Computer collectors & aficionados: please read!

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

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I was reading about randomness again online, which is a dangerous thing. And I had an idea for a fun video that I could really use your help with!

What I’m going to do is another “list” video, but this time about rare and obscure computers. That’s where you, vintage computer lover, come into play.

I’m looking for information on machines that are genuinely rare and genuinely obscure. NOT the “L@@K r4r3!!” machines you see posted daily on eBay, like a Commodore 64 with more dust bunnies than a feather duster quality assurance testing room. I mean, you won’t see one of these unless you work in a museum or are incredibly lucky/rich.

I’ve posted a photo of a clear Mac SE (from regnirps.com) as an example of the rarity I’m speaking of. Only about 20 of them made. Of course, anything under about 5,000 made or so is going to be rare, maybe even 10,000, so don’t hesitate to suggest things! I know of more machines already, but I know there are plenty I am not aware of. I’d also like to note I’m not looking for things like mainframes, minis or one-off prototypes, as these are obviously rare by nature. So if you know of awesomely rare personal computers I can talk about, please leave comments listing them!

I’ll give credit to all who help, and I’ll also post a video to augment this blog post as soon as I can, asking for the YouTube community’s assistance as well. Please post suggestions as comments here or on the video once it’s up, or email me. This is the current list of possible machines to cover. There are amazing, knowledgeable people out there, so let’s do this!

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22 comments on “Computer collectors & aficionados: please read!

  1. BrunoB says:

    Well about Commodore a good place to start would be this one (if you don’t know it already, which I doubt): http://www.floodgap.com/retrobits/ckb/secret/

    Also check this out: http://www.amigahistory.co.uk/goldc64.html

  2. Pretty ambitious video topic you got here, Clint. I unfortunately don’t have, know anyone, or know where you could find such rarities. All I can do is stay back at the sidelines and say “Good luck!”.

    • I think you misinterpreted what I’m asking (or I misunderstood your comment). I’m not looking to buy, use or even talk to anyone with these machines. That would be awesome, but I’m simply looking for ideas. If anyone knows of any rare computers I’d like to be made aware of them 😀

  3. Gemini says:

    The only thing that comes to mind isn’t so much a computer… but a portable video game console…

    Way back when the Game Gear was still new, I remember reading in an EGM magazine at the time about an 18kt gold-plated Game Gear with various gemstones adorning many of its buttons and features. They even had a picture of it and I believe they quoted how many were made… but I completely forget the number if they did. However, if memory serves, the selling price per unit was about $20,000.

    Alas, this EGM magazine of mine has been lost to time. : (

  4. John says:

    The only thing I can think of off the top of my head are the rarer models of the Atari Falcon. The original had three prototypes (Motorola 68030 processor) and the machine itself is fairly obscure in its own right. Next there’s an incomplete 040 prototype and then there are all the custom builds one can make if you so desire. It’s possible to use accelerator boards and such to get a 060 in there and add graphics cards and all sorts.
    I bought an original from the old Atari offices when they closed down more than 10 years ago but I never got around to having it delivered (don’t ask, I was young and greedy). It has a Jaguar CD emulator in it apparently from what I remember and hopefully it’s still around as I should really get my hands on it by now eh? I am actually considering offering it to you but I’m not sure as emulation for the Falcon isn’t great and I don’t know how much you are into the computers of that era. I’d also like to hook up with people who might be interested in that CD emulation, at a convention or whatever.
    Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll finally get around to doing something before it crumbles to dust in some guy’s attic.

  5. Xaromir says:

    There used to be a rare golden commodore 64.
    You can find infos about it her:
    http://www.zimmers.net/cbmpics/c64gold.html
    Many people apparently don’t know about this.

    Commodore + rare + strange adds up to this i guess:
    http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20060717/the-commocoffee-64/

    Hope i helped. 🙂

  6. Brian says:

    Hey Clint,

    I can think of a few off the top of my head. Not sure if prototypes are acceptable, but there was an Apple IIGS Plus model (code named Mark Twain). I have no idea how many were made, probably 10-20. Doubtful they’ll ever come out on ebay and if they did it would probably sell for an astronomical price. See more at http://www.apple2.org.za/gswv/a2zine/GS.WorldView/Resources/All.ABOUT.THE.MARK.TWAIN/All.About.Mark.Twain.txt

    The Sphere I was arguable the first Microcomputer PC as we know it (made in 1975). Again, not sure on how many sold, but one recently sold on ebay from the inventors daughter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphere_1

    Another computer is one you’ve seen on my youtube channel. The OmniGo 700LX. I’ve seen a total of 2 of them on ebay in the last 3 years. No idea how many were released, but given the limited number of times they show up, I’d say it’s pretty darn rare. At least it makes me feel special to think so.

