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The Almighty Buck

Where is the Oldest PC In Use? 201

the_tsi writes "Dell has a contest to find the oldest PC still in service at a small business. The winner gets $15K worth of new computers, and their old PC donated to the Computer Museum of America. " Cute idea actually.
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Where is the Oldest PC In Use?

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  • Sorry bud, but the Model 50's all had 80286 CPU's running at 10MHz in them. The only PS/2 with an 8086 in them were the 25's and 30's.

    For more info on these PS/2's, see http://members.tripod.com/~ps2page/ ps2specs.htm [tripod.com]

    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address

  • Quest Electronics had a nice kit based on Pop-Tronics' article about building the ELF computer. It was based on the RCA 1802 running at 2 MHz. Mine had a whopping 36.25 Kb of memory (32K of it on an S-100 card), an ASCII keyboard, a 64x16 character display, and a cassette interface for secondary storage. What a machine! It still runs, too. Unfortunately, it sits in my closet most of the time. What a waste of raw computing power...

  • Ah yes, but a history book does not ever need to be replaced.
    - Sean
  • I had a PS/2 Model 30 and it had a 80286 ay 10mhz
  • Mmm- yes. I've got a ZX Spectrum you see. It's just as well that this isn't actual competition isn't it? Cos loads of people would be in the wrong then.

    Do you see a sign that says "please confine your comments to the rules of the competition'. Some people actually like nostalgia.

    Did I mention that I've got a ZX Spectrum at home - and even worse, I've got an Atari2600 which isn't even a computer - but it's old.

    Lighten up - you'll get an ulcer.
  • Indeed. The advantage would be in gaining new equipment for use in other applications. Fortunately you could get an old 286/386 for $100 to replace your museum piece.

    It then becomes a matter of whether the $15K of gear is worth the expense of $100 plus time to copy old application into new old computer.

  • If I recall correctly, the PS/2 series wasn't introduced until 1987 (including the i8086 models). They may be horribly outdated, but they certainly aren't, well...old.
  • Model 100s are pretty damn cool. Mine works great as a portable terminal for a headless linux box. Plus, 4 AAs ran me for the better part of 3 or 4 months... before I recharged them and put them back in. :)
  • *grin* that reminds me, my dad used my C= 128 to maintain his tax records (using a BASIC program I wrote for him) until he died last year. I was terrified that the floppy or monitor would blow, but they never did. I have an urge to go over, slap a game cartridge in it and fire it up...

  • Its a bit off-topic, maybe. It's not a computer at all... And we are not small business. They must have known why to make this restriction. Guess how many old boxes you would find at universities...

    We have an old hardware vt100 terminal here, in a storage room for old computer stuff. I wonder if it would still be working...

    It's before my time, I'm afraid, does anybody know when these boxes have been used, and what you needed for using it (or what machine to use this was needed for...)?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My father still does his company's payroll on a Texas Instruments PC.
    8088 @5Mhz - 256K RAM
    twin 320K floppy drives - No hard drive
    MS-DOS 1.1
    I wrote the payroll code in high school in GW-BASIC.

    I'm planning on moving him to slightly newer machine and program this year.
    It's just a slight Y2K issue.

    He's not eligible for the contest being we're in Canada.
  • Arco Pipeline had a DEC pdp-8 in service up into the mid 90's.
    I found tape w/ 1996 dates on it.
    The ID tag on this unit says its manufacture date was in 1967.
    Im not sure wether the PDP series would be a pc or a small mainframe.
  • by stak ( 3074 )
    I was under the impression that most of the mission critical systems where very well shielded 80386s, they are protected by lead or something, and it would be to hectic to replace, and the shuttle doesn't need any more computational power anyway. If you needed some serious numbers crunched, you would do it on the ground.
  • If the definition of a PC is something running on a single-chip microprocessor, there must be a few Intel 4004 and 8008 systems in use somewhere.

    Before that, some people were homebrewing systems from 7400 series TTL chips.

  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @07:21AM (#1878474) Homepage Journal
    I have played with Apple ][ emulators and they work great. Tarballs full of the old classic warez images are available just for looking. The only problem is playing games as they run hundreds of times faster than reasonable.

    However, I would prefer the actual Apple box as they are solid pieces of equipment. If I had one, I knew it would last forever. The schematics are available and they have the basic TTL parts, so any repairs would be trivial by anyone with basic troubleshooting experience.
  • I only graduated from HS last year, and the place still had two labs full of 8088 PCs. Yeah. Complete with these off-brand 15-year-old 10" monochrome monitors, no HD, DOS 4.01 and dual 5.25 floppy drives. Bleagh... They tried to sell 'em all off several times, but no one wanted them. Gee, I wonder why?

