Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review - Collectible Microcomputers

Collectible Microcomputers by Michael Nadeau
160 pages, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2002.

I recently bought a new copy of this book. It has been out for some time, but is still relevant if you are interested in old computers.

The book has information and hundreds of pictures of old microcomputers, ranging from the early days of the Apple 1, Altair, and CP/M machines, through to the 8-bit era of Commodores and Apple ][ series, up to the early IBM PC and compatibles. It even covers some rarities like the Hyperion portable which was developed here in Ottawa, Canada.

Reading the book was a trip through memory lane for me, seeing computers that I had used in the past as well as many that I had only heard of.

I was struck by a few things as I looked over the book. First, I don't think many people realize how expensive some of these early computers were when new. For example, the NeXtcube sold for $11,495 in 1990; that's over $20,000 today. In many cases there was little or no commercial software available - you had to write it yourself. You had to be very forward thinking and perhaps a little crazy to invest in something that expensive. No wonder that so many of the early users seemed to be medical doctors.

Second, there used to be a huge variety in computers as far as appearance and operating systems offered. Something was definitely lost when the world moved to the majority of desktops being boring IBM PC compatibles.

Finally, if the price guide is accurate, the value of old collectible computers has soared since this book was published in 2002. The Apple //e, for example, is valued at $2 to $45. With the advent of eBay they now routinely go for hundreds of dollars. The Apple 1 is valued at $12K to $25K, but units have now sold at auction for over $200K.

The book does not have room for detailed specs on each computer, but covers a lot of machines and has some historical material on most of the manufacturers.

It is available, new or used, on

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