    Lastly, there are computer clones (IBM XT/AT clones, Apple II clones, etc). Some of these these companies literally only released a few hundred models before they were sued or simply went on to other things.

    Hope this helps,

    Brian
    http://www.youtube.com/brianpicchi

  7. There are some fairly obscure computers which are more exotic than rare (they are quite rare however), EG the Sega Teradrive, the Amstrad MegaPC, the Sinclair PC200, the FM Towns plus a lot of other custom architectures from Japan. Is this OT?

    • Exotic, rare, obscure, it’s all good. Those are some I’ve heard of, but I still might use them. Not sure where I’m gonna draw the line yet, will have to see how many suggestions I get 😀

      • I’d split it in 4:
        – almost unique pieces such as the golden C64, the crystal mac, the Apple I
        – unreleased models such as the C65 or Amiga 3000+
        – foreign exotic architectures such as soviet clones, japanese only computers, unitron mac512
        – otherwise interesting such as the Canon Cat, the NeXT, the Gavilan, the Osborne One, the Grid Compass and so on

  8. nerka99 says:

    K-202 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-202 . Its microcomputer, only ~30 were made and pretty much all sold to UK. Soviets were dicks and pretty much blocked the guy who made it since they favored other series of microcomputers made in Poland called Odra http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odra_%28computer%29
    Rare enough for you ;)?

  9. Well Hungarian home computers like the “Primo” and “Videoton TV Computer” are rare, I think at least. http://www.homecomputer.de/pages/easteurope_hu.html

  10. Graoumpffffff says:

    If you still want to taste French computers, Thomson produced 5 final prototype of the 68000 based TO16 before changing their mind and produced the x86 based TO16.
    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomson_TO16_%28prototype%29
    It is almost impossible to find any informations about it, even in French.

    Then, you can go with the Matra Alice 8000, the attempt from Matra to get the government contract to equip every schools with computers. Contract that was finally signed with Thomson and lead to the creation of the MO5 you now know. 😉
    http://randoc.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/matra-alice-8000/

    I’m sure they are a lot more, but these are the only that are coming to my mind right now.

    Good luck.

  11. VintageCPU says:

    I got a couple of rare japanese computer which could be interesting to talk about:
    http://vintagecpu.wordpress.com/fujitsu-fm-new-7/
    http://vintagecpu.wordpress.com/fujitsu-fm-townsii-fresh-et/
    http://vintagecpu.wordpress.com/nec-pc-8001-mkii/

    I also have a couple of brazilian zx-spectrum clones and a x68k compact, which are not impossible to find but are quite rare here in the US.

  12. Sam says:

    A few come to my mind:
    * The Apple I. Considering that they were build-it-yourself kits with no monitor, and the fact that Apple Computers was based in a garage at the time, I doubt this sold well.
    * The original Apple Lisa. These things were extremely expensive, so there were probably very few buyers, and to make it even more rare, in 1986, Apple offered all Lisa owners the opportunity to turn in their machine in exchange for a heavily discounted Macintosh Plus with a hard drive.
    * The “Outbound Notebook”, which was quite literally a Macintosh SE in a notebook form factor. It required the user to install an actual SE or Plus ROM in order to work.
    * Not quite a computer system, but ashens’ recent Vectrex video mentioned the 3D Imager, a peripheral that created a 3D effect with a spinning disc synchronized with the machine. I don’t know much about this thing myself, but he portrayed it as extremely rare and massively expensive.

  13. Kevin Dady says:

    I suggest you watch a bunch of old computer chronicles and pick some wild workstation

    http://www.archive.org/details/computerchronicles

  14. Sam says:

    There’s also the Apple Paladin, which was an unreleased device (prototypes are in the wild) that attempted to combine a computer, a modem, a fax machine, a scanner, a printer, and a telephone into one device.

  15. Sam says:

    Don’t forget the Xerox Alto and the Xerox Star.

  16. Jason says:

    If you’re interested in old, obscure, and international computers that nobody’s really heard of, there’s a really good database with tons of info :

    http://www.old-computers.com/museum/default.asp

    Specs, pics, adverts, etc. on tons of computers. Also has a video-game console database with the same. Happy Hunting!

  17. renegade1990 says:

    I strongly recommend you to check up this hidden gems:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pravetz_computers
    http://www.pravetz.info/en/
    Nowadays they are pretty rare, and also very expensive.
    At the moment I am trying to find myself working specimens for reasonable prise.
    I hope you’ll say a few word about them with respect, see ya.

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