Nov 092015

A couple of days ago, I learned that there’s an IBM System/32 up for sale at an electronics recycler in Corona, California. This is very close to my home, and I happen to have a bit of free time right now between jobs, so I figured I should go look at it. Even though I’m quite tempted by this beautiful beast, I really shouldn’t spend the money or floor space on it at this time. But, being local, maybe I can help it find its way to its new home, just as another collector helped me acquire my VAX-11/730?

The seller says they got it about six months ago, and it was used for payroll at some small company. He says that the folks that he got it from claimed that it still works, but he hasn’t tried powering it up… which is good, because it probably needs lots of cleaning, careful examination of the power supplies, and other such attention to make sure that the magic smoke stays inside.

It’s a bit dirty, but it looks complete aside from a missing paper rack on the back side. This one has the keyswitch option, which replaces the power toggle switch next to they keyboard with a tubular lock. It also has the band printer option, instead of the cheaper and slower dot matrix printer option. I didn’t see any signs of rodent damage inside. There’s some strong screen burn on the CRT, so I’d imagine that this machine was turned on for a long, long time!

There are some bits of Scotch tape in the printer with hand-written markings to show how to align various forms that the original owner used. We can see that they ran off the annual W-2 forms on this machine.

I found an unlatched shipping lock on the hard drive, so I latched it. There’s a box with a few spares in the back. I broke open one of the small envelopes, and found what looks to me like an extender connector inside. There’s also a plastic box with a bracket of some sort inside. Maybe it’s a shipping bracket, but I don’t know where it goes. If somebody can educate me about that, then I can make sure it goes where it needs to go before this machine leaves for its new home.

Price is unknown. The seller says he has received one offer for $1,000 for it, but he was put off a bit by the potential buyer’s demeanor so he didn’t take it. The folks at the shop looked around online, and the only price reference they found was a museum asking for $30,000 for theirs. I think I know which museum they’re talking about, and I let them know that they’re well-known among collectors for having dope-smokingly high asking prices on their eBay listings. I really don’t know what a machine like this is worth, but I offered my pulled-out-of-my-butt guess that it’s probably worth $1,000-$2,000… well under the “museum” price, but also well over scrap value. Whoever wants it will just need to make an offer. Drop me a line, and I’ll put you in touch with the seller. The seller suggested he might give me a finder’s fee if he makes good bank on this sale, but that’s really not my motivation here. Not that I’d turn it down, though! :)

Anyway, I’ve left my contact information with this recycler in case they come across any other cool vintage stuff. Their pile appears to be mostly modernish PCs to be torn down for scrap, but this System/32 is a cool example of the sorts of treasures that can turn up in unexpected places. Also, while I was there I found a couple of 9-track tape drives under a pile, and I’ll be picking them up tomorrow after I go get some cash from the bank. One of them is a Kennedy 9610; I have a non-working 9610, so I hope I’ll be able to play swapsey-partsey to make it work.

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