Internet boosts market for rare computer systems

By Jonathan Sidener, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

One of the popular theories of consumer electronics holds that performance always goes up, while prices always come down. As a result, last year’s computer becomes next year’s doorstop. The once-pricey DVD player now costs little more than a single movie disk. While generally true, there are exceptions to the rule. For some electronics, time and the Internet have shifted the forces of supply and demand. Now, once-worthless gadgets can sometimes command staggering prices.

One of the clearest examples of the rising value of retro tech came in 2000, during the tech-boom years, when a rare Apple-I computer sold for $25,000. Originally priced at $666, the first Apple Computer model was produced in limited quantity. Then many of those were apparently destroyed after they were returned to the company as part of an upgrade offer to Apple-II computers. In particular, eBay has amplified demand for all sorts of collectibles, making it easier for enthusiasts and sellers to connect.

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