Computing in Amber

The town I grew up in was lousy with warehouses and large companies. When I started to get into computing and made friends with like-minded folks, I found out that a lot of great, but slightly old or damaged tech could be acquired through “dumpster diving”. Once you started, it was addicting as all get out, because you never knew what you were going to find. A new keyboard? A monitor? A box of diskettes? The dumpster held many treasures. Having to get the stuff home to test it or troubleshoot it only heightened the thrill as well as strengthened the back since I lived about a mile or so from the nearest dumpster.

One of the friends I made in this hobby was about 4 years older than me and had been scrounging for equipment even longer. His garage looked like a computer warehouse, with equipment stacked floor to ceiling. This is where you would go if you couldn’t score an item you wanted and were willing to part with something else you found or if you had some extra cash.

One thing I could never find in working order was a proper monitor. I had been using my TV and want desperately to graduate to something that said “real computer”. So I went to visit the garage and negotiated for a NEC JB-1205MA. It was an amber beauty that he had done some rewiring on (he often fixed stuff for sale or trade). I carted over just about anything I thought he might not have and the trade was made for an Apple IIe Joystick with a centering problem that he was sure he could fix and a bunch of random floppies that had been tossed.

The wiring he did on the monitor was great and it would stay with me until I could get a color monitor on the first PC I owned.

I remember being a bit overstimulated by all the colors when I first got my PC, but that quickly faded and my NEC moved under the desk, then into the closet and eventually into the basement. There it would die a slow death by dampness.

I do not think I would ever want to go back to computing in amber, but a lot of the memories I made during this important phase in my life are drawn in that color.

Here is an ad that shows you some of the specs for my old friend.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I had a preference for the green monitors. Certainly didn’t know anyone into computers then. I think I was the only kid in the neighborhood with a computer until the 1990s.

  2. The Retroist

    Yeah, I think I was lucky to find some people who were into the same things as me at a young age.

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