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Welcome to the Goodwill Computer Museum (Video) 72

Posted by Roblimo
from the don't-be-scared-they're-just-old-computers-like-grandpa-used-to-use dept.
Goodwill Industries rehabs computers and sells computer parts, at least in Austin, Texas. The Goodwill Computer Museum is a natural outgrowth of that effort. In this video, museum curator Lisa Worley takes Slashdot's Timothy Lord on a tour of the museum. Remember that TRS-80 you threw away in 1982? Well, they saved several of them to stimulate your nostalgia-based pleasure nodules. Ditto many other devices both common and rare, including a pre-Dell computer made and signed by Texas computer celebrity Michael Dell. So sit back and enjoy the ride, as Timothy does the walking and Lisa does the talking, kind of like Night at the Museum -- but without CGI dinosaurs and other life forms getting between you and the classic computers.

Lisa: We are in the Goodwill Computer Museum which is here in North Austin. The Goodwill Computer Museum has been in this location since 2005, although the collection itself has been around since the mid ‘90s. It started as a few shelves and the Computer Works store which is our next door neighbor, cool things coming through the recycling stream. We do 215 million pounds of recycling of electronics here every month.

Tim: Wow!

Lisa: Yes, it is an amazing amount of stuff that comes through. And so as these really cool pieces started coming through when we started the electronics recycling, guys in the Computer Store were basically like “This stuff is really awesome. We shouldn’t pull it apart and recycle it. We should show this to people.” And so it started small, ‘Relics of the Past is what it was called, a few shelves in the store. But when we built this headquarters building for Goodwill here in Austin they actually dedicated this space for the museum. So we’ve been here since 2005.

Tim: Now, how many pieces do you have on display?

Lisa: On display we probably have 75 to 100 pieces. It’s a small space about 1200 square feet. The collection itself is absolutely enormous. We are in an offsite warehouse location right now. Maybe 5000 to 7000 pieces of hardware; we also collect software documentation, all sorts of stuff like that – that collection is also enormous.

Tim: So we are looking at the tip of the iceberg here?

Lisa: Oh yes, yes. Do not let the small size sway you to think that we don’t have a very big collection, because it is absolutely enormous.

Tim: Now, how do things that are here, at the museum, typically get here?

Lisa: As I said, originally everything started coming through the recycling stream, but in the last couple of years a lot of that, especially the older pieces, I think they’ve already come through, so we don’t get a lot through the recycling stream anymore. And now that people know we are here, I get phone calls and emails with people actually donating directly to the museum. So we have these great provenanced pieces, we know that you donated it to us, you bought it here, you used it for this. And those are stories that we can share when we actually exhibit these things like how did people work with the pieces.

Tim: Now I think of the people who will watch this video, many of them, and I mean many of us, have _____2:33 what we think of as a little museum. What kind of criteria do you use to determine whether something is actually worth putting on display or even keep in your collection?

Lisa: Right. So we have a few things that we look at. Because we have such an enormous collection already of stuff that has come through the recycling stream, sometimes if you call me and you say, “I have a TRS 80 Model 1”, well, we have some of those in the collection, but do you have the history of your piece, does it still function? If it functions, then we might take that, and use it as a replacement for the one that we don’t know anything about, and switch those out. Otherwise, we look at: Does it work? Does it look good? Do you have any documentation with it? And do we already have it in the collection or not?

Tim: Now one thing, before we started the camera _____3:22 what packaging to narrow what comes here, and look at the things that are from the North American market?

Lisa: Yes, yeah, I mean we have limited storage space. And so we really had to think about what is the most important to the stories we want to tell and so North America based although as I said, if something really awesome comes through, I might change my mind and keep it.

Tim: With that let’s go ahead and go through some things that you’ve got on the wall here?

Lisa: Okay, great.

Tim: We got over here just on the wall withmostly Apple stuff, and I noticed some Dell from over here from 13 years ago.

Lisa: Right. It is a really neat legacy free PC that in some ways I feel it is like the AMD 5015, this is basically just to hook up to the internet and get your work done. It is a really neat piece. It is so very compact, I was really surprised when I saw it. I’d never seen anything like this before.

Tim: And right behind that, we have one of my favorite nostalgic computers, the Audrey here.

Lisa: It is so pretty. This came in multiple of colors. We have it in yellow, green and white in the collection. This is the only one of the three that we have that has everything with it, so the power cord, the stylus, the manual; all three of the ones in our collection work. So it is a beautiful touchscreen. And it is a really neat piece.

Tim: Really neat. Let’s walk around a little bit and I know also you’ve got some communications devices here, I’ve never seen in person one of these Braille printers before.

