Literal abandonware

Filed under Hacks & mods;

Old hardware doesn’t die, it just … well, yes, it does die. But before our vintage machines break down, we often abandon them. Though the retrocomputing community has demonstrated that, given the proper maintenance, thirty-year-old Apple II computers can run just fine, machines are more often disposed of when circumstances dictate — which can mean not only a move to a new computer, but sometimes a move to a new office or home, leaving behind any physical reminder of now failed ventures.

Freelancer and friend to the retrocomputing community Benj Edwards has compiled a photo gallery of abandoned Apples discovered by urban explorers who, through questionably legal means, found themselves in neglected environs. Taking photos and nothing else, these trespassers show us Macs and iPods, but also Apple II hardware and software, that have barely endured the passage of time.

Apple IIe and Imagewriter II

Outcries of the wanton waste represented by these photos would not fall on deaf ears; I don’t disagree that computers should be cared for or disposed of properly. But I’m more curious as to the stories behind these artifacts, especially the tales their innards can tell. What led to these machines being left behind? What data might their storage devices still hold? Nothing paramount, I’m sure — just common business or educational programs or records. But just as how the salvation of GeoCities holds information of value to someone, past or future, I wonder what meaning these machines may’ve once had to their operators.


Edwards did not take any of the photos himself: of the 12 photos, 10 are originally from Flickr; of those, 5 are available under one Creative Commons license or another.

What did you do with your old computers, Apple II or otherwise? Have you ever left a machine behind?

(Hat tip to Mark Munz)

  1. Ken Fager says:

    From what I understand the Apple II computers I found in the abandoned school were in use well through the 1990’s. The Gary, IN, school district couldn’t afford new ones.

  2. Jonathan Adams says:

    I imagine some of these machines were left behind simply because of weight/space configurations. I was in school running around the quad once with my early-edition iPod barely squeezed into my jeans pocket when I fell on it, leaving a terrible rectangle-shaped bruise on my thigh for two weeks. Wonder if an iPhone 5 would even leave a mark.

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