Making My Collection Usable - Part I - The Classic Computers (photos)

Bill Loguidice's picture

As mentioned previously, I've been re-thinking my collecting activities, including selling off the non-working and duplicate portions of my collection, which presently consists of over 430 videogame and computer systems and countless thousands of related software, accessories, and literature. Naturally, part of that reasoning was "thinning the herd" after all these years, because - even though I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space for these types of activities - it has long since reached the point where I well and truly have too much to handle. Why has this become an issue? There's simply too much stuff, there's no time to use it (that would need to be my full-time job), and, when I do want to use it, it takes up most of my available time just setting something up, only to have to break it down and put it back on the shelf again. It's innefficient, and frankly, no fun anymore.

With that in mind, in addition to the thinning - which will take a very, very long time of course in a collection I've been cultivating for over 30 years now - I've been plotting how I can make better use of what I have. Like I said, I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space. I have a large basement area, with about half unfinished, which is used for storage, and the other, finished half, consisting of an office room, hallway, workout area, and den area. The main floors of our house contain our active systems, including the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Co-Star, various computers and handhelds, etc., but they are not an option for me to make use of for classic items, other than on an occasional basis. That just leaves the basement, which is, of course, fine, but also limits my flexibility.

Anyway, even though each area of the basement is brimming with stuff and each section serves a specific purpose, either on a permanent or temporary basis, I decided that my best course of action is to pull out the truly must-have-accessible systems from the hundreds available and make them accessible at a moment's notice. This was not easy to do, as I have a genuine passion for each and every system I own, but the bottom line is is that some systems are more interesting, more "useful," or I simply have a critical mass of items for them that they can't be ignored. I decided I'd tackle that task with my classic computers first, followed by my classic videogame systems at a later date. I cleared space on my big L-shaped computer desk in the office area and proceeded to select the systems that met my criteria and would fit on the desk (I'll have some flexibility when I set up the classic videogame consoles to make a little use of the den area as well).

While I have many different models in most of the specific computer series I selected, I tried to choose the one model in my collection that would give me the most bang-for-the-buck. This in and of itself was not easy, as there's rarely a "most perfect" choice when it comes to choosing the ideal model in a series, which in this case also involved being a good fit for the available space. The systems I chose were as follows: TI-99/4a, Apple IIgs, Atari 600XL, Atari Falcon, Commodore Amiga 2000HD, and Commodore 128DCR, with a special appearance by the Radio Shack Color Computer series, which I'll explain at the end. So yeah, as hard as it was, no Sinclair Spectrum, BBC, IBM PCjr, Coleco Adam, Imagination Machine, MSX, Interact, Exidy, etc., etc., items, even though I'd love to have those out and ready to go as much as the others.

My initial goal - which I was able to accomplish - was to set up a basic system configuration for each and make sure it was working properly. I actually had a slightly different mix of specific systems, but, after testing, found some things didn't function as expected or didn't work at all. Over time, I'll add to each system I've set up (and address the other stuff that's not working) until each and every one is set up properly with their respective disk drives, flash cards, transfer cables, etc., to be fully usable with all of the stuff I have available. At the very least, with these minimum configurations, they're ready to go for most quick usage scenarios. I also decided it was important not to have any of them plugged in full-time, so everything gets hooked up and powered up on demand. This is actually simple and will not delay my usage in any way. In fact, the way I have the various monitors and TV's set up, I can hook up other systems as needed without too much fuss, which is another bonus. Anyway, here are the photos and additional explanation:

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So the first system I set up is perhaps the clumsiest, the TI-99/4a. I decided to go with the classic silver/black model rather than the later cream colored unit, but that will be easy enough to swap out as the mood suits me. The big unit is the Peripheral Expansion Box, or PEB, which houses extra memory and the two disk drives. It's a beast, but necessary. I have a flash unit for this device that I'll set up, as well as other peripherals, but for now, this will suffice in terms of usability. That's one of three 1084S monitors you'll see, and the TI-99/4a is connected through its monitor output. There should be enough room here for me to add a composite modded Atari 7800 or ColecoVision next to it when I do the videogame stuff and make additional use of the same connection.