    As for me, somewhere in a box in my house is an IBM PS/1 with a 286, 40 MB HD and a 2400 modem. Not as ancient as the other machines you guys have described, but still pretty old.
  • Er, you're making a rather wild assumption that a 286 will be able to run the app in question. The oldest PC in use is likely to be a machine made back when "PC" meant "Personal Computer" instead of "Computer that uses the same architecture as the IBM PC." I doubt it's going to be anything x86 based.

    So it becomes a question of whether $15k of gear offsets the cost of either

    • Rewriting the app to run on a new computer
    • Searching the world for another Apple 2, C-64, Atari 800, etc. I dunno if you can even find these at Goodwill anymore...
  • Check out, also, the Vintage Computer Festival [siconic.com] for a chance to see and play with a lot of older gear.

    Then, of course, there's always my collection [sinasohn.com]. 8^)

  • If Dell really wanted to find the oldest working computers, they should probably head south down I-35 about an hour (to San Antonio, TX) and check out some of the systems in use by the military systems. They don't throw away anything and you can be damn sure they still have the purchase orders for them.

    I remember when I used to follow my dad into work, they'd have this general progression of computers as you walked into the room. Up front would be the new computers, then the middle-aged computers and then near the back would be these behemoths that were running some operating system I'd never seen before.

    Why do they keep them around? Because they had budget information in formats that could only be read by programs that ran on those machines. It's the same reason my old Architecture professor doesn't upgrade his machine. He wouldn't be able to view any of his old papers that he wrote!
  • Really. If it's just x86, then somewhere
    I have an IBM 5150 with a *short* serial number :-)

    I could stick an RS232 card in it and connect
    it to the net, give it some business-related
    service to perform, and voila. It would be
    tied with everybody else's 5150 and probably
    come down to who's original PC has the lowest serial #.

    I already gave away my TRS-80 (which had a TWO DIGIT serial number -- among the first ones made!)
    But the expansion interface was long gone anyway
    and RS232 wasn't an option without it. If my
    dad's trucking warehouse were still around, I'd
    bet the old man would have still been using that
    !@#$% trs-80 for the job I programmed it for back then ('78!)
  • for fun, some friends and I had an XT online, running telnet, ftp, and irc clients, and I think we compiled an ftpd for it once. It was a decent terminal except for the fact that it could only scroll like 3 lines of text a minute. I think the 9" amber monitor is still in use though.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So are they going to migrate the business's
    current enterprise solutions to the new PCs,
    say, running an Atari emulator or something?
  • And not only that,

    The computers that the FAA is using that would be older than the likes of TRS-80 model I's or Commadore 64's would all fall under the catigory of "Mainframes", and perhaps some "Minis" AFAIK, not "PC's".

    There's oodles of 30+ year old mainframes still in use. The contest is strictly for "PCs" (whatever, specifically, their definition of PC is here...)
  • Gee, think they might be fishing for a "hot" list of people whom seriously need new computers ? "Sorry, your machine was not the oldest, but how about buying this here nice shiny new Dell ?

    Smart "contst"

  • 4 Years ago I was in a course to get a license as radio technologist (for in the lab) during my study. The colleges were at the nuclear experiment plant of the Delft Technical University. Over there, they have a completely working nuclear reactor.

    OK, I guess you already know where I'm heading.... that reactor was controlled by an old apple ][e, dear slashdotters! I guess that makes a very very old real Personal Computer[1] in a critical mission! However, wouldn't dare to label it the oldest.

    Actually, I'm glad the control isn't done by some wintel-box. Delft is too close to home (maybe 30 miles).



    [1] By my knowledge, the apple series were one of the early *real* personal computers. They were used at publishing companies, high schools, technical schools etc etc and where capable of a variety of office and educational tasks. Still, in those days you were one of the few (and I was only ten years old at that time).
  • A couple of references:
    • How to build a working digital computer
      by Edward Alcosser
      ISBN: 0810407485

    • The Tinkertoy Computer and Other Machinations
      by A. K. Dewdney
      ISBN: 071672491X

    The latter is available from Amazon [amazon.com] and other booksellers; the former is out of print and harder to find. Try Abe [abebooks.com] or Powell's books [powells.com].

    I have also seen computers built from plastic or wood (the Digi-Comp 1) and Lego (not just the case, but actual computation units.)

