Concern Raises Over the Fate of Vintage Machines After Museum Closure


Key Takeaways:

– Owners of vintage machines which were donated or sold to Paul Allen and Seattle’s Living Computers Museum + Labs express concern over the fate of their contributions after the museum’s permanent closure.
– The estate of the late Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, announced the goodbyes to the 12-year-old museum which displayed Allen’s personal collection of rare computing technology.
– Some items from the museum are heading for an auction by Christie’s, which include the first computer used by Allen and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates before founding Microsoft.
– The fate of other lesser-known machines remains uncertain as executives of the Allen estate declined to comment.

This Week’s Announcement and its Implications

An announcement this week revealed the permanent closure of Seattle’s Living Computers Museum + Labs, raising concerns among individuals who had sold or donated vintage items to Paul Allen and the museum. This group includes previous owners of computers such as a Decsystem 2020 mainframe, an Altair microcomputer, and a first-generation Raspberry Pi. Their concerns revolve around the fate of their contributions, and they fear that these could be auctioned off, scattered, discarded or forever lost.

The museum, founded by Allen, was a showcase of his personal collection of rare computing technology and served as an immersive learning space. With the closure of the museum, some of these objects are destined for an auction by Christie’s titled “Gen One: Innovations from the Paul G. Allen Collection.”

One Machine Revealed, Many More to Go

Details about a single machine, a DEC PDP-10: KI-10 that is expected to be part of the first of three auctions, have been revealed by Christie’s. Built in 1971, this is the first computer that both Allen and Gates utilized before starting Microsoft. It is projected to fetch between $30,000 to $50,000 at the auction, with the money going to charity as per Allen’s wishes.

Details about the remaining computers likely to feature in the auction won’t be available for several weeks. However, the museum held significant items like an Apple I computer that once belonged to Steve Jobs. The wide interest in Apple and the computer’s association with Jobs might attract a large sum if it goes to auction.

The Bitter End for Some Generous Contributions

Several contributors have raised concerns about the fate of their contributions. Of note are Christopher Zach, who donated a Decsystem 2020 KS-10 mainframe, Bob Powell, former owner of a MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer, and Frank Catalano, who gifted a first-generation Raspberry Pi minicomputer. All express regret and fear for the uncertain future of their contributions, and some even showed willingness to retrieve their donated items to safeguard them for future generations to witness.

David Lund, an individual yet to donate, possesses one of the earliest copies of Microsoft BASIC. He had previously attempted to sell his materials to Living Computers but was unsuccessful. He is now left to gauge if there is still a market for his slice of tech history.

In conclusion, the closure of the Living Computers Museum + Labs has triggered dissatisfaction and concern among many. Their concerns largely reflect the sentimental value these machines hold and the wish for them to be preserved for future explorations. Only time will tell the final outcome for these vintage machines.

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