ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

That Time I Gave Computers Away —

This happens rarely enough that I can actually enter a weblog entry about it. I actually gave away a couple of computers.

When I take stuff in, it’s not with the intention to hoard it. It’s to provide the best home for the equipment/data/artifacts, save them from the dumpster, broker a future for them that’s the most reasonable. That might mean continuing to store it, putting it online, or finding it a better place than what I am doing with it.

Sometimes I settle bets or answer questions about the equipment, use it for videos, or spend time extracting data from media and storing the media. In other words, I use the stuff as much as I can find use for it.

Recently, I attended an open house at a Macintosh Museum. This was interesting on two fronts: first, that there’s actually a Macintosh Museum, and second, that such a place would have a day you could just come and visit. It was just a few towns over from my own.

I got there, and was pleasantly surprised that this was, in every way, a straightforward open house, and not, say, a blanket party. I was greeted at the door by two volunteers, offered snacks, shown a room that had videos of Macintosh history playing, and upstairs, in one corner of the house, a Macintosh Museum.

The curator’s name is Adam Rosen. He’s collected almost every example of a Macintosh that Apple has produced, and made a website for it. His presentation of these old Macintoshes is impeccable, and he’s even gone through the bother of getting his hands on software that shows off each of these items – a version of Mosaic (the web browser) for Mac, for example.

Looking around, I saw he didn’t have any Apple Lisas, which would make sense, since Lisas were not technically part of the Macintosh pantheon, but a precursor that was partially scavenged for what became the Macintosh. But it seemed that with its ancestor feel, it might make sense for such an item to be in this collection. So, spontaneously, I offered it to him.

In 1994, while working as a temp in the physics department of MIT, I was subscribed to a mailing list of people discarding equipment throughout the campus. Someone announced, one day, that they’d piled a bunch of old junk in a certain hallway. I ran down, and to my surprise, I found two Apple Lisas. (Technically Lisa 2s, a revision of Lisas that used standardized and not uniquely formatted drives for data transfer.) It was a lot of effort to haul these things back to my office, and even more to get them back to my little apartment, especially with no car. But I did, and in the years since then, I’ve been carrying these guys with me from home to home and storage unit to storage unit. 15 years is a long time. And since they were made in the mid-1980s, these Lisa 2s were already along in years. I didn’t do much with them (they’re in the background of the MC Frontalot video I shot) but as their caretaker, I was just willing to have them around until the right thing made itself known. And in Adam and his museum, I knew I’d found the right thing.

Adam stopped by a few days later, and picked up the Lisas. We discussed our feelings about storing old equipment, and I was delighted our outlook on this equipment and its meaning was so in sync. They’ve gone to a good home. Adam mentioned the acquisition a short time later, also in positive terms.

I am not interested in cynical views of selling the equipment, and how much I could “get for” all this – it wasn’t about that, never has been. It’s about doing what I see as right, and people looking for information on the Apple Lisa or who want to get an understanding of the context of Macintosh innovations in context of previous work like the Lisa will find a helpful resource in Adam, who can even refer to the actual hardware if he needs to. That’s what it’s about.

Like I said, it’s rare I ever do give this stuff away, but when a chance like this comes up, I rush to it.

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  1. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    This museum sounds rather like our town’s very own, which includes Macs and lots of other 80’s and 90’s hardware too. Kindred spirit.

  2. Adam Rosen says:

    Frank, thanks for the pointer to the Personal Computer Museum in Brantford. Very much in the spirit of what I’d like the Vintage Mac Museum to become!

  3. WhyOSX says:

    I just took a short view to the stuff you have, but I am very sure, you have not seen any Mac model ever made (lots of them were not sold in the U.S.). But the things you show are 🙂
    all those printed matters – hard to believe!