  • True, but one of the rules of the contest is that the business must be a small business (400 people). I doubt if Dell would just overlook the other 2.6milliion currently in the Armed Services. You're right though. The military does keep all its computers.. hell the first computer was technically invented for defense purposes.
  • Y2K problems??

    In any "IBM-type" machine before the AT ('286) there was no standard real-time clock. To get "real time" datestamping, unless you manually entered the time at bootup, you had to buy a third party ISA card with the clock and battery on it.

    My TRS-80 Model 100 had a Year-1986 problem. The day-of-week shifted off into error with the year set at anything 1986 or above. The friend who I sold it to loves it and uses it regularly.
  • Of course a lot depends on how they define "PC". (I didn't read the offer.) If you're talking IBM/Intel, a perpetually impoverished lawyer friend of mine (he wasn't a very good lawyer) got a stack of old IBM PC's as payment for some services. The stack included an original PC with the 63-watt power supply and CASSETTE port. I think that's about as old as they come.

    More generically, I think I still have an M68000-based UNIX box and a CP/M machine laying around someplace.
  • Posted by funk311:

    hehe... the nice trailed off dates for Nixon's term in office (and life span). That was always fun to find in the history books in my old school's library.
  • Too bad Dell didn't do this a year ago. I had a customer that was still using a gaggle of IBM PS/2 Model 50's. For those of you who don't know, that was an 8MHz 8088 proc, no hard drive and an 8 bit bus. They even had these things networked using a NE2000 ethernet adapter and IBM PC DOS 3.1. I took one after the upgrade but it lost it's novelty value after I realized that it couldn't run Linux.

  • You know some Amish guy is going to kick everyone's butt with his Altair or his 12-volt, HeathKit, Z80-based freakin' abacus. If anyone has issue 7.01 of Wired handy, date those machines in the Amish article [wired.com] for us.

  • Why else would they need proof of date-of-purchase?

    So that a business can't buy something really ancient from a collector (or have a replica built), put a little bit of data on it, use it for a few days, then enter and win the contest.
  • I could see how this might be a problem for some people. What if your old-ass PC is running something mission-critical? I know that sounds farfetched, but I'm sure there are quite a few ancient PCs out there that are running data collection applications for oil pipeline companies or doing process control on production/assembly lines. If one of these is chosen as the winner, it might be all but impossible to convince the owner to part with it. ($15K worth of new machinery is nothing compared to the amount that might be lost if the old PC were to be taken offline for any amount of time.)

    - A.P.

    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • Phear my awesome Sinclair... or how about my Commadore 64, Hell, I have an Apple 2E in my basement, or how about my Amiga?

  • I'll start the bidding off with 54, but that's a ways off from 100+.
  • Too Bad it's limited to small businesses. The ENIAC in my Livingroom would surely win Hands Down.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I've got two working Texas Intruments 994A's (one black and silver, one beige) I've even got the speech synthesizer for them, it was pretty sweet having a computer that actually talked when all my friends were still using Atari 2600's. I think I still have the adapter to use Atari 2600 joysticks on it too, you could play Slymoids, Hunt The Wumpus, or my favorite, Parsec!.

    I've still got an IBM XT that I snagged when my dad's business was throwing it away, it still has all their data on it's massive 10MB FULL HEIGHT hard drive. This one has the nice full height 5.25" floppy drive too, the thing still works, a secretary was using wordperfect on it when it was last plugged in. Too bad the XT keyboards don't work with AT computers, it has a nice clickety-clack feel too it.
  • An 8MHz 8088 machine is TURBO. The original PCs ran at 4.77 MHz. I remember when I got my first taste of speed running one of those 8 MHz screamers.

    I ran a fairly active BBS on a 4.77 MHz 8088 box with a 5 MB hard drive and all 640K of RAM (expensive because a 256K x 1 chip was like $12 or so) in the late 80's. To own a substancial chunk of "cyberspace" back then (I must have owned at least .01% of it) just meant putting in a second phone line and broadcasting the number. My board had enough traffic that I ended up sponsoring a bowling league (that's a league, not just a team) based out of members of the BBS. Those were the days when 1200 baud was what the higher-end people were using.

  • You should be able to find Apple ][e computers fairly easily. Thousands and thousands of these were sold to schools in the eighties. My school got rid of about 150 of them about 4 years ago, and many other schools have as well. Many have been trashed, but there should still be a glut of them around.

