A Non Disposable Resource
The worth is nothing compared to the value
In a past life, I worked for a museum village as a restoration carpenter. I had the opportunity to restore and reproduce items that were in excess of 200 years old. I have a great respect for really old things. They have been a teacher and source of inspiration and recreation. The 1980s don't seem that long ago to me. It was the decade that I graduated college, got a steady job and got married to a very understanding woman. It wasn't like ancient times really, unless you gauge it in terms of computer technology.
I started collecting old Macintosh computers several years ago. In my collection are a Mac 128K, a 512K and several beige and platinum Pluses. Most of these came from eBay individually, often with a keyboard, mouse and some other peripherals, all won for around $1 each or about 10% of the usual shipping charge. Even that could be avoided if they were won locally. All of these compact Macs work perfectly (now). I even have a beat up Plus with a Radius '020 accelerator in my office that I use regularly for email and text-only browsing with System 6, Eudora 1.3.1 and MacWWW.
About a week ago, I won a Plus conversion on eBay. It was sold "as is". The seller only knew that it said "Macintosh Plus" on it and nothing else about it. I knew what it was because the picture showed a 128K or 512K front. As it turned out, this Mac had started life in May of 1984 as a 128K and was later turned into a Plus with an official Apple upgrade. This consisted of a Plus motherboard, floppy drive and case back. The owner retained the case front, analog board and CRT from his 128K or 512K and some of the cash he might have spent on a new 1Mb Plus. It seems absurd today but at the time, the sudden ability to upgrade a non upgradable, obsolete 2 year old computer like the 128K to a maximum of 4 whopping Mb, was pretty exciting. It was also a good public relations move on Apple's part. It softened the blow of having spent a sizable sum on a computer that had become useless in no time at all. It's funny how we have come to expect and accept this kind of computer obsolescence nowadays. My new acquisition booted fine when it arrived and required only minor adjustments to bring it up to spec. Again, this relative rarity was won for $1, surprising really, since I have been noticing a trend lately.
Mac 128Ks aren't going for $1 on eBay anymore. In fact, you are more likely to see them go for $60 to $80, if they have a keyboard and mouse. 512Ks may go for $30 to $50. Even the Plus, which was manufactured in multitudinous hordes, has hit bottom and is starting back up again, You may have to pay $10 to $20 for a good working Plus with keyboard and mouse. I have seen them go for more to some uninitiated buyers, thinking they were getting a special "Signed by Jobs and Woz edition" when the truth is, they all are. Since I don't live in a city, I don't know if you can still fish Pluses out of dumpsters but I suspect not. Any Pluses languishing in the store rooms of offices are probably being recognized for the historic artifacts that they are and are being carefully carried home by workers. As a subscriber to the Low End Mac, Compact Macs list, I see occasional "Ok, I got this thing, it's old, it's cute, now what can I do with it?" type posts*. The very age and esoteric appearance of these "antiques" is attracting people to them. They are considering the utility later.
How many hundreds of thousands of early Macs have gone into landfills? No one can say for sure but the days of the compact Mac as a disposable resource, are drawing to a close. Now and then, I hear about this case mod or that board hack that someone is doing and I smile because it just makes my all-original Macs more valuable. Why ruin a historic computer for marginally better performance, when you can buy a first or second generation PowerPC CPU for $15? Chances are, these ruined FrankenMacs will end up in a basement corner or out by the curb in six months, when the owners lose interest and start new projects.
These early Macs are already perfection in their own right. They do what they were intended to and a considerable amount more. They have done it a lot longer than anyone had a right to expect. If you keep yours original, well repaired, out of the sun and out of harm's way, you will have a special working piece of computing history for many more years to come. If the revaluation trend continues, you may even be able to retire on it someday. Imagine a Mac Plus owner on The Antiques Roadshow in 2086: "Well I knew it was real old an all and it was still workin' an all when I got it but I had no idea it was worth that much". "Yes. Up until now, we thought there were only four of these left and it's only a tenth of what yours would have been worth, if you hadn't converted it to a Macquarium before you brought it here".
*Sources for information about what can be done with early Macs can be found under "Links" on the home page. System 6 (and earlier) information and software can be found at the System 6 Heaven site.
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