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This is a ROM 01 Apple IIgs. Amazingly, the battery still keeps the time and date, but I haven't opened it up in a long time to see if there are any mods to make that possible (the original batteries only lasted five years or so). I initally had a ROM 03 IIgs here, but it was choking on the 5.25" disk drives for whatever reason and I decided to stop troubleshooting and just use this model. I was debating about putting one of my Apple IIe computers here instead, so I'd have a bit more flexibility with the internal slots and better overall legacy compability, but this setup does afford me access to most of the legacy stuff as well as all the IIgs stuff, so IIgs it is for now. It's hooked up to its companion monitor via its RGB connector. I'll add in things like the CCFA at a later date, but for now, this setup works just fine. I'll see about swapping ROMs with the other unit as well at a later date, if needed.

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I have a fondness for various Atari 8-bit models for various reasons - the uniqueness of the 800, the feel of the 1200XL, etc. - but I decided to go with my 600XL for its nice size. It's also modded for monitor output and 64K, so it doesn't have the usual 600XL drawbacks, and I even have a small dongle that pushes the memory many times that. I'll need to add a disk drive here for compatibility, but I do have various flash options that will be added into the mix. This is hooked up to the LG LED TV/monitor through the monitor output (composite).

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Behind the 600XL is the Atari Falcon, shown in the photo above during testing. I knew I wanted an ST-series system and had most of them (including the STacy), at my disposal, but I thought I'd go with the top available unit and take my chances on legacy compatibility. It has 14MB of RAM and all kinds of SCSI-drives, which are not hooked up at present. I'm using Atari's VGA adapter to go the LG. It looks fantastic, though I may use the same type of SCART to HDMI conversion I'm doing with the Amiga since I should be able to control the sound output better that way.

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I'm not going to lie, this one was a bit disappointing. I tried both an Amiga 600 and Amiga 1200 here, and couldn't get either one to work properly (or at all), even after much troubleshooting. Those systems would have been ideal because I have a wonderful compact flash card with all of the Amiga software on it that would have made these a dream to use. Unfortunately, that will have to wait. Of my remaining Amiga systems, the 500, 1000, etc., this 2000HD was the next best choice, and it even has an 8088 bridge card in it, so I have the added advantage of some classic PC DOS compatibility for a bit more flexibility. Overall, it's still a nice system and a worthy choice. I'm using a SCART to HDMI conversion, which looks great on the LG.

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The last system in the "always available" line-up is the Commodore 128DCR. I have many systems in the C-64 series, but this particular unit is by far the most flexible. It's hooked up over both the monitor and RGB outputs to the 1084S, so I can switch between 80 column and 40 column modes without issue. I also have various flash-based solutions that I'll get going on this as well.

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This is the Color Computer stuff in the center of the room on its own desk, though you can't really see everything, including the additional systems. I'm working on a Color Computer history book at the moment and there's no better place for a wild card system that I'll need front and center for the next several months than right here. The main CoCo 3 will be hooked up to the 1084S with an RGB cable, so it should also look great. This is next on my list to test and organize, so it can prove its value when writing.

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This is the one other available table in the room. It has ancillary Color Computer stuff - offshoots and near compatibles and what-not. This is part of the process of getting all of my CoCo-related collection (except the boxed software, which remains with the other boxed computer software in racks in the hallway) out. Obviously, I have some duplicates to sell here.

So, that wraps up part 1. I'll try to provide some updates over time, and am now planning on what classic consoles I absolutely need out and/or can fit somewhere. Collecting like this is obviously not for the feint of heart - or particularly sane - but I ultimately enjoy it, so you take the hassle with the fun...

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I have several MPT-03's in my

I have several MPT-03's in my collection, but perhaps someone else might be interested. Let them know how to get in contact with you.

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