    -Proud owner of an Apple //c "luggable" (i.e. portable with a briefcase) computer.
  • I saw a story Russian ICBMs are run on analog computers, that's vacuum tubes.
    Okay, quick correction here:
    vacuum tubes != analog
    Any analog computer is one which stores and operates on continuous values. A digital computer uses a set of discrete values (generally 0 and 1). The values on both may be represented in a variety of ways (analog might use voltage, ampherage, or even resistance levels to mark a continuous stream, while digital might use voltage/no voltage, current/no current, negative voltage/positive voltage...and these are just electronic representations...you should check out hydraulic digital circuits...yes they do exist, although even the engineers I worked with didn't seem them that way.
    Vacuum tubes are just one way to do either, depending on the tube type. In fact, there is even a class of tubes called tranisitors, which is where I believe the name we use for solid state versions come from. In each case they are tri-state semi-conductors.
    They key point on both is the function not the implementation is what we are describing.
  • Here in Portland, OR (Home of the Amazing Tonya Harding),a local pizza joint, Stark Street Pizza,
    uses what I think is an old Radio Shack Color Computer (anybody from Portland correct me if I'm wrong, please) to flash customer numbers on a little 13" tv. Whatever it is, I know it is old. The Church of Elvis used to have a C-64 running a fortune-telling (I think) program in the storefront window

    Hmm... I'll have to check that out sometime when I'm bored... been a while since I've seen a CoCo in action.

    What'd be really nice, is if someone turns up a machine that still runs ITS.. :)

  • Actually, I didn't see anywhere that the business itself had to be around since the age of the computer, nor that the business used the computer since that time. Only that it is currently in operation.

  • Have you got a copy of the original warranty or receipt? :)

  • Well, yeah - but by your definition, a "normal" person could buy a Beowulf cluster like IBM put together recently - wasn't that in the range of $150,000 - $200,000 (about the price of a good house nowadays)?

    Just because someone can buy it - above all else (I would rather have the house), doesn't make it a personal computer.
  • There should be a contest to build your own computer - from scratch. Put limits on the contest - maybe three classes: Mechanical, Electrical, and Electronic (electrical and electronic could use some mechanical components, and mechanical could only use electrical components for power, like a motor to drive gears or something). Electronic would be restricted to transistor level at best. I would love to see what people come up with...
  • A little less than a year ago I was working in Borland C++ 5 on a 486DX2/66 with 40 megs of ram and Win95 doing OpenGL graphics... of course that was only hobbyist work. If you go back another year, I was using basically the same software, but with only 12 megs of ram. It took 30+ seconds to compile and link *anything*. Ugh.

    Interestingly, on the same hardware (486/66 12MB ram), Borland C++ 4.0 was very fast.
  • These Sinclair machines used a Z-80 processor. So it's conceivable (but just barely) that they could be coerced into being compatable with the GameBoy.

    I think the game boy has a graphics and sound chip in addition to the Z80. So, being able to make this thing compatible with the GB would probably be hard. However, if it has an expansion port (like the T/S 1000) you could probably put the additional circuitry required into an expansion RAM pack housing or something.
  • by Melbert ( 31564 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @06:37AM (#1878526)
    I have two SYM-1 (cousins of the Kim 1) single board 'personal' computers. Do they qualify if I write a little program on them (using the hex keypad, of course) to record sales at a lemonade stand? They are much older than those 'fancy' newer PCs that have ASCII keyboards and screens. I believe they date from about 1978. (one of them I bought complete, in the original carton, at a swapmeet a few years back for $10)

    I'm not sure I would trade them for the big bux, though. They're as obsolete as they're ever going to get. (and still they're even upgradable- I believe there are unfilled sockets to add an additional 6K of RAM on both of them) The new hardware can only go down in value from this point on.

    I've been meaning to hook them together and write some sort of deathmatch game to play between them. Maybe a Doom clone or something. They're probably not powerful enough (6502 with 2K of RAM) to run anything Quakelike.

  • by mircea ( 28953 )
    I know of a company still using a Z80-based machine for some text processing...I guess they'll get the prize :)

  • If you do find it, please let us know. That sounds like a cool machine to have around... :-)



  • I wonder how wide and how deep Babbage's engine would have had to have been to play Quake? How much petrol/gas/steam/cranking would be needed to run a copy of Linux?

    I like this "my computer is smaller and slower than yours" competition. Alas, the nearest I get is to remember the feeling of AWE I felt when confronted with our college's new Research Machines X20 server which had a whopping 20Mb hard drive. Knowing that establishment - it is still in use. All we ever got to use were RM Linxes.
  • Presumably all submissions should be based on the 8088 architecture.

