From the early minicomputers that tried to distance themselves from the 1950's stereotype of a computer as a large, expensive, complex device (it's not a computer, it's a "Programmed Data Processor...") to the minimalist home computers of the 1980's that were designed to provide "real computing power" at the lowest possible price, there has been a great deal of innovation in the computer industry. By studying the history of computing and preserving the machines that have been developed along the way, it is possible to gain a great deal of insight into computing's present and future.
Of course, if computer collecting were all done solely for historical reasons, I would imagine that there would be far fewer collectors out there. Collecting and using old computers is often done for the same reason as many other things in the computing world: hack value. Bringing an old, discarded system back to life and then using it to do useful work can be a lot of fun! Older computers are also generally simpler and therefore easier to understand at a component level. It's easier to make hardware modifications to a system that is made entirely from socketed 7400-series TTL ICs than it is to make changes to a more recent system that is implemented entirely in a chipset of 2 or 3 ASICs. It's also relatively easy for hacker/programmer types to get into computer collecting by accident. The much sought after machines of yesterday are today available for next to nothing, and it's hard to resist the $5000 marvel that you drooled over in Byte 15 years ago when it's on the junk store shelf with $2.00 written on the monitor in black magic marker.
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