Archive: Computer Collector Newsletter / Technology Rewind, Jan. 2004 - March 2006

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Ten vintage computing safety tips

by Sellam Ismail

Many times, with pride, we refer to our classic computers as "toys" although they surely aren't. Computers and their parts can be dangerous, fragile, and in our hobby, irreplaceable. Here are ten safety tips.

1. Keep items in your collection out of sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can be ultra "violent" to plastics.

2. Don't simply plug in and turn on a new computer when you bring it home without first inspecting it for loose parts that may short out, and to be sure the power supply is still working. Capacitors in linear power supplies can explode if they haven't been turned on in a long time.

3. Be very careful when using solvents and cleaners to brighten up dirty old computers. Some solvents can melt plastic or remove paint. You might also consider dirt to be like "patina" on antiques. By cleaning the dirt off a computer you might be altering its "historical fabric".

4. Keep computer media (disk, tapes, etc.) stored in a proper environment, meaning acceptable temperature and humidity levels. It's preferable to keep computer media in a cool, dry, dark place. Data from old media should be read and moved to more contemporary media to prevent data loss.

5. Consider what might happen to your collection if an earthquake or tornado were to occur. Will they stay put on their shelves? If not, look into securing your collection with barriers of some sort.

6. What would happen to your collection in the event of your untimely passing? Do you have instructions in your will of what to do with your collection after you're gone? If not, start working on it now.

7. Make sure you are storing books, manuals, magazines, basically anything with paper in a location not accessible to termites. If your collection is not stored in the most ideal location, periodically check to make sure it is not being adversely affected by rodents, insects, and other varmints. If you have any very valuable books, advertisements, etc., consider protecting them in plastic.

8. Try not to apply tape or glue to ripped packaging or pages. You may actually be doing more damage to an item in the long run. It is best to leave any ripped items as they are (and be more careful in the future). You might also want to try to remove tape applied by a previous party if it can be done safely and without further damage to the item.

9. When transporting items, be sure to take measures to protect the surface of computers and to secure them so they don't shift. Two computers rubbing against each other in a bumpy vehicle will cause cosmetic damage to each other. A large and heavy machine on wheels left unsecured WILL roll around and WILL get damaged. Be sure to park or lock the heads of disk drives or loose mechanisms in devices like printers to prevent damage in transit.

10. Don't let your computer collecting hobby/habit overwhelm your personal life and mental safety. Leave time to smell the roses. :)