    So, yes, it would count.

  • That's nothing!

    up until two years ago, my schoold was still using Apple II's they had three labs of them! Two of those labs were ][e's and the other was ][GS!! every other computer except for a handful were LCII's. the remaining consisted of 1/2 dozen 8088's (4MHz) and about the same number of 66MHz powermacs..

    Thank god for technology bonds! They finally got rid of those
  • I've got my IBM PCjr too. Still works. Somewhere I have a really early IBM DOS - before subdirectories and time (only prompted you for the date)
  • hee hee...go to your nearest elementary school...or any school I guess...you'll find hideously ancient equipment still being used by the kids.
  • My dad has a vintage one that was used by a person in his business until 2 years ago when he retired. It was totally mechanical, the power was supplied by a lever you pulled. Push in the number buttons, push the operand, and pull... It would kachunk and print out the subtotal on the tape reel on top... I have no idea about the year...
  • Ok, this is a few years back when I was first learning to program, but I swear it's true. I had an internship with the DoD, who really didn't need any interns. I brought a copy of Borland C++ 4.0 from home and installed it on a 386/25 (or maybe 40? I don't remember). The install was beautiful, of course, 24-odd diskettes, and if something went wrong (which it did) you had to start over, then they switched me to a different, identical computer, and I had to start over.
    So anyways, it was a simple Windows app, but I had never touched C++ (self-taught C only), let alone Windows, so I was recompiling every 5 minutes. Well, you know, 5 minutes to debug, 45 to compile, etc. God forbid I should hit "build all" at any point.
    The funny part was when I had to change some little detail with the font in an MDI app. The documentation for OWL (Borland's MFC equivalent) didn't mention the specific bit, so I called their support at like $40.00 a minute, or whatever they charge. The guy stays on the phone with me for half an hour, gets his supervisor, and then says he'll call me back when he figures it out. Two hours later I get a call that he's still working on it. Never heard from him again. Go figure.
  • I had a subscription to BYTE in the 70s, my younger brother threw them all out while I was in the Navy I think, arrgh! the Ads, from places like Smoke Signal that had a 6800 based CPU! There was one issue in particular with a picture of Babbage's Machine on the cover with a historical article by Sol Libes that I wished he'd preserved. Yes, they were looking back even then,
    to the days of spare Minuteman missle parts for
    homebrews, etc.
  • Well, glad to hear this old guy is still around :) As for the machine I was talking about, it was built in 1979.
  • beat a commodore 64? easy. Vic20...

    I remember when I bought it I was about 11 years old. It had 3k of memory... I told my mom she could use 0.5k for her recipies. :-) I wasn't quite clear on the concept at the time...
  • Nope.

    The Shuttle computers are proprietary IBM designs that have very little memory or I/O. This is one of the big reasons weather changes screw up the launches - the computers don't have the storage to hold multiple sets of weather data at one time.

    They've talked about upgrading for years, but fear of buggy operating systems (look what happened with the Sojourner probe) and buggy hardware (Pentium division bug, anyone?) has prevented it.

    Back when Byte was still a good magazine, they had an article on the difficulty of verifying that a computer chip design was correct. They noted that the UK Ministry of Defense had commisioned a team to develop a mathematically-proven-correct design for a CPU chip for use in military avionics. The chip was excruciatingly simple even by mid-80's standards (I think it was comprable to the 8080A) and the proof only covered the design. They planned to correct for fabrication bugs by using three different fab plants using different technologies.

    Don't know if they ever actually got that far...

  • I get depressed when I think that hardware choices are dependent on proprietary (well, not human-readable) data formats. I often joke that the only things any of us would recognize in a million years are ASCII and cockroaches.

    Even with a portable format, though, you've got to get it from one machine to another. If you don't have a cassette drive on the PIII box you win from Dell, you won't get those records off your Commodore Pet.

  • I can still hear the womans voice:

    "Alien Craft Advancing"
  • Still in business?


    You win!

    Stay where you are. We're sending some people right over...
  • Don't know if they still do it, but in the late '80s, the ultimate backup computers for the shuttle were the HP41CV calculators that the pilot and commander carried with them. They had a special ROM cartridge burned for calcuating re-entry burns.

    I remember that because at the time I had just written an adventure game for the HP41CV and gotten it published in a national user's group mag. Wee-hah! 256 rooms in 4k of RAM, baby!

