"Tracing the history of Home Computing from 1972"
This is the website for one of the largest and most extensively documented
private collections of old computers around. It is the sole property and
concern of Adrian Graham, aka 'Witchy'. It started as a joke from his wife
in 1998. She remarked, when it was suggested that old computers were
collectible, and worth lots of money, that they could be picked up from any
car boot sale, cheaply. So our hero goes off, and picks up an Enterprise 64,
with a boot-print on the casing!. He figures out that "If I got one of
these, I can get anything!"
"The rest as they say, is expense!" He added.
Now we are at 2005, and the collecting continued apace. The minimalist
Enterprise 64 collection has grown since then. The Binary Dinosaur's
sanctuary currently holds 415 machines (provisional and likely outdated
total), from 72 manufacturers. In there you can find anything from a
Magnavox Odessey games console, to the likes of NeXT Cube, Amiga 4000, and
Witchy makes a point of doing as much of his collecting as cheaply as
possible. Most of his acquisitions are items which have been literally given
away to him, as they were genuinely unuseful, or taking up space, or even
slightly dead pending restoration. He is amusingly sceptical of a lot of the
Ebay collectors hype. He is seen to best effect pouring scorn on those
listings with "L@@K! ULTRA RARE!!!", or even 'BEYOND RARE!', whatever the
hell that means? Also common pitfalls of sellers trying to bait tattered
honey-traps for unsuspecting collectors might include describing items as
'Sinclair era', or the best one, a Vic 20 as coming from the 1960's.
To get to the meat of the site, there is a section called "Museum
Inhabitants", where all the good stuff is listed by manufacturer. Easy to
find for Atari and Commodore, but you have to think a second for the likes
of Tangerine for the Oric. Still it is a logical system. Each manufacturer
has its own sub-directory, with loads of links going off to the hardware and
other items collected for them. There are copious screenshots, and many of
the items have a story about them, what condition they came in, and how
Witchy came about getting them.
Of immediate interest to the readers of this publication. Of course Atari is
well represented. It comes in with 33 members of that section of the museum.
There is a short potted history of the early days when Nolan Bushnell was a
boy, then a listing of what's available. This starts with a revision 1 2600
console, and ends at the Jaguar. It takes in most of the more common
consoles and computer models on the way, and some rarer ones like the 1200XL
and the Tramiel era Atari 8086 PC's. There are conspicuous absentees, such
as the later Stacey, Atari TT, Mega STe and Falcon. Also, there is an
unclaimed world of rare prototypes and limited run models, such as the
Falcon Microbox, Panther console, and ST Book. But I guess some of these are
just too rare to get hold of easily?
There is also quite an extensive collection of the console cartridge
software, and peripherals, such as the various models of data cassette
recorder, floppy drives, and even an "I love Atari" bag!
It's not just about Atari though, longtime rivals, Commodore, have 45
entries, including a hobby-build computer from the very early days, the MOS
KIM-1. Their story ends with the Amiga 4000.
There is a large range of other manufacturers represented, with lots of
'names' from the 8-bit era, such as Sinclair Research, Amstrad, Dragon Data,
Tangerine Ltd (for the Oric), and many more. There are quite a lot of
obscure "no-hit wonders" such as the Open University "Hector" micro. (Who
they? - ed.)
There is hours of reading through, casual browsing, and looking longingly at
photos and screenshots of old machines to keep you happy. More than enough
for any retro-geek. I like the style of this site as well. 'Witchy' has put
more effort than most into his descriptions of the exhibits, and displays
lots of nice personal touches, and mini-blogs of his attempts to restore
some of these machines back to working order. This stands nicely in contrast
with the fairly dead and impersonal style of a lot of the other 'museum'
sites for retro-computers.
The site is attractively laid out too, with a styling owing some inspiration
to the Mac Classic desktop! Navigation is dead easy, from a control panel
near the top of the page, just underneath the title masthead.
Apart from the archive section with the museum inhabitants, there are
several other areas of interest. I've already mentioned that Witchy takes a
sideways look at Ebay auctions. There is a wish-list of wanted stuff, and
unsurprisingly, the Falcon, Mega STe and TT are all on there! There is a
page of links to other computer museums and related sites of interest. There
is also a sub-section with several pages of scans of original advertisements
for these old computers, when they first came out, and all promising that
they, and no other, were the last word in hi-tech cool. Ah, how we all kid
There is also a nice little report, with many screengrabs, of the Classic
Gaming Expo 2004, I think there should be a similar report for 2005 coming
I think it might be appropriate for Witchy himself to sum up the raison
d'etre for this site.
"The question you're all thinking is WHY? and the answer is 'because I can'.
Really though, I cut my teeth programming on the Sinclair series from the
ZX80 upwards (said ZX80 was borrowed off my Physics teacher in 1980 and I
learned recently that it had bitten the dust a long time ago) and I'm now in
a position to buy all the other machines that were around at the time that I
wanted but couldn't afford, being a humble skoolboy who couldn't be arsed to
get a saturday job."
"Obviously (to me) the museum inhabitants are important historically - 1972
saw the birth of home video games with the Magnavox Odyssey, 1977 saw the
release of the venerable Atari VCS, 1980 saw the release of the Sinclair
ZX80 - the first home computer under 99ukp, 1982 saw the first video game
market crash and the release of the Sinclair Spectrum, 1985 saw the great UK
home computer market crash as lots of companies ran out of money etc as well
as the release of the Commodore Amiga, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the
World Wide Web on a NeXT Cube, the list goes on!"
The collection lives in virtual form on the website. Most of the items have
to be packed away, owing to lack of space. Sometimes some of the more
interesting machines can be seen at places like the Classic Gaming Expo.
Witchy's ultimate aim is for this virtual collection to become real, if a
decent chunk of suitable space becomes available. This is also on his wish-
To conclude, I think this site is one of the best retro-computer museums
around. The sheer love of the site's author for his subject shines right
through. For total entertainment on a rainy day when nothing else seems to
shift the blues, this site cannot be beaten!
And here's the obligatory link.
CiH, for Alive Xmas Special,Dec '05