Iowan Plots History of Computers
John Davin's goal is to collect one each of the first models of every computer or accessory from 1950 to the mid-'80s at his antique computer museum.
Davin's parents owned an antique furniture store, so Davin said he knew the value of investing money in antiques. His interest in computers started when he used them in college.
The Iowa City, Iowa, collector started collecting antique computers when he found a Timex Sinclaire at a garage sale. The Timex Sinclaire 1000 has never been opened and is still packaged in the original shrink-wrap. The computer sported a 16 kilobytes RAM upgrade and three cassette-based computer programs. Cost for the Timex Sinclaire: $25.
That purchase started him on his current collection and his desire to one day have a true computer museum. Davin's computer-store business also took in computers on trade, and he collected old IBM PCs and portable or luggable computers that he couldn't sell. He filled his parent's basement with hundreds of old computers.
"It was that or throw them away, and I knew that I was going to enjoy bringing them out to show my grandchildren," Davin said, "these computers that were so powerful in my day."
He didn't realize how valuable these units would become. Davin now regularly buys and trades these collectibles and hopes to find someone who can appraise the collection accurately. The collectibles are for sale or trade.
First MS Mouse in Collection
The museum includes the first Microsoft mouse in its original package and one of the first 1X external CD-ROM drives. Other features: the first "Portable Mainframe Terminal" and an Anderson-Jabobson 110-baud modem in a wooden box. There's also a keyboard made of wood.
Displayed are attempts to take one item (an IBM typewriter, for example) and adapt it to another device (a display screen) to make a new device. The CPT Visual Memory ROTARY III is one of the first attempts to link the typewriter to a monitor for "editing" purposes. A toggle switch decided if information typed went to the screen or to clear the buffer and send the data to the the printer.
The collection starts from the early hand-crank calculators, to check-printing devices, to the first attempts to edit text on a typewriter, then all the way to the powerful IBM PC Jr. There's also a Commodore Vic 20. Davin remembers an advertisement with William Shatner in his Star Trek get up, telling parents the Vic 20 was the computer "your children need to able to compete in school today."
Click here to see the antique computer museum.
Memories Contribute to Value
The value of any antique, Davin says, is based upon the age of the unit, how many units were built, how scarce the unit may be today, the condition of the unit, and if the unit has the original boxes and manuals. But, he says, it's not necessarily in that order.
There's another factor in value, according to Davin - the number of people and the success of those who used the units when they were new and in use. There is an analogy, he says, between the collectors of the Ford Model T and collectors of antique computers.
Others buy antique computers because they actually remember typing away for hours at a terminal in college, Davin says, or writing a book that brings back pleasant memories. For whatever reason, as the population that used these early computers ages and becomes more affluent, he says the price of these units will soar.
Whether they purchase them for conversation pieces in corporate board rooms, entryways or personal home collections. Davin says he hopes to some day be able to allow organizations to borrow his collection for museums or presentations at schools. He envisions a custom semi-truck that goes from site to site across the country for presentations of office technology at schools and malls.
To visit the computer museum, see it at http://www.davinsystems.com/pcmuseum
To e-mail John Davin, click here - firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: The photos are courtesy of John Davin from his Web site.