Lisa: Yeah, I had never seen one before. They are really cool. And Goodwill’s mission is to work with people that have barriers to employment, and so we and our collection, we like to try to make sure we collect those things that represent that also. So the Braille reader, that you would put under your keyboard or under your laptop, and so people can actually read what’s on the screen, and the same with the coupler and the printer, so for phone calls, there is this nice little LCD screen there, and you can also print it out on a little receipt piece of paper, your conversation.

Tim: That’s very neat. Now, I’d like to walk around the edges a little bit more. And just check out some of the very older stuff on the far wall here.

Lisa: Yeah. You want to start with the PDP 8S? So this is a piece that actually a former volunteers got running again. So they worked for months to get this piece up and running. So you can see it has fans on the side, over here, it has got its power cord.

Tim: I like the Plexiglas.

Lisa: Yes, yes, of course custom made, to fit over the top of that. I love that you can see inside so when we get school groups through here, we can show like, them this is the difference between pulling out my smart phone and what we use now versus something like this - they are so big. And it is a beautiful piece. And it went on sale, it cost $10,000. That’s an amazing amount of money.

Tim: Now is this a machine that can turn on?

Lisa: I don’t know. I actually admit that I’ve never turned it on before, I don’t know.

Tim: You’ve been on the _____6:34.

Lisa: I would be very nervous. We actually have a restoration manual that the last volunteer put together. It is this huge 3-inch thick binder of every step he took going through testing and rebuilding it.

Tim: Yeah, and I guess you have a mixed mission here both to display, and some pieces are restored back to working function.

Lisa: Yes, and in the past, it had been more of a restoration focus. When I came on board, we decided that it was really important to know everything that we have in the collection. So we’ve sort of stopped restoration for now. We are doing inventory of absolutely everything that we own. We are putting it into a database that we are going to make available online by next year, so people can see what we have in our collection. While testing for functionality and making notes, things that don’t work, that need help, once the inventory is done, we can say these are candidates for restoration and then return to that mission.

Tim: With the volume of recycling you mentioned, it seems like a pretty deep task to take on.

Lisa: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Tim: Now what about the state _____7:40.

Lisa: You know, I don’t really know a lot about this. It’s gorgeous. I love the colors. You can see the big platter down here, I don’t believe that this one works.

Tim: And next to it, we have an even older device.

Lisa: Oh yeah. Again talking to school kids about ‘this was your computer screen, this is your printer.’ This just came in a couple of months ago from a donor here in town in beautiful condition, other than this. Actually at the storage, we still have the paper tape that goes with it. So yeah, 1965.

Tim: And this famously is the variety of the place, not the individual one where the “@” sign came for email. That is a pretty neat historical legacy down on a piece of hardware.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah.

Tim: And I guess telex is, nowadays people ask for fax numbers, and I should start to get them a telex number, because it seems about as historically interesting.

Lisa: Yeah, people still fax yeah.

Tim: And in the corner, you have a floppy drive.

Lisa: Right, this thing is like solid metal. It weighs a good I don’t know, 15 to 20 pounds. We ran across this when we were doing the inventory, because again there is no provenance with this. It’s just this floppy drive. I was considering de-accessioning it from the collection. And all of my volunteers said “Absolutely not. We have to have this. It is so awesome.“ And so then, we were picking out new items for the exhibit, I said, “Well, what would you guys like to see in exhibit? You work with this stuff just as much as I do.” Half of them said this, “You have to put this out.” So, there it is.

Tim: We are probably _____9:26 birthdays by what size floppies were in use when they were born.

Lisa: Yeah, it is funny, holding up like floppies like this. People are – I had – they know clearly that they were that big. It is really cool.

Tim: Now, let’s go again around the _____9:39 you have a pretty nice wall here, all-in-one units. You’ve got everything from purely terminal to you’ve got, Matthew Broderick’s _____9:54 breaking machine here, not the actual one and you got Commodore PET, you have got TRS 80.

Lisa: Right, the trinity of computers, right?

Tim: And I want to actually take a _____10:07 to theright over here, I see another TRS 80, which is a little more unusual, explain this to me in just a bit.

Lisa: So, this came out in early 1980s, and it was basically the TRS 80 Data Terminal. So people – so business travelers could take this on the road, remotely hook up to another computer and do their work on the road.

Tim: And so, this is the MacBook Air of 1982.

Lisa: Yeah, there you go. And honestly, much, much lighter than something like the Kaypro or all those Osbornes, they weigh like a ton you know.

Tim: Now what about the display capability of the portable kit, hook up to a television?

