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Retrocomputing is the use of horridly outdated computers rather than more current, useful ones. The idea is to get by on as few resources as possible, eschewing more modern hardware. Modern software is generally permitted, so long as it works on the machine in question.

Example: I am currently using an Intel 80486DX running Linux. The motherboard and other components date to around 1993. This would qualify as retrocomputing, since the computer is quite outdated (Windows 95 would have some difficulty running on it, and Linux just scrapes by, for the most part).

Retrocomputing is a bit of a minor hobby of mine, and I presume its a popular hobby for lotsa' hackers. We just all seem to collect old parts around us, don't we?

Retrocomputing many times is a descent into nostalgia; a chance to visit a time when things were different, in the same way that people fix up antique cars or restore old Victrolas. It is also a chance to get the top of the line machine we always wanted but never had -- technology of the now is moving too rapidly to have anything really solid. Retrocomputing is a chance to freeze time almost and have a chance to do more then you usually would have the wherewithall to do.

RETI = R = return from the dead

retrocomputing /ret'-roh-k*m-pyoo'ting/ n.

Refers to emulations of way-behind-the-state-of-the-art hardware or software, or implementations of never-was-state-of-the-art; esp. if such implementations are elaborate practical jokes and/or parodies, written mostly for hack value, of more `serious' designs. Perhaps the most widely distributed retrocomputing utility was the pnch(6) or bcd(6) program on V7 and other early Unix versions, which would accept up to 80 characters of text argument and display the corresponding pattern in punched card code. Other well-known retrocomputing hacks have included the programming language INTERCAL, a JCL-emulating shell for Unix, the card-punch-emulating editor named 029, and various elaborate PDP-11 hardware emulators and RT-11 OS emulators written just to keep an old, sourceless Zork binary running.

A tasty selection of retrocomputing programs are made available at the Retrocomputing Museum, http://www.tuxedo.org/retro.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

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