Altairs sold well enough that they're not among the top tier of valuable antique PCs--but if you happen to own one, you can certainly find someone willing to pay you handsomely to take it off your hands. Photo courtesy of Vintage-Computer. After 34 years, the entire computer industry is still feasting on ideas that Xerox's PARC research arm came up with for the Alto. It had a sophisticated graphical-user interface, a mouse, ethernet, and a laser printer, all of which took a decade or more to go mainstream in other companies' products.
The pricey device failed to catapult the company into a leadership position in small computers, but like the Alto, it's highly collectible today. Photo courtesy of Digibarn Computer Museum.
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When Steve Jobs has a computer to sell these days, the world listens. Back in , almost nobody did. Jobs and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak struggled to drum up interest in the Apple 1 , which they planned to sell as a bare circuit board that hobbyists would turn into a working computer by soldering in chips themselves. Then Paul Terrell , who ran the Byte Shop in Mountain View, California--one of the first computer stores--placed an order for 50 Apple I systems, contingent on Apple's supplying them as fully assembled boards.
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And I knew where they lived--so we did the deal and that got Apple Computer started," Terrell remembers. He had to hire a local carpenter to provide the computers' wooden cases.
The 1 was only a modest success back in the day. In today's Apple-crazy world, though, it may be the most famous collectible PC.
Photo courtesy of the Obsolete Technology Website. It's important. It's iconic. Plenty of examples are still around; if you want the breakthrough version of the machine, look for the plain-vanilla II model.
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There may be more Commodore 64 PCs tucked away in closets than any other single computer model--with 17 million units sold during its long lifetime, Commodore's mass-market machine has been called the best-selling single computer model of all time. And it still has legions of fans, as witness sites such as C At any given moment, you can probably find a few up for bid on eBay at reasonable prices--in the original box, even.
If you happen to own a Cray-1, we'd be very, very surprised.
It's just as well, though--storing this 5-ton behemoth in your attic could be downright dangerous. Seymour Cray's legendary supercomputer wasn't a PC by any definition, but it's too important to leave off this list of collectible computers. The turbocharged monster ran at a then-blindingly fast 80 MHz, providing awesome computing power for customers such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
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Cray and his machines. More formally known as the IBM , Big Blue's first PC was a blockbuster that signaled the end of the early, wild-and-woolly days of the computer revolution.
It's no coincidence that nearly all of the most valuable antique PCs predate the Lots of original examples are still out there for people who'd like to own the great-granddaddy of today's Windows Vista boxes. But it's also possible to get a taste of the IBM PC experience simply by running ancient software on your current computer here's VisiCalc.
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A popular machine in its own right, it is perhaps most famous today as the computer used by Matthew Broderick in War Games, a film made long after the IMSAI's heyday. In , the Boston Computer Museum declared that the Kenbak-1 was the very first personal computer. Sold through ads in Scientific American to schools as a teaching aid, the Kenbak didn't have a microprocessor--which made sense, since microprocessors weren't commercially available yet. It did sport bytes of memory; to program the machine, you flipped switches, and lights served as its display.
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