  • Is that the TI Professional?
    That wasn't 100% IBM compatible and had a propriatary keyboard layout, right?
  • I've actually considered this. You could take a $400 box [e4me.com], maybe double that for a multiport serial board [ssc.com], mix in your favorite Linux distribution and a bunch of old VT's or Mac Pluses and replace the system half of us used in college with something easier to upgrade, support and manage (and it would be faster).

    If you were really strapped for cash, you could build a dozen of these and plop one down in each lab/building around the campus and only worry about networking those dozen machines. If they were networked, you could really extend their lifespan using coda [cmu.edu] and another $400 box with a couple of 20 Gb drives to handle the bulk of the storage (and, of course, centralized backup).

    It's a Third World dream come true, for the price of a hot passport...

  • Dose a PDP 11/70 count as a personal computer??
    it is not a desktop but you could consider it a "personal computer". running rsx11 it stopped counting years in 1986!!!!
  • I wish more companies could come up with cool little competitions like this, kinda keeps them from being cold and distant.
  • by UncleRoger ( 9456 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @07:22AM (#1878556) Homepage
    Once we get past the cute comments about abacuses and 100-year-old accountants (my Dad turns 72 tomorrow), we can get to some real history.

    In the last day or so, I've received inquiries from someone using a Canon Cat (Early work processor) and from someone still using an Epson HC-40 (early portable CP/M machine.)

    They contacted me because of my classic computer [sinasohn.com] collection.

    There are, however, still plenty of people out there using Altairs [altair.com] and Model 100 [sinasohn.com]'s and GRiD [sinasohn.com]'s and all the other well-known [everymac.com] and not-so-well-known [blinkenlights.com] personal computers, probably going all the way back to the very first [blinkenlights.com].

    Not everyone has succombed to the idea that if it isn't the latest and greatest computer hardware and software, it doesn't work. I drive a 1959 Land Rover; it still gets me where I want to go. Likewise, a lot of people still use computers that do what they need to do without the cost, complexity, and learning curve that newer machines represent.

    Unfortunately, Dell is ignoring the fact that the IBM PC and its successors more than anything else to destroy the innovation, creativity, and variety that had existed previously in the computer industry. Very few desktop "PC's" are collectible; virtually none would be of interest to a museum of any quality or reputation.

    If you really want to see older computers, come to the Vintage Computer Festival [siconic.com] this fall.

  • i knew it was dumb for my school to rip open their old C64's and use them as decoration in the PC-lab.....
  • It hardly qualifies as a small business, but I believe that an IMSAI 8080, S-100 machine is still a part of the "Core Board Simulator" at Commonwealth Edison's nuclear data center.
  • Cisco had (has?) a competition for the oldest router still in use. You could win the latest gear from them.

    Although I sincerely hope that those old routers are not connected to the Internet anymore, due to security bugs in the firmware and all that... :-)
  • Personally, I started my BBS BEFORE the PC came out. At that point, C=64's were "high end". The 128's hadn't shipped yet. The fastest modems available were 1200bps. Many people were still using acustic (sp) couplers. It's been up for about 15 years, and the internet was still for the government and Universities only. People who didn't have an *in* with either of those entities couldn't use it.

    It's still up and running at http://www.dimstar.net or 1-503-259-8585.
  • my grandmother still uses her PC Junior and we have an XT in use also.
  • by Jonathan ( 5011 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @06:48AM (#1878563) Homepage
    So, Dell is looking for the oldest PC still in service so it can be made into a museum exhibit (and thus *stop* being in service). This is like looking for the oldest tree alive so it can be chopped down and put on display.

    But I'm sure the oldest PC won't be a PC-compatible. I see Apple ]['s, C64s, and Atari 800's still in use from time to time, and I'm sure even older machines are out there.
  • Those mission-critical ancient PC's had BETTER be replaced before the end of the year. They almost certainly have Y2K problems. This would probably have an impact on "data collection applications" or "process control".
  • While the oldest computer running in MY business is 1989, a client of mine has a computer running that dates back to 1980. I suppose its not really a PERSONAL computer, its one of those 3B2 Unix systems running old AT&T System V.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ohh watch out old fart nostalgia attack:

    Due to braincell damage the quoted years may be +or- 2-10 :)

    1970 -- Ferrati-Packard, a tube burning, Air Conditioning sucking monster that lived at the Toronto Stock Exchange, sole purpose was to calculate the Dow Jones Average. I still have scars from paper cuts gotten while rewinding paper tapes.
    1971-72 -- IBM 360, 370 PDP 11/23/40/70
    1973or74?? Altair 8800 my first baby, to the best of knowledge the second Altair ever delivered in Canada. The first being to the Manager of Programming at the TSE. Sadly it was lost during a move.

