Where do old computers go to retire? The ones that retire in Israel go to the Personal Computer Museum, which has over 70 models of the “pioneers” of personal computing, from the ’70s onward. Among the machines on display at the museum, located in Haifa, are computers that were popular at the dawn of the computer era alongside machines rarely seen then, let alone today.
The museum, established earlier this year, was the idea of Yariv Anbar, director of Mediatech High-Tech, a division of the computer training and development group Matrix. Anbar had been collecting old computers for 18 years when he got the idea of putting them on display. Unfortunately, nobody wanted the “junk” Anbar was peddling — so he decided to open up his own museum, presenting the models he collected. Many of the computers work and have been set up to perform for the public.
“I got my first computer in 1983,” Anbar said. “It was a Mag 2000, which was a clone of the Apple IIe — of course no one could afford an original in those days. The computer connected to a cassette player and a television. A few years later I got a PC, and of course I was very excited.” The PC, made first by IBM and later by a wide variety of clone makers, took the lion’s share of sales, but many other companies tried to come up with competitors.
Many of the rare computers in the museum are among those PC competitors. Models include celebrated computers, such as the IBM PS2/30, the Atari, the Commodore 64, the Amiga, and many others. The collection includes the first laptop, which weighed close to 30 pounds. “I have visited museums with similar collections around the world and it was always my dream to have one in Israel. Fortunately I was able to establish one,” Anbar said.
The museum was established in memory of Ron Vardi, a young man who was one of the pioneers of personal computing in Israel in the ’70s and ’80s. By the age of 12, Vardi had started studying computer science at the Weizmann Institute, and at 16 he opened what was likely Israel’s first workshop to repair electronic games. He established a computer training program for youths in his native Rishon Lezion, and at 18 he established a remote network for reporters in the field at Maariv, the first for any newspaper in Israel. He feel while serving in the IDF in August 1984 as he fought to defend an Israeli position in south Lebanon. Ron’s parents donated his computer collection to the museum, which was named for him.
Anbar hopes to keep expanding the museum. “I call on anyone who has an old computer to donate it to our eclectic collection,” Anbar said. “I promise to take care of it. Your old computer will always have a home here.”