It’s In Style Now

Retrocomputing has now made it to the Style section of the New York Times. There is nothing particularly new about the article, except where it appeared. I guess people have noticed that retrocomputing is a thing, and that old gear is quickly turning into collectibles.

For my own part, I was very lucky that the OS/2 Museum acquired some equipment before retrocomputing was a thing. For example PS/2 machines are now worth hundreds of dollars, and I got a few at a time when shipping cost more than the machine.

These days, I find that prices of 5-10 year old server gear can be surprisingly low, although high-end desktop boards and CPUs still sell for surprisingly high prices (Core 2 Extreme, Core i7 Extreme) that never dropped down enough to reflect their actual practical value. Interesting times.

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10 Responses to It’s In Style Now

  1. Julien Oster says:

    Funny, just a few days ago I was wondering whether you would comment on that trend, and just a few minutes ago I might have felt its downsides.

    I was trying to bid on a hard disk for a very specific, non-IBM compatible PC variant from Germany and was outbid. My worry is now less rooted in the fact that old hard disks have effectively gotten more expensive, but that in this case the 5 people bidding with me might not actually all know what they were really bidding on, just going for “old hard disk from the 80s”. Its actual practical purpose of being one of only two supported types for that PC variant, as well as the rare data for that PC variant it contains, might be effectively lost now.

    But I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old gatekeeper. There are certainly upsides: I participate in some of the newly appearing communities, and while there’s a lot of just posting photos of old graphic cards and mainboards going on, I met some people with interesting hardware and knowledge thereof, and I’m also happy to provide some insights of my own.

    Also, I have the hope that all this means that old hardware is now more likely to end up on eBay or craigslist in the first place, instead of being thrown away completely.

  2. Meanwhile despite the launch of the 3000 series RTX the gtx 980 and 1080s are still holding value..

    I know everyone is going to say miners, but can it really be true with these now ancient cards?

    I’m just glad that Xeon Gen E5 1/2/3 are somewhat cheap and plentiful.

  3. Hak Foo says:

    I think it’s less miners and more an incredibly tight supply on anything half-decent.

    If your 980 or 1080 blows up, any card offering meaningfully better performance is going to involve dealing with scalpers or hunting at third-tier sketchy retailers, quite possibly weeks long delays, and cost $800+. A used 1080 can be in your hands for less than 500 basically immediately, with lots of selection.

    I’d suspect the inventory shortage also brings more people who would normally never buy a used card into the market just to finish their builds in a reasonable timeframe, further propping prices.

  4. Chris M. says:

    Core2 and Core i7 machines are still useful, that’s why they still have “value”. You can build up a system and still run it as a daily driver with modern software if you want.

    I’ll never get the fascination of PS/2s. Yeah, they are MicroChannel, but nothing else about them is interesting. They are totally proprietary and the floppy and hard drives can be unreliable. In the end, they are still bog standard IBM PCs and not even fast for the time period.

  5. Michal Necasek says:

    I have definitely come to appreciate the used server gear. It’s kind of nuts how much cheaper E5 Xeons are compared to similar Core Extreme CPUs. The same goes for SAS hard disks, and perhaps even more so for server memory. A while ago I was trying to kit out that DX79SR board (desktop DDR3 RAM) and it was painfully expensive to get 64GB RAM for it. 128GB registered DDR3 costs a lot less.

  6. Michal Necasek says:

    I totally get the “useful” part, heck we still have a couple of Core 2 based laptops that are seeing frequent if not daily use. What I do not get is paying 100-200 Euro for a 3.4 GHz Core 2 Quad when you can get a significantly more powerful modern CPU for half the price. Those price levels have nothing to do with usefulness.

    As for PS/2, the fascination is that it was the future that never happened. I disagree that there’s nothing interesting about them, MCA was a surprisingly modern design and it wasn’t until PCI that the standard PC bus was better than that, many years later.

  7. Michal Necasek says:

    Yeah I have found that the prices of old hard disks have shot through the roof in the last few years. The irony is that a hard disk is trivial to replace with flash storage which is vastly better for daily use. It’s still possible to get old drives cheap, but it needs luck. Lots of sellers think that any half-dead drive is worth 50 Euro or more.

  8. Chris M. says:

    Hard drives are trivial to replace when you have a standardized interface to plug them into, something many PS/2s lacked. Even if you had a SCSI card or planer, you had to deal with this plug silliness: https://www.ardent-tool.com/IBM_SCSI/IBM_SCSI_Connectors.html

    Only recently did I liquidate the last of my small capacity MCA “Direct Bus Attachment” drives that I scavenged out of Model 50s and 70s. Also had a XTA drive out of a Model 30 that was long dead, but at least those have ISA slots. Yes, they were nicely built machines, but despite being the “future”, most of them didn’t even have 32-bit expansion slots!

  9. Michal Necasek says:

    I must have been lucky, the two PS/2 SCSI machines I have (Model 80 and Model 77) have standard SCSI connectors. The only ISA-based PS/2 have is a PS/2 E which is an unusual machine but not that weird when it comes to connectors.

  10. Yuhong Bao says:

    That being said, old cards like GTX 1080 can still mine cryptocurrency decently well. The only major problem is 3-4GB vs 6-8GB cards as the Ethereum DAG always increase in size.

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