    1980 - Apple, I hated it. Could never quite get to do what I wanted.
    1981 - Atari 800 loved it! Still got 2 along with a modified floppy drive that would write bad sectors a common form of copy protection in those days.
    1982 - Osborne, very cool, running the first REAL OS -- CPM
    1983 - first of many 80xxxxx machines.
    1985 - tried to run an OS called PCUNIX on an 8086 box. It was actually closer to VMS than UNIX. The attempt was a total failure :(
    1991 -- My FIRST Unix box ATT 3B2, with a very cool DMD terminal, decommisioned 18 months ago when Jim M. refused to sell me anymore parts.

    Well, nowadays the old lab is full of PII's, SGI's and a very noisy SUN 3/60. But the real GEM that I always like to show off to the uninitiated is:
    Generic 486/33, 32meg, 1/2 gig SCSI running Slackware Linux 2.29 kernel, driving 8 small websites ,POP serving my kids(I have 6) PCs and Macs and still dosn't complain if you type startx at the prompt.

    sigh... an old fart remembers

  • Among our vintage computers still in use, we have a Commodore PET, and a DEC VAXmate still in use at my workplace (a public school district). And yes, they both work perfectly still.
  • by AKAJack ( 31058 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @06:48AM (#1878569)
    Must be a small business (400 employees.)

    Must have proof of date-of-purchase of the computer.

    I think this is going to be a tough one to pull a sting on. Just having to show proof of owning a business license for the same business since the late 1970's is going to eliminate most.

    You don't really think anything other than an Altair or the like is going to win, right?

  • At one point, I had one of the newer Timex/Sinclairs. You're right, it had twice the ram. That would be 2K.

    Every bit of RAM was important in these machines. If your program put text up on the screen, the amount of memory used up ended at the last character on the line (a five character line would use six bytes, a twelve character line used 13). So it was possible to run out of memory while running a program by: 1) using too much memory for the program, 2) using too much memory for the data, 3) putting too many characters on the screen at the same time (or some combination of the above).

    Mine definitely wasn't 'stock' when I got through with it. I couldn't stand the membrane keyboard, so I rewired an old ASCII keyboard (the kind with a reed switch for each key) and put the whole Timex/Sinclair into the keyboard housing.

    These Sinclair machines used a Z-80 processor. So it's conceivable (but just barely) that they could be coerced into being compatable with the GameBoy.
  • There is a PDP emulator for the Mac. Try here [emulation.net]. Emulation.net has several dozen emulators for the Mac.

    The PDP-8 family of minicomputers were built by Digital Equipment Corporation between 1965 and 1990. The PDP-8 was largely upward compatible with the PDP-5, a machine that was unveiled on August 11, 1963 at WESCON, and the inspiration for that machine came from two earlier machines, the LINC and the CDC 160. All of these machines were characterized by a 12 bit word with little or no hardware byte structure, typically 4K words of memory, and simple but powerful instruction sets.

  • by mabs ( 2595 )
    hehe, I happen to have an IBM PC XT (5151), dated DEC 10 '82 (inside case), pitty I live in Australia, $15K worth of server would be great.
    This thing has 10Mb HDD and all :)
  • by gavinhall ( 33 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @12:18PM (#1878573)
    Posted by gtv:

    of course the real reason Dell is doing this is to generate a list of small business customers that it can try to sell new equipment to. it would cost a lot more than $15K to generate such a list through other means.
  • I didn't know the TI machines were Z-80 based!

    Not all of the TIs are Z80s. The TI-81, -83, 85 (my favorite calculator ever), and -86 are Z80s. They have an assembler shell called ZShell that is quite cool. The TI-92 (and therefore -89) are based on a Motorola 68000. Their assembly shell is called Fargo.


  • Thanks for refs - I am going to put in for a search for the first one - I already have the second.

    I actually have an old "lights and wire" calculator type kit from Radio Shack, as well as the "real" computer kit they sold (has a small processor, a hex keyboard, binary lights, speaker, etc.). While these aren't really computers (well, the latter one, maybe - you can code it in hex opcode assembler), they are still fun to play with.

    I will definitely let people know if I get the book - I actually have a couple of old computer history books from the 50's - these are a hoot to read!
  • Not Katz. He said "oldest Slashdot reader". Katz only posts, he doesn't read what else has been posted... :-)
  • "So I wouldn't be surprised if the winner was some company in the third world somewhere."

    i think the contest is limited to the US only.
  • Neither. The PDP series are minicomputers. Nonetheless, that's something. (BTW, in my high school's library there was a book on PDP-7 programming that dated from the 1960's.)
  • "What's the chronology of Altairs, Z-80s, Apples, Macs, XTs, ATs?"
    Take a look at this Timeline [islandnet.com] and then take a look at the first PC [blinkenlights.com].

