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Are vintage computers doomed in the long run?

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    Are vintage computers doomed in the long run?

    Part of a smaller discussion I had once. Something I think about every time my 88 Thunderbird breaks down.. there's a lot of computer parts in there that are now unobtainable. Obviously with a car this can be mitigated by removing computers if required, but I was wondering... what is the long term fate for vintage computers? How many years before we'd expect most vintage ICs to have failed? Is there a point, say, 200 years out where all vintage machines will essentially be static displays?

    #2
    Originally posted by falter View Post
    Part of a smaller discussion I had once. Something I think about every time my 88 Thunderbird breaks down.. there's a lot of computer parts in there that are now unobtainable. Obviously with a car this can be mitigated by removing computers if required, but I was wondering... what is the long term fate for vintage computers? How many years before we'd expect most vintage ICs to have failed? Is there a point, say, 200 years out where all vintage machines will essentially be static displays?
    As they say; all things must come to an end. There will be a point where the all of the 'actual' vintage hardware will fail.

    However remember that int the future there will be new and better ways of repairing the hardware. Consider 3d printing; what was once a very expensive prototyping tool is now obtainable for home use at a reasonable price. Want to repair some weird plastic bracket or cog? Just CAD it and print it up. Even 10 years ago I wouldn't have believed what I am able to print now.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to think that something similar will be available for older IC's. The only reason they stopped making things like 8088's is that running huge production lines is no longer financially viable. Once something like a '3d printer for silicon wafers' is invented you could call up some factory in china, order a new 8088, they'll print it up for a fairly low cost and ship it out to you.

    Come to think of it in reality this technology already exists with modern FPGA's. Given time you could emulate just about any older digital logic chip (I'll admit analogue IC's are harder). If done correctly the only reason you know it's not the real deal is that the physical package is different.
    System 80 Expansion Interface located! Thanks to all who helped out and the good people in the NZ vintage computer forums!

    Comment


      #3
      An 88 T-bird is a breeze to keep going. A 98 is a nightmare.

      In 87 GM led the way, and by 96 all cars were electrical disasters. By 2005 they all seemed to get a lot better.

      The newest car I ever owned was a 91. My current daily driver is a 90. This is no accident; I have quite a bit of experience working on cars, and I don't want to own anything newer than that if I can avoid it.

      My computers will work for my lifetime. If anyone cares to keep them working beyond that, read 3pcedev.
      Be polite and I may let you live.

      https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

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        #4
        Well let me tell you my "plan" for keeping my original Apple-1 working for the next few generations.

        First, every rare board I have ever worked on including my own has been chemically neutralized. That means any left over flux and other contaminates have been removed. This will prevent the board from eating itself. Now this board is from 1976 so it has lead and should not have the tin whisker problem in the future.

        I have not only refreshed the electrolytic caps and brought all ceramic caps to the curie point to reset, I have a full set backup set of the correct caps stored in vacuum packed bags. All of this is stored in a temperature controlled bank vault with two complete set of spare chips.

        Now this is extreme, but I want to make sure that future generations can enjoy a working Apple-1 one hundred or even two hundred years from now.
        Last edited by Corey986; September 12, 2017, 05:48 AM.

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          #5
          The problem I see is will anyone in two hundred years understand how to trouble shoot it. Today's engineers don't even know how to read a schematic. Designs are no longer from a schematic.
          Things are changing.
          Dwight

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            #6
            As long as there is Vintage computers, there will be some whacko, like me, that will just HAVE to keep them going.

            There are always renegades who will love the old stuff and, as has been mentioned, printing parts and chips will be commonplace in the future and, someone, somewhere, will be doing it.
            Legacy Computers and Parts

            Sales of, parts for, and repairs to, Vintage and Legacy computers.

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              #7
              I know of guys in the restoration business who repair 250 year old clocks and furniture, there will always be people who will have the expertise to fix them. It just will be a very specialized skill and not cheap. It also will be some sort of academic profession or master craftsman. I know that sounds scary, but I'm sure no one thought 250 years ago that someone would need to repair a clock that has worn out. People pay big money to restore them because of custom tooling and recreated parts.

              Comment


                #8
                What I find interesting is the number brands and models that drop off into oblivion.

                It seems that if a machine doesn't have graphics and can't run games, it'll be forgotten.

                Just the way I see things...
                Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
                  a machine doesn't have graphics and can't run games
                  That's usually the type of machine I go for

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thanks for all the great insights. To speak to my Thunderbird - in fact, it has a number of specialized computer components that are completely unavailable and unlikely ever to be. For example the early ABS system it has is known to fail due to age - the 'fix' is to convert the car to manual braking; there's no replacement or repair for the ABS computer. What got me on this riff was a restoration guy saying that preserving a car from the 80s in running condition would be more challenging than 50s and 60s solely because of the 'unobtanium' computer parts.