Lisa: Oh this? No.

Tim: Surely, it is internal.

Lisa: Yeah, and it is like a thermal paper roll that you could order for that.

Tim: So, it is basically, as far as display, it’s lot like Model 100. It’s a

Lisa: Yes, yes, absolutely, with the _____11:05 yes. Yeah.

Tim: Another one that we’ve got here, that really seems ahead of its times in some ways, is the Apricot

Lisa: Yeah, that thing’s really cool. And again Apricot is a UK based company, so do we keep it, or do we not keep it, it is so cool, this is another one that the volunteers said, ”Absolutely, you have to keep this. It is wonderful.” So 1984, wireless keyboard, the mouse is actually called a light pipe, infrared. This computer had speech recognition technology, so they had over 4000 words; the problem was you could only hold 64 words in RAM at any given time, so limited but still cool.

Tim: Absolutely.

Lisa: I mean 1984, it was 11 years old. It is amazing.

Tim: Now, this is just because of the UK connections it reminds me a little bit of where we would put Raspberry Pi in 30 years from now. I think they’re going to be recognized as sort of an interesting milestone.

Lisa: Right, right, absolutely.

Tim: Is there anything on the floor that we’ve been walking around here that you really like to show off that I’ve ignored so far.

Lisa: You know, I don’t know that to people know about Datapoint. Yeah, that is a really cool story. The guys moved here, and opened up the computer company in San Antonio and many people consider these and the 2200 over here especially like what is the first personal computer? It is an all-in-one personal computer 1970. That’s super early. And obviously these were used as like mainframes, but still a really nice piece. We have a large collection of Datapoint items. One of the sons of one of the co-founders lives here in town and so, he has been really instrumental in donating documentation and hardware to us.

Tim: And I know Michael Dell has been involved with some donations here as well.

Lisa: Yes, actually right over here. We have a very early PCs Limited and when it came through the stream, it was – everybody was really excited and so, we went to Michael Dell and asked him if he would actually sign the PC, so he signed the keyboard and actually the side of the terminal over here.

Tim: So, this is one of the ones that he was building in the dorm room at UT?

Lisa: You know, I don’t know but it is definitely an early one. I mean that would be really cool, right?

Tim: It really would. He is one of the famous computer drop-outs, these big three probably lot more that, if you look at it that way.

Lisa: Lucky.

Tim: Now also would you have some bigger pieces under here, I realized that these are technically on display the same way some of the others are?

Lisa: Right, I mean yeah.

Tim: It had some of these really large either storage in some cases. Here is a

Lisa: Right, this 8-inch.

Tim: Interesting box here, I always see Radio Shack Computers. I very rarely see associated larger verticals like this, and this is a disk system, you mentioned you are not sure how much this actually held, right?

Lisa: I do not know. I’ll admit that I have not done a lot of research on that. But we had a really cool peripherals in general come through. So, these are really neat. We also had with the Model 3 a really early screen printer, have you seen those, they print out like in a barrel shape, on like a receipt paper, I have never seen anything like that before. It was really cool.

Tim: Great, yeah. I think people are going to be intrigued to see some of the _____14:44 display here, but like I said, some many people have interesting things, that they probably would like to see on display, right, is there a way for people to get to contact you and say, ‘I have got an interesting piece of hardware’, wondering if they are interested.

Lisa: Yes, absolutely. www.goodwillcomputermuseum.org and my email address is on the page.

Tim: And if anybody gets to Austin and wants to visit, what is the best time to come?

Lisa: We are actually open every day of the week, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 to 8 on the weekends.

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Welcome to the Goodwill Computer Museum (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:51PM (#45272615)
    ...my living room, years ago, though with more space between artifacts...

    Anyone need a peek/poke ISA card for bit-wise operations?
    • by lord_mike (567148)

      No, but I could use an 8-bit ISA CGA video card and a CGA monitor if you have one. :-)

      • by TWX (665546)
        Had them, but not anymore. Actually I had a weird ATI video card that could do the full color palette at the same time in text-mode, and could also do a full color palette in a CGA-type resolution, but could only do a four-color palette in an EGA resolution. It was odd...
    • My basement until my wife finally won the argument.
      • My basement until my wife finally won the argument.

        My basement today. I'll sure miss my wife.

      • by TWX (665546)
        Heh. Yeah, I had hoarded computer stuff and already gotten rid of a fair amount of it before I met my wife. As we consolidated households I got rid of quite a bit more, and now I get rid of stuff as it enters the, "not useful to me anymore" phase. So, most SCSI and firewire cables, most flat-ribbon IDE cables, that sort of thing, gone. Most serial and parallel, gone. No reason to keep that stuff anymore, if I need it I can find plenty of it for a few cents at the thrift stores.