    And don't forget the Vintage Computer Festival [siconic.com].

  • by Zebulun ( 14800 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @07:15AM (#1878598) Homepage
    just last week, i kid you not,
    we finally shut down and got rid
    of a slew of personal IRISes that date
    back to before 1978 and some SGI NC
    computers from back then too.. I
    actually used one of those 2, 5, and 8Mhz
    SGIs as a dumb terminal last year till
    it caught fire while i was out of the
    office one day (all the dust over the
    years and a hard drive on its last leg
    generating more heat than an overclocked
    PII under a magnifying glass in the Sahara
    finally did it in).

  • The winner gets $15K worth of new computers, and their old PC donated to the Computer Museum of America.

    I can't help thinking this is a bit of a double edged sword. Just think about it for a minute. You have a machine that's been running for over 20 years. It's not doing anything that's going to need to scale -- if it was, it would have done so long ago. It's not unreliable, or it would have been replaced by now. No, what we have here is a machine that's perfectly suited to the task in hand.

    In comes Dell and replaces your trusty, fully working machine, with a shiny new PC running Windows bloatware, and takes away your old working one. The PC crashes every couple of weeks, and will be useless in a couple of years, and need replacing anyway.

    Sure, you could replace Windows with Linux / FreeBSD / whatever, but the MTBF on modern PC components means the machine will probably break long before it manages another 20 years.

    My advice: stick with your existing machine. It does all that you want already, so why change it?

  • Yes, I remember there were academic types back then who looked down on homebrew stuff. (they fooled around with this thing called Unix that no mere mortal could afford. Of course, this meant they didn't really OWN any computing equipment....) The only way to get onto the 'net' back then, was to use University computer time or work for a Defense contractor. CompuServe was $12 an hour if you wanted a > 300 baud connection.

    Your first modem was 2400 baud? That makes you newcomer to the modem scene.
  • I want to see a contest to find the oldest PC user to date. How about the oldest Slashdot reader?

    Come, you 100+ somethings, you know you're out there. Give us a little "hello."
  • Silicon Graphics, er, SGI was founded in 1982.
  • Not trying to start a war here =)

    I would imagine that old Apples or Apple IIs would still be the oldest PCs still in *use*, not just functioning...

    I know for a fact that an Apple IIs are still being used in old HS for touch typing and stuff!

    Anyone know some computer history?

    What's the chronology of Altairs, Z-80s, Apples, Macs, XTs, ATs?

  • by shomon ( 42035 ) on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @07:15AM (#1878649) Homepage
    Back at my old university in udine, Italy people are still whispering to each other about this wonderful computer locked away in some top secret research area that actually displays graphics and runs mosaic... The rest of course are surfing in flourescent green with lynx, on dumb terminals connected with sticky tape to some old vax.

    What some might not realise is that a lot of old underfunded universities or indeed loads of old fashioned firms in not very IT minded areas of the world have crappy old systems. So I wouldn't be surprised if the winner was some company in the third world somewhere.

    Which leads to the question of wether the gigantic amounts of old computer parts we're producing each time we upgrade wouldn't actually be *very* useful to people in other countries...
  • by Jonas Öberg ( 19456 ) <jonas@gnu.org> on Wednesday May 26, 1999 @07:17AM (#1878653) Homepage
    Most people collecting computers will have a hard time giving them away, even to a museum (though going to the museum for a trip down memory lane would be nice). Though the contest said that they had to be in used by a business, so I'm guessing most collectors disqualify, unless they keep some inventory on the computer.

    I implemented a phonebook on some early PDP computer a few years ago and it was lots of fun sitting in front of the DECwriter. It's surprising that that was only two or three years ago.

    If you want to learn more about old computers (not just PCs, though the definition of PC is vague at best), there's plenty of resources out there;

    • Comprehensive Computer Catalogue [digiweb.com] - Though a bit old now, it's still a very valuable source for tracking down the age of a machine. Did you for example know that Zuse build the Z2 in Germany in april 1939? Six months before Atanasoff built their ABC in the USA.
    • Classic Computers [unc.edu] - Information about the CLASSICCMP mailinglist.
    • CLASSICCMP related links [unc.edu]

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith