Inspired by Ron’s post over at Odds ‘n’ Entities on his Top 5 Retrocomputing desiderata, here are some of my personal lusts.
- A Symbolics Lisp Machine. Lately, I’ve been working a lot with Clojure, a modern Lisp dialect based on some tendentious design choices that raise the hackles of hoary purists…not the least of which is that its primary implemention runs on top of the JVM. Even if the Lisp Machines weren’t quite Lisp all the way down to the bare metal, they came really close to achieving that dream. Genera, its operating system, is widely regarded as a brilliant programming environment. While an XL1200 might be nice from a theoretical perspective (or even a 36xx!) the noise, power, and cabling considerations require a bit more living-space committment than I’m interested in making. One of the MacIvory coprocessor boards, though, is a seriously tempting option. I’ve got a Mac IIfx sitting in the basement, so step number one has been achieved!
- A replacement Peripheral Expansion Box for my TI-99/4A. This one is pure nostalgia. I was deeply dismayed the day I discovered that my father had given away the TI that I cut my teeth on, including a now annoying-to-find Peripheral Expansion Box (with floppy drive) and speech synthesizer for the side expansion slot. All the software went, too, including the TI Assembler and TI Logo cartridges and great games like Munch Man (the best period Pac Man rip-off) and Parsec. I’m sure that Tunnels of Doom won’t be a great modern gaming experience for any one not wearing retrogoggles, but I’d like to hunt for king and orb again on original hardware, for old time’s sake. I have a TI (in canonical silver and black, none of this taupe plastic nonsense) that I picked up a few years back, but a PEB is definitely needed to complete the ensemble.
- A really good slide rule. While these clever devices were once central to practical mathematics, they are now as little-used as buggy whips. An online simulation just doesn’t have the same effect. Any recommendations for a good model I should be trying to hunt down?
- An Apple IIgs. I’m well-equipped on the Commodore front, but not so well on the Apple side of the house. The GS was the pinnacle of the Apple II series, keeping full compatibility with the huge quantity of Apple II software (through built-in 6502 emulation) and massively upgraded graphics and sound capabilities for native programs. Sadly, even as the GS was released, Apple was busily killing it off in favor of its new darling, the Macintosh. While by no means a match for the Amiga, the GS had some impressive specs.
- An Amiga 1200. My original A1000 (with 256K of expansion RAM and second external floppy!) is still in its original box in the basement, but I’d like a unit that is capable of taking advantage of the many extensions devised and engineered by the devoted Amiga community. In particular, I’d like hard-drive capability and AGA graphics, and the A1200 seems to have the best reputation as a platform for “practical” retro-computing. While not perfectly compatible with all software, it looks like it’ll be able to run the things I’m most interested in, and then some.