        And you know what? I'
  • Gave up (Score:3, Informative)

    by mypalmike (454265) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:57PM (#45272655) Homepage

    The pre-video ad was like 3 hours long so I gave up.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706)

      Too dumb to use AdBlock Plus, also too dumb to hide that fact. #epicfail

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        #epicfail

        I can't tell, is it Twitter or 4chan that you think you are posting on?

        • by Megane (129182)
          4chan would have flayed him alive for being hipster enough to use a hashtag. He probably even read it while saying "hashtag" out loud.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      youtube-dl -o - "http://player.ooyala.com/player.js?deepLinkEmbedCode=45azRqZzpicDvnQHtZajoR9u48oarpKq&embedCode=45azRqZzpicDvnQHtZajoR9u48oarpKq" | mplayer -

      I didn't notice

  • Yes, but I think it was closer to 2002 when I finally did. I usually try to purge accumulated computer stuff every 10 years, give or take. With the exception of a Pentium Pro, I don't have anything older than a P2. But it's going to be time to clean house again soon. Every time I throw something away that isn't at least 10 years old, I end up needing it two weeks after it's gone. Then I have to pay a stupid amount of money to replace something that I had all along.
    • With the exception of a Pentium Pro, I don't have anything older than a P2

      Is it just me or is this statement identical to "I don't have anything older than a Pentium Pro"?

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Yes, but I think it was closer to 2002 when I finally did. I usually try to purge accumulated computer stuff every 10 years, give or take. With the exception of a Pentium Pro, I don't have anything older than a P2. But it's going to be time to clean house again soon. Every time I throw something away that isn't at least 10 years old, I end up needing it two weeks after it's gone. Then I have to pay a stupid amount of money to replace something that I had all along.

      Ya, I'm thinking back to 1982, the Model IV wasn't even out, and no one would throw a Model 1 out unless it was broken beyond repair.

      Though big score about 2006 when I got a TRS-80 Model IV Portable for $25, working.

    • by sootman (158191)

      I used to have a dual-PPro. I wish I still had it, but for a different reason. [ozcopper.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We were arguing the relative merits of the various computer platforms back in the day (Apple, TRS-80, Commodore, etc) and it struck me we're still doing it today. Why do we get married to these platforms and defend them so vigorously.

  • Lol funny you would ask that. I don't just remember it, my wife actually just found it while cleaning out the storage area in the crawlspace by the roof. First she saw the cartirdiges and thought it was an old Atari, then she saw the "Atari" and got very confused that it had a keyboard built in... and a tape deck..... :)

  • I have a:
    TRS-80 model III
    2 Commodore 64s
    Mac SE/30

    I'm proud of my little collection. I wish I could find a PET.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706)

      I have a:
      TRS-80 model III
      2 Commodore 64s
      Mac SE/30

      I'm proud of my little collection. I wish I could find a PET.

      I've got:

      Tandy Model 102 (new in box!)
      Tandy CoCo 3 (new in box!)
      2 Commodore 64s
      Commodore 64C
      Commodore Amiga 1000
      Apple //gs (ROM3, with TransWarp accelerator)

      I have a TI PEB waiting for a TI 99/4a to connect it to.

      Still haven't decided on which old Atari I want. Probably an 800.

      I'd *love* to get a working IMSAI 8080, but I can't justify the kind of money that purchase would require.

      • Before you ask, none of my Ohio Scientifics are for sale.

        • Challenger 1P - Babeeeee!!!

          • Glad there's someone else out there who can relate! I actually had a Superboard II, which was the Challenger 1P without a case, as you may recall. Years later, I bought a C4P for cheap at a hamfest. Also, I may have the most complete set of Ohio Scientific documentation still in existence. (It's nice to have something to brag about, even if nobody cares.)

            • I got mine second hand through my dad's coworker because he offered it to me cheaper than the Atari 400 I was saving for... At the time I thought I had gotten shafted because the graphics sucked but I think I learned more about computers and programming from it then I would have through the 400. (Also learned how to do my first hardware fix because the coworker had misinstalled the ram... leaving me with 6k instead of 8!)
              (I eventually upgraded to a Commodore 64)

              I swear though, for the longest time I though

        • by Nethead (1563)

          I have Turbo Pascal for CP/M on an 8" floppy if you need it.