                    I hadn't thought of 3d printing for something as heavy duty as making an IC. I had long assumed you needed highly specialized facilities (ie. clean room) and skills (well beyond that of a clock maker or car parts fabricator) and special resources to pull that off. I never had a problem envisioning a car guy reproducing a long obsolete part - it's really just a matter of time and material and mastering the skill. I figured when you got into something as intricate as an IC you were into a whole other universe of difficulty.

                    However, does my concern still stand? If 100 years from now most vintage computers are running on 3d printed aftermarket parts, are they really vintage anymore? Would it be better from an historical standpoint to just leave failed machines as is (as some Apple 1 owners have elected to do) and go with emulation for the experience?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Valuation tends to dictate the outcomes - unrestored classic cars can be more valuable than those that have been kept pretty since new and re-everythinged as a result.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Corey986 View Post
                        I know of guys in the restoration business who repair 250 year old clocks and furniture, there will always be people who will have the expertise to fix them. It just will be a very specialized skill and not cheap. It also will be some sort of academic profession or master craftsman. I know that sounds scary, but I'm sure no one thought 250 years ago that someone would need to repair a clock that has worn out. People pay big money to restore them because of custom tooling and recreated parts.
                        I know average guys who restore 250 year old clocks in their homes, including making replacement parts. The only difference between those and the guys restoring 100 year old radios at home is that they don't usually do any machining.

                        Both of these things for the most part involve commodity items that like you say, were intended to last round 20 years.

                        But there certainly were clocks (and furniture, etc.) that were intended to last generations. They were built in a way so that not only did the originally parts last a century or more, they would easily be repaired at any time.

                        Now there were radios made with the intention of lasting generations, too, and depending on how you view restoration, that may or may not be possible. But, I don't know that anyone ever designed a computer to last more than 20 years.

                        Clocks were and are (good ones) made so that a skilled clockmaker can completely rebuild them from nothing if need be. Clearly there are hobbyists who can and do achieve this. Perhaps that's analogous to the future computer hobbyists who "3D print" integrated circuits. It's interesting to watch how old radios are in the early stages of this. There actually are a small number of hobbyists making their own electronic components for them, now.
                        Be polite and I may let you live.

                        https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
                          What I find interesting is the number brands and models that drop off into oblivion.

                          It seems that if a machine doesn't have graphics and can't run games, it'll be forgotten.

                          Just the way I see things...
                          Just like eventually collectors will be paired down to Apple, IBM, and Commodore. The same way that car collectors mostly only want Ford, Chevy and Dodges. And they put aftermarket Chevy engines in their Fords, just like clone AT parts power many old Apples now.

                          When's the last time you saw someone driving a an old Kissel? The number of automakers once in just the United States alone is staggering.
                          Be polite and I may let you live.

                          https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

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                            #14
                            At some point, someone will start making reproduction chips. I've already heard about an organization that was considering setting up a SSI chip fab. It will not be inexpensive, but I think it will happen, sooner or later, probably later.

                            At the moment, unless you are looking for 60's era IC's there seem to be an ample supply of most kinds of ICs, though a few single source types can be difficult to find.

                            regards,
                            Mike Willegal

                            Originally posted by falter View Post
                            Part of a smaller discussion I had once. Something I think about every time my 88 Thunderbird breaks down.. there's a lot of computer parts in there that are now unobtainable. Obviously with a car this can be mitigated by removing computers if required, but I was wondering... what is the long term fate for vintage computers? How many years before we'd expect most vintage ICs to have failed? Is there a point, say, 200 years out where all vintage machines will essentially be static displays?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by mwillegal View Post
                              At some point, someone will start making reproduction chips. I've already heard about an organization that was considering setting up a SSI chip fab. It will not be inexpensive, but I think it will happen, sooner or later, probably later.

                              At the moment, unless you are looking for 60's era IC's there seem to be an ample supply of most kinds of ICs, though a few single source types can be difficult to find.

                              regards,
                              Mike Willegal
                              Yes there is definitely a decent stock. When I embarked on my TVT project I thought 'no way will I be able to get ICs from 1974 or earlier'. Turned out to be the easiest part of the process. Same with my Mark-8.. I was warned I'd never find the 8263s and 8267.. I ended up finding 10 of each and most were 1974 vintage. But yeah, I wonder about what the guy said about 'radioactive decay' or whatever it was.. if they're rotting even while sitting unused.

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