In a world where millions of people carry a 1990s supercomputer in their pockets, it’s fun to revisit technology from a time when a 1 megahertz machine on a desktop represented a significant leap forward. Recently, a collector named Brian Green showed off his vintage computer collection on Twitter, and we thought it would be fun to ask him about why and how he set up his home computer lab.
By day, Green works as a senior systems engineer based in Arkansas. But in his off hours, “Ice Breaker” (as he’s commonly known online) focuses his passion on a vintage computer collection he’s built over decades—and a bulletin board system (BBS) called “Particles” that he’s been running ever since. 1992.
Green’s interest in computers dates back to 1980, when he first used an Apple II+ in elementary school. “My older sister brought home a printout of a BASIC program she was working on, and I was fascinated that you could tell a computer what to do using something that resembled English,” Green recalls. “Once I realized you could code games, I was hooked.”
Despite his early encounters with the Apple II, Commodore 64 of 1982 really won his heart. As his first computer with a disk, it came at a dear price for a kid, so he spent an entire summer saving money from his paper route to buy one. “Most of my friends had one at the time,” he says.
Today, Green’s vintage computer collection encompasses a wide range of machines, with the rarest being a Commodore B128-80 from 1982. As part of the failed Commodore B Series of computers, the model barely made it out the door before the plug was on. pulled, according to Green. “Of the B-Series, this is the most common, with about 10,000 made,” says Green. “While other models only had a few hundred.”
We asked him which computer was the hardest to track down, and he pointed to the ill-fated Apple III, which Apple launched in 1980 as a commercially viable follow-up to its more famous prequel: “I’ve probably been hunting for an Apple III. the longest. Most computers are available if you’re willing to spend the money on eBay, but that’s not as much fun as picking something up at a show or flea market. I found a working Apple III at the last Midwest Vintage Computer Festival for a good price and display it proudly.”
Setting up his computer lab
From these images, it’s clear that Green’s home computer lab is an exercise in weapons-grade tech nostalgia. His goal is to recreate the computing experience of the 1980s, when he grew up reading magazines like Family Computing.
“Every month, there was a new computer announced or reviewed,” he says. “I was a kid then and couldn’t afford any of these computers, but I was always fascinated by all the different hardware. I wanted to try them all! I try to use as much ‘period correct’ hardware as I can, however there are some of newer hardware in these machines as well.”
When it came to displaying his vintage computer collection in a relatively small space, Green was meticulous. He came up with a creative solution using shelves from Wall Control, which offers color-coded options for metal shelves and accessories.
Three bookshelves hold vintage software and magazines, and assorted-sized Amazon desks support the handy machines. “It was about measuring the space I had and mixing and matching everything to fit,” he says.
While his friends are free to visit and use his vintage computers, Verda says they aren’t as fascinated with the history of machines as he is, so the online community of vintage computer enthusiasts he found on Twitter and Mastodon meant a lot to him. . His girlfriend is happy to listen to him talk about his latest acquisitions, but she is not fully into the hobby itself. However, his daughter enjoys typing on old keyboards and playing games Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego in the decorated room.
Veteran 31 year BBS sysop
One of Green’s most impressive vintage accomplishments comes from running Particles BBS since 1992. Over the past 31 years, he’s migrated the BBS between various platforms, including a decided turn for the retro when mainstream BBSing faded and mostly became a nostalgic hobby.
“The BBS started on a Commodore 64, moved to an Amiga 600, then to a Windows PC, and has been on a Commodore 128 for the last 20 years,” Green says. “I’ve had tens of thousands of callers from all over the world, from all walks of life, and from all different types of computers. I’ve met so many people who have become true friends.”
The BBS offers a variety of features such as message boards (where callers can leave messages for other callers to read and reply), downloadable files and online door games, making it a period correct virtual meeting place to meet people interested in vintage. technology
For those who want to check out Particles BBS, its website includes a “Telnet Now!” menu item that connects directly to the BBS using a standard web browser. Green says anyone with the means is welcome to visit. “If you want the authentic experience, pick your favorite old computer and connect to particlesbbs.dyndns.org port 6400,” he said.
We’ll see you there.