      • by kalpol (714519)
        I've got a TI 99/4a system if you're interested. I think it is missing the video cable. PEB with drive, interface cards, rubber-cup modem, lots of software.
      • by sootman (158191)

        All I have is an Apple IIc, with tiny matching CRT -- but the video out is plain-old composite, so it works fine on a multi-input 20" Dell LCD, which is kinda neat. :-) As much as I like it, I have no real use for it, and even less room. Been meaning to get around to finding a good home for it. The only reason I still have it is that it's tucked away nicely at the moment.

  • I'd love to take a walk through that warehouse they have.

    • You kinda can. Get sentenced to public service in an Austin court and they will let you "volunteer" for this "non-profit". You quickly come to understand that Goodwill is a for profit business operating under a false tax documents by making a pittance of over publicized donations each year.
      • by Omestes (471991)

        You quickly come to understand that Goodwill is a for profit business operating under a false tax documents by making a pittance of over publicized donations each year.

        Awhile back one of my mom's friends said this when I was looking for a place to dumb left-over stuff from moving, so I did a bit of research. This is true, sometimes. Each region is run seperately and independently, so this might be true where you live, but not where I live. Some regions are horribly corrupt, with the executives basically getting rich off of the the mentally disabled and the court systems... While some regions are actually trying to help people.

        I personally prefer the Mormon run Deseret

  • WHAT THE FUCK (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by darrellg1 (969068)
    was that 30 sec. full page ad I just got?!?
  • They re-arrange it, add info and machines all the time. For awhile they had a Famicom and some games under glass and such. It's pretty neat. It's attached to the Computer Store, which I visit often to buy cheap classic xboxes to soft mod, and cheap game software, etc. Always a good time sink.

  • I'm pretty sure they don't want to encourage us to dump all our old computer garbage off at Goodwill. While some of this stuff may have some historical value, I seriously doubt they would appreciate me dumping about 30 old 486's and Pentiums (and associated old videocards) in the nearest Goodwill box.

    • I don't know if it's nationwide, but my local Goodwill outlet is in cahoots with a major computer manufacturer in a recycling program. They specifically state that unlike other donated items, they'll take any computer equipment in any condition, working or not.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      I seriously doubt they would appreciate me dumping about 30 old 486's and Pentiums (and associated old videocards) in the nearest Goodwill box

      Call them and find out, there might be a Goodwill computer store in your area you can get rid of those at.

      I know at my previous employment old computers were donated to Goodwill.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      I'm pretty sure they don't want to encourage us to dump all our old computer garbage off at Goodwill. While some of this stuff may have some historical value, I seriously doubt they would appreciate me dumping about 30 old 486's and Pentiums (and associated old videocards) in the nearest Goodwill box.

      I don't know about anyone one else, but I would kill (lawyers) to find a 386 these days.

      Even better would be a XT compatable, or the real IBM XT

      Not like i have room anyways...

    • by sootman (158191)

      If you have that many old machines, I have another option for you... [ozcopper.com]

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        Yeah, I hear cooking crystal meth will make you money too--and would probably be a lot safer and easier than extracting gold out of a PC. Just ask those poor bastards [discovery.com] in India.

  • Weird Location (Score:3, Informative)

    by dodgerfan (994874) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @03:26PM (#45272851)
    I visited there last year when I was in Austin for Formula 1. We happened to stumble upon the location as it's located in a strip mall right next to a Wal-Mart. The museum is pretty cool and has some neat stuff. If you are in the area it's definitely worth a look. There is also a great Goodwill computer store right next door with parts for older stuff (Mostly Dell, of course).
  • Would be nice to have html5 video as well as flash. Sadly I could not download the ooyala video stream either.

  • Somebody should tell them about computers.

  • I've got a "PCs Limited" Turbo XT in my storage room, that I bought the same year Michael Dell and I finished college. But it was upgraded and overhauled so much by the time I replaced it* that little more than the case and the power supply could possibly bear Michael Dell's finger prints.

    *It was a 16MHz 386 with an 8-bit ISA VGA card and a 60MB hard drive.
  • They keep old classic minis in working order. Want to see a DEC 20 in operation?

  • While spending tons of money on national commercials they have the balls to charge you 35lb shipping on their auction website, but when you go to a store all they have is miles of out of date ragged clothing, 50 George Forman grills, and some shitty ass alarm clocks

    they go out of their way to seperate products from accessories, charging near ebay prices for near garbage all tossed in a cement mixer with the trademark goodwill brown funk.

    If there is a deal to be had in there, its a god damed rarity, and I us

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Lots of people serve their "community service" sentence at Goodwill stores. So many of the people working there are doing it because they are required to by a court.

  • Seriously, Slashdot? A 2+ minute IBM commercial that can't be skipped to watch this video?

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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