The following list contains the five retrocomputing devices at the top of my wishlist right now. I’m guessing you haven’t heard of most of them, unless you’re a retroenthusiast yourself. No Wikipedia links below, either; they all lead to intrinsically interesting pages.
- Jupiter ACE: The only boot-to-FORTH, not boot-to-BASIC, 1980s microcomputer. Released almost exclusively in the UK. Scarce in the US but commanding a high price even in the UK now, as hobbyists finally realize how cool it is. I’ve tried a number of emulators and enjoyed them, but I’d like the real device to work with. I think I’ll have better luck waiting for Briel to release a replica kit.
- Cambridge Z88: A rugged, intrepid “true portable“. More or less the British equivalent of the TRS-80 Model 100. Same “Dynabook” form factor. Douglas Adams took one to Zaire to write about the vanishing white rhinoceros, and wrote much of the rest of Last Chance to See on it as well. You can still buy “new old stock” from some UK companies — “new” meaning “not used” and “old” meaning “built back in the day”. I have used a Z88 emulator, but not very successfully; the screen dimensions are weird.
- Curta Calculator: A rugged, purely mechanical arithmetic calculator that looks like a cross between a Rubik’s cube and a hand grenade. I’ve lusted after them since William Gibson fetishized them in Pattern Recognition in the early 00s. I have used simulated Curtas on the Web, but this is a device whose tactility is most of the experience.
- Model M USB keyboard: Unicomp makes this modern version of the original, “buckling spring”, clicky-clacky, ruggedly poundable original IBM PC keyboard. I have a friend who collects the old ones, but I don’t need to connect an old PC keyboard to my netbook — a brand-new USB version would do fine and probably improve my computing experience all over the house. At <$100, this is the only item so far really within reach for me at the moment. Also, did I tell you it’s rugged? Of course, I’ll probably break it anyway.
- Amiga 500: I have an Amiga 1200 in the basement but have never bothered to hook it up. I hear the less-powerful 500 is the one to get, as most demos from the Amiga’s heyday require pecularities of the 500’s hardware.
The Amiga 500 is substituting for Retr0bright in the #5 slot of my original list. I learned recently that Retr0bright only works on the surface of your computer, and only for a short time. Free bromine radicals quickly migrate back to the surface, and soon your ‘puter is baby-poop yellow once again. I don’t want to have to bathe my Tandy 102 in caustic hydrogen peroxide gel and ultraviolet light every time I take it out in public, like buffing an old car for an auto show. Thus, Retr0bright no longer holds any interest for me.