In a world where millions of people have 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 major 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 why and how he created 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 often known online) focuses his passion on a vintage computer collection he’s built up over decades—and a bulletin board system (BBS) called “Particles.” which has 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 it fascinated me that you could tell a computer what to do using something that sounded like English,” Green recalls. “Once I realized you could code games, I was hooked.”
Despite his early encounters with the Apple II, it was the 1982 Commodore 64 that truly won his heart. As his first computer with a disk drive, it was expensive for a kid, so he spent an entire summer saving money from the paper route to buy one. “Most of my friends had one at the time,” he says.
Today, Green’s vintage computer collection covers a wide range of machines, 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 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 released in 1980 as a follow-up to its most famous prequel: “I probably hunted down an Apple III Most computers are available if you want to spend the money on eBay, but that’s not as much fun as buying something at a fair 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 technological nostalgia. His goal is to recreate the computing experience of the 1980s when he grew up reading magazines like Family Computing.
“Every month, a new computer was 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 ‘correct’ hardware as possible. There’s also a bunch of newer hardware in these machines .”