Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Shane Brown
PORTALES – If you've visited the University Computer Center on the Eastern New Mexico University campus recently, you might have noticed something different – a display case filled with "old" (all the way back to the late 1970s disco era) computers and software.
"It's been an idea around here for about 10 years; Dave McClary came up with the original idea," said Mick Hoffman, ITS Client Support Specialist. Mick has now seen Dave's idea through to completion by putting the "computer museum" together.
"I mentioned it to Ed Kinley, Computing/Information Technology Services director, and he said let's do it,'" noted Mick. Ed allocated some money for the display cases and Dan Robinson of the Physical Plant made the cases. Mick has been working with computers since 1974, so he's seen basically everything. "I've been collecting old computers and such for some time now." Mick mentioned that there are several collectors' items in the cases.
In the first display case might be the most interesting computer. It's considered the first personal computer made – an Altair 8800. ENMU bought the Altair in 1977 for about $12,700. The computer had to be put together by the consumer and was programmed by flipping switches on the front.
It consists of two 8-inch floppy discs, a drive and power supply unit. Later, the University got a video terminal and keyboard for data entry. While researching the history of the Altair on the Internet, Mick received several offers to take it off his hands.
Other cases contain Commodore and Apple computers, beginning from around 1983. These were the first early consumer computers. There is also a second generation Macintosh with a "whopping" 512K memory (compared to today's personal computer which might have 256 megabytes of memory; or 2,000 times 512K). This same computer has no hard drive and the guys who created the computer have their signatures cast in the casing of this model Macintosh, model number M00001.
Also displayed are hard-drives and general pieces of software. The first commercial hard drive is on display and it has only 20 Megs: it cost $200 at the time of purchase. There is a 540-Meg laptop drive and an 8-inch floppy disc that had 190K memory.
Mick is expecting to have two more display cases made to hold numerous other old-school computers and software. "I have quite a bit available, so I'm going to rotate things in and out on a regular basis."
One of the things that Mick will be putting on display, that students might be more familiar with, is the first Atari game box.
"If anyone has stuff they would like to donate, that would be really nice," Mick requested. He is especially looking for a Timex Sinclair, a model that was about six inches square, and which required a pencil eraser to hit the keys.
Mick gives David Moon, supervisor of Inventory Control, credit for saving a lot of the stuff in storage. David stored all the old computers and software away and now, because of his and Mick's efforts, ENMU has a "Computer Museum."
Mick invites everyone to see this bit of recent but ancient history. He can be reached at 505.562.2820.
This Altair 8800 computer ruled back in the days of disco. (photo by Shane Brown)
Mick Hoffman, the brains behind the "Computer Museum," has always seen things from a different angle – in this case, a 45-degree one. (photo by Shane Brown)
Top-Shelf Stuff (photo by Shane Brown)
Top- and Bottom-Shelf Stuff (photo by Shane Brown)