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Computer museum grows from Apple core

The Osborne 1 was the forefather of all present day laptops

Yves Bolognini started collecting computers seven years ago, after finding a discarded Apple on the street. He has now amassed a collection of 250, and displays them in his personal computer museum in an underground car park in Lausanne.

The collection began in 1994 when Yves was putting out his rubbish and noticed that someone had thrown away an old Apple computer which still worked.

At the time, he was studying computer science at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and was intrigued by the machine. Since then, he has amassed a huge collection, dating from the 1970s and 1980s, from a variety of sources.

"They're mostly donations," he says. "I advertise on my web page and in the classifieds and on the noticeboard at Migros so now I'm quite well known in the Lausanne area and I'm getting about five to 10 computers a week. The problem now is storage."

The oldest computer in the collection is an IBM System 3, which dates from the 1970s and weighs a tonne.

It's one of Yves' personal favourites along with a rare microcomputer, the Apple Lisa, dating from 1983, which at $10,000 was very expensive for the time and failed to compete with Apple's own Mackintosh which came into existence a year later.

Then there's the Smaky, which stands for Smart Keyboard and was designed by Professor Jean-Daniel Nicoud of Lausanne - one of Switzerland's rare excursions into the computer market.

Bolognini says for him the fascination of computers lies in the speed of change: "These computers from the 1970s look like something out of science fiction films. On the other hand, because they are not so old, the earliest models are not too difficult to find."

Computer memories are tens of thousands of times more powerful than they were 20 years ago and function at speeds inconceivable before the digital age. But earlier models retain a charm of their own, whether because of their bizarre keyboards for or tiny impractical screens.

Take the Osborne 1, one of the first transportable computers and designed to be stored under an airplane seat. Weighing in at a hefty 15 kilogrammes, it's the forefather of all present-day laptops.

The unit's display screen, nine centimetres by seven, was barely adequate and yet the Osborne 1 was a great success until the company went bankrupt in 1983.

Yves Bolognini might have 250 computers, but there's one model he would love to get his hands on - the Altair 8800, which came on to the market in 1975 and is now considered the first micro-computer. The price tag is a deterrent. They fetch about $4,000 dollars at auction.

by Vincent Landon


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