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Retrocomputing is the use of older computer hardware and software long after these systems are considered obsolete. It is usually classed as a hobby and recreation rather than a practical application of technology.[1] In some cases retrocomputing is pursued as a faithful preservation activity, but it also includes activities that "'remix' fragments from the past with newer elements or joining together historic components that were never combined before."[2]

It can be of practical use when legacy systems are kept in production after the manufacturer has discontinued support.[3] This is often the case in real-time and control applications.[3] The recovery of important data from retired equipment is another reason to preserve and restore them.[3]

Much of the information known about these systems is from people who worked on the machines when they were new and continue to collect and preserve them today. This body of knowledge is a resource that can be of use to academics studying digital heritage preservation.[4]

This project is a history of computer science and technology resource that serves to gather a collection of "how-to" guides and other information useful to those pursuing the hobby and others who may put this information to practical use or scholarly study.


The first resources are wikified versions of old Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) files that began in the 1990s. These were compiled and maintained by volunteers who would gather the most common questions and the most helpful answers posted to discussion forums. The FAQ file was then distributed to email lists or newsgroups.

External links[edit]

Computer museums[edit]

Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Wikipedia has more about this subject: List of computer museums

See also[edit]


  1. Wagstaff, Keith (2015-03-31). "Forget classic cars. Retro-computing brings old technology back to life". Today. NBC News. Retrieved 2018-01-23. Imagine a room filled with retro machines, humming with new life as their proud owners show them off. This isn't a scene from a classic car show. Instead, these hobbyists fix up old computers and showing them off to fellow "chipheads."
  2. Takhteyev, Yuri; DuPont, Quinn (2013). "Retrocomputing as Preservation and Remix" (PDF). iConference 2013 Proceedings. Fort Worth, Texas: iSchools. pp. 422–432. doi:10.9776/13230. Retrieved 2018-01-23. This paper looks at the world of retrocomputing, a constellation of largely non-professional practices involving old computing technology. Retrocomputing includes many activities that can be seen as constituting “preservation.” At the same time, it is often transformative, producing assemblages that “remix” fragments from the past with newer elements or joining together historic components that were never combined before. While such “remix” may seem to undermine preservation, it allows for fragments of computing history to be reintegrated into a living, ongoing practice, contributing to preservation in a broader sense. The seemingly unorganized nature of retrocomputing assemblages also provides space for alternative “situated knowledges” and histories of computing, which can sometimes be quite sophisticated. Recognizing such alternative epistemologies paves the way for alternative approaches to preservation.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Burnet, Maxwell M.; Supnik, Robert M. (1996). Jane C. Blake. ed. "Preserving Computing's Past: Restoration and Simulation" (PDF). Digital Technical Journal 8 (3): 23-38. Retrieved 2018-01-23. "Max Burnet and Bob Supnik argue that an understanding of computing’s past is vital to its future. The authors present two computer preservation techniques: restoration and simulation. To exemplify issues in restoration, they review the status of a project to restore a large UNIBUS-based PDP-11 system. The section on simulation describes the types and purposes of simulators and presents a case study of SIM, a simulator implemented in C for the study of historical computer architectures." 
  4. Galloway, Patricia (Spring 2011). "Retrocomputing, Archival Research, and Digital Heritage Preservation: A Computer Museum and iSchool Collaboration.". Library Trends 59 (4): 623-636. doi:10.1353/lib.2011.0014. "This article discusses the potential contributions of lay members of the public to the dialogue around the data/information/knowledge life-cycle in a community technology museum, the Goodwill Computer Museum in Austin, Texas. Through an examination of the museum's collaboration with the University of Texas School of Information, the article addresses the situation that arises when a museum is created by non(museum)-professionals who control considerable expertise in the subject field, and explores how the presence and collaboration of volunteers allows the museum to serve as a laboratory setting for the participation of academic researchers in the field of digital heritage preservation." 

Further reading[edit]