BOFH takes a visit to retro computing land

You know what never gets old? Taking the Boss for a ride...

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 8 So I'm digging around in the Pit of Despair - ie, the IT Storeroom, when the Boss wanders in, having no doubt been drawn in by the tractor-beam of obsolescence.

"Look!" he says, pointing at a chunk of off-silver on a shelf. "Is that an M1330?"

"An old laptop," I say.

"Yes!" he gasps, pulling it down from the shelf. "I used to have one of these when I worked for BT."

"20 quid and it's yours!" I say.

"20 quid?"

"Yeah, it's still here because it has a book value, like all the other junk in this room. "

I take a quick look at the underside of the machine.

"Oooooh, Blue inventory label – it was purchased between 2005 and 2009 – The bad years."

"Bad years?"

"We had a Head Beancounter who revalued our IT assets upwards then lowered the depreciation rate – presumably because some bonus depended on it. Later, when we tried to change it back, the auditors raised some harsh tax implication."

"And what did our Head Accountant say?"

"Oh, he'd left the company by that stage."


"In an ambulance, as it happens."

"I... so I could write this off?" the Boss asks covetously.

"You could – but remember those tax implications. Buying it from the company for a nominal fee allows the company to write down the value and recognize the true value as a sold asset."

I have no idea what I just said, but the Boss swallows it.

"How do I do that?" he asks.

"I'll ask around," I say, putting the laptop back and herding the Boss to the door. "I'll get back to you in around half an hour."

The only person I'll be asking is the PFY and he'll be wanting his 50 percent share – or 5 quid after my conveyance fees.

"There's a big market for old computers and componentry," the PFY says "Slap the word 'retro' or 'steampunk' on your eBay listing and the saddos will be all over it like a rash."


"Oh yeah," he said. "People love to relive their glory years. There's a guy I know who has a simh VAX-11/780 purely to finish playing the game of dungeon he started 25 years ago."

"I WILL NOT BE BEATEN!" I snap back.


"And that'll be 20 quid," I say to the Boss, handing the machine over.

Money changes hands and the Boss turns to leave...

"Is that... a PS/1 Consultant!?" he asks.

"What, this old thing?" I ask, "accidentally" nudging the case around so the Boss can see the back.

"It's got a SoundBlaster card and the CD!!!" he gasps, in danger of wetting himself.

"If you say so."

"Is it..."

"On the asset register?" I ask "Yeah, someone bought 10 of them to trial work-from-home in the mid '90s. It was such a success we ended up with 10 of these in the storeroom about six months later."

"YOU'VE GOT 10 OF THEM!!!!!?"

"10 of the base units, yes, but only two monitors."

"What happened to the others?"

"Oh, they were responsibly disposed of."

"Oh," the Boss sighs.

"Yeah, we stacked them on a trailer, then kept accelerating around the Elephant and Castle roundabout till the trailer was empty."

"That doesn't sound... responsible."

"Things were much simpler back then - 'Environmental Responsibility' meant not dumping them in the same place as we dumped the Data Generals."

"Where was that?" the Boss asks.

"In the Thames. And we only dumped a couple. But then we stopped doing that."


"Yes. They managed to refloat the ferry, but it never steered straight after that."

"That was so dangerous. Didn't you take any precautions?!"

"Of course. We drilled the serial number tags off before we left the office," I say. "Anyway, you want this PC or what?"

"How much?"

"I could let you have it for... let's see..."

I tap away at my phone like I've got a calculator app running.


"A hundred and twenty quid!" the Boss gasps.

"Well, 117, but I rounded up."

"I'll give you... 95."

"Can I phone a friend?" I ask.

"Take it or leave it," the Boss says, playing hardball.

"I guess I'll take it," I say, as the Boss hands over more cash from his overstuffed wallet.

I move the machine over towards him, which reveals...


One estimate of the remaining cash in the Boss' wallet later, he's leaving the pit of despair with a trolley load of ancient computing gear – with no recollection of the conversation he had with the Director two weeks ago when they talked about their favourite computers of all time.

I shunt some "Thames-quality" hardware around so that my next 'shuffling' will 'accidentally' bring to light a TRS 80 Model 100, an Apple Lisa, and a Dayglo iMac G3.

Now it's just a waiting game till the tractor-beam inevitably pulls our Director in.

I make myself look busy in the meantime...

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