari, for that matter,) or your particular flavor of nostalgia lies with one of those, then the Amiga may not tickle your pickle and therefore not be worth the price, in comparison.

 

Amiga 500

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 2722935161351?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=272293516135&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER]

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 1621204930841?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=162120493084&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER]

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 1220199104481?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=122019910448&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] (powers on)

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 2524343972011?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=252434397201&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] ($450, but with a ton of stuff)

 

Amiga 1200

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 1821808413241?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=182180841324&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] (A little yellowing, KS3.0)

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 1120434538621?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=112043453862&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] ($300, 4GB CF, network card, in-line with GS pricing, no bids)

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 1722163091331?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=172216309133&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] ($385, also within GS range)

 

Amiga 2000

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 3318827783731?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=331882778373&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] (Loaded!)

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 2221521692311?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=222152169231&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] (powers on)

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 2820638496761?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=282063849676&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] (Nicely loaded, '040, hard drives won't boot)

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 1521108149641?ff3=2&pub=5574883395&toolid=10001&campid=5336500554&customid=&item=152110814964&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER] (With SCSI board)

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And then there's Amiga. I'm told they don't really have a helpful community--they have a heavily factionalized "scene" with a lot of hostility. Strike 1. If you're just interested in vintage games, the A600 would've been the ideal machine: Just grab a PCMCIA to CF adapter and consider a Gotek floppy emulator if you're done with the magnetic media. And then some of the fancy "essential" upgrades became available for the machine and the asking price went up almost overnight by quite a bit. That was strike two. It all seemed to me to be about generating the most profit possible to prove, giving the whole platform a reputation of being the platform for the rich o the exclusivity of anyone else. And that was strike three.

 

As the vice president of the Dallas Amiga User Group I offer you our help and assistance and hope your join our user meetings which we have live streamed every month.

 

And I suggest either a Amiga 1200, 600, or Amiga CD with a LCD monitor. :D

 

PM for more meeting information.

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I agree, you could look to a local computer club. I know the one near me was selling an A500 in a box for $50. Yes it's no 1200 or 400 but it was the most popular model and most of the software runs on it.

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I am confined to a room because i still live at home, being a college student and all. I tend to keep my stuff packed away and it is really easy for my room to get cluttered in stuff i pull out and never put back. Never ending cycle.

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I am confined to a room because i still live at home, being a college student and all. I tend to keep my stuff packed away and it is really easy for my room to get cluttered in stuff i pull out and never put back. Never ending cycle.

 

God, I remember those days. I lived in a room which was about 10' by 8'. To be fair to my parents, this was the room I got when I moved back in after a nasty dissociation with my best friend with whom I was living when I first moved out. While I was away my dad took over my 12' x 12' room as his.

 

Computer center around 1995-ish

What you cannot see from this angle is that if the bedroom door is open it almost touches the desk. The large white object at the bottom-right of the picture is a monitor for an Amiga 1000 system I was putting together for my girl friend's daughter, it is sitting on a printer stand. Where I am standing is actually where the room widens a little bit, enough for a (narrow) closet door to open without hitting the printer stand. Immediately behind me is my double bed, wedged in between the bed and the closet wall perpendicular to the computer desk is a small book shelf which holds my TV and VCR, as well as some personal items. There is about a foot between the bed and the printer stand, with something between the printer stand and the window which I used as my dresser. Around the room were several shelves I put up on the walls to give myself more space for books and disks.
Although, I think at the time the picture was taken the book shelf was actually on the opposite wall and the head of my bed was on the closet wall, instead.
+------------[Window]------------+
| Computer |Dress| | |
| Desk | -er | | Bed |
|------------+-----+ | W
| Chair|Print| | n
| / |Stand| | d
| / +-----+ | w
|-/ + , |__________|
| / |Book shelf|
+-/Clst-----------------+
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