Monthly Archives: September 2011

Paring Down

Is it ever possible to have too much Apple II gear?  Well, if shows like A&E’s Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC are any indication, the answer is an obvious ‘yes’.  Any self-help guide or program designed to get you organized will emphasize reducing “stuff”, “clutter”, whatever you want to call it, to help you focus.

As I look around my overflowing office space,  I find myself recalling my recent trip to the Funspot Arcade in New Hampshire.  Spread across three spacious floors of gaming fun, the facility is stuffed with every manner of arcade game, from the original Pong to the latest fighters and shooters.  While it was great to get to play games I hadn’t touched since the early 80s (MAME doesn’t count, kids), I was somewhat disappointed to see the poor condition of some of my old favorites.  Broken Fire buttons, flaky controls, and CRTs with excessive burn-in or failing color guns were plentiful.  Other games were out on the floor adorned with “Out of Order” signs, or just plain turned off.  This got me wondering if Funspot’s abundance is also their curse.  Perhaps reducing the number of cabinets in their inventory would allow them to better service  the games they chose to keep.

Later that same day, I found myself at another gaming establishment nearby, the Pinball Wizard Arcade.  PWA’s floor space is less than one third of Funspot’s and they don’t come close to matching the number of games.  They do have all the classics though, and a superior selection of pinball tables.  When I entered the place, I thought I’d be disappointed but that turned out not to be the case.  PWA’s games were all 100% functional, clean and in better shape overall than Funspot’s, and if I’m ever in that area of the country again, I’ll probably return to Pinball Wizard Arcade rather than Funspot if I’m forced to choose.

The Funspot / PWA comparison may be an example of what a non-profit’s presentation will be versus that of a for-profit venture, but there’s still a valuable lesson to be learned here, and that is that less is often more.

With all this in mind, I take a quick inventory of my office: in addition to the two tables’ worth of working machines, there are stacks of Apple IIe’s, IIGS’s, DuoDisk Drive units and more piling up everywhere I look.

Collecting dust

Stacks of Apple II gear collecting dust in my office.

More stuff building up under desks and in every corner.

And there’s more in the basement:

Piles building up in the basement

More Apple II and III stuff in the basement

I don't even know if these IIGS machines work

It’s clear to me what I need to do.  How to go about it, as well as finding the motivation to try to build some momentum around it are different problems entirely.

Like many collectors, I have a hard time letting go of anything.  I have this deep-seated fear that if I unload that pile of Apple IIe’s sitting there that haven’t been booted up in years, I’ll someday find myself in a situation where I need a part for repairs and it will no longer be available to me.  For me, this is largely unreasonable.  I’m active in an Apple II community that is open and willing to share; I’ve rarely been in a position where no one is willing to lend or sell me whatever I’m looking for at below-eBay prices (color me grateful!)

When I first started collecting, around 1997 or so, I got everything I could get my hands on.  I didn’t even limit myself to Apple II stuff.  As a result, I ended up with a crawl-space full of Commodore and early Macintosh computers I didn’t care about (among other things).  A few years back, I loaded up the Commodores in my car and drove them down to a Commie collector in Colorado Springs.  The haul included PETs, SX-64s and a bunch of other stuff in which I had little interest.  The recipient was ecstatic.  I’m still looking for a home for the Macs.  This is the same thing I’m going to have to do with most of my Apple IIs.  It’s just going to be harder.  As I try to make a mental list of what can go, I find myself making up reasons to keep each of them.

The Apple Lisa 2/10 which has been upgraded to a Mac/XL is a good example.  I know little about the Lisa and this particular model doesn’t have any software loaded.  I have no convenient way to get applications from their native disk image format onto media the Lisa can recognize and I’m not sure what I would do with the thing if I did.  I haven’t turned it on in more than a year at least and I have no real sentimental attachment.  It didn’t figure significantly into my childhood and holds no special interest for me.  As I look at it, I can come up with only one reason I still have it: it’s a Lisa.  Not a good reason to keep something around, is it?  And yet, I struggle with the thought of letting it go.

And there’s another catch.  I despise the USPS with a passion that burns hotter than a thousand suns and I welcome its impending demise.  I’m not wild about the other major shippers either and the tedium of properly packing gear for mailing is even worse, which rules out eBay as a possible outlet.  So, someone would either need to come to me to get it, or show up at the next KansasFest.

As I plan the reduction, I have to remind myself: I don’t need five of everything. I don’t even need two of everything. Many of these, I don’t care enough about to even keep one.  So where does that leave me today?  I already have an extensive database of all my vintage computing stuff to use as a starting point.  The next step is to look with a critical eye at what I really want and begin sorting and marking what goes, what stays.

This will be a slow process I think, but I’m hopeful that the results will be worth the effort.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, anybody willing to give a good home to a Mac/XL?