Can You Identify the Vintage Hardware?

Amanda Monell

Originally with one button, this computer must-have is pivotal when it comes to moving between screens on a desktop or laptop computer. What is it?

Did you know that the first computer mouse was actually made of wood? We didn't either! Developed by Douglas Englebart in 1963, the mouse had a wooden shell with two wheels to glide horizontally and vertically.

Back in the day, you needed one of these external devices to connect to the Internet. What is it?

Did you know that the modem predates the computer? Modems were around in the form of teletypes which were developed in the late 1920s to help machines communicate with one another from across the world. The first computer didn't show up until 1936, a little over a decade later.

When flight simulators were the next big thing, gamers would use one of these items to have a more realistic flying experience. What device are we thinking of?

If you ever found yourself on a too-tough mission in a flight simulation game, one of the issues could be the joystick. If it wasn't calibrated properly, the joystick could have made your game harder than it needed to be.

Before servers, you would need to use one of these to archive a network's data. What are we thinking of?

When it came to computing in the 1950s, data was stored on a double reeled tape. Looking like enlarged versions of a cassette tape, this storage device could store up to three megabites of storage and like a cassette tape, magnetic tape was prone to becoming unraveled and tangled up in its drive.

What kind of machine was the Commodore 64?

If you're a PC gamer, you should have recognized the Commodore 64 as a PC. Why? The Commodore was one of the first machines designed with the everyday consumer in mind. Instead of spending over $1,000 on a system, the Commodore 64 was half that amount.

Which of these printers is known for its perforated paper?

For the most part, dot matrix printers did do the job they were required to do, however when a newer innovation came about we were more than happy to get rid of these problematic machines. In addition to the loud noises it produced, continuous feed paper is considerably more expensive.

You've been working on your term paper all day at the library, but it is closing time and you don't want to lose your work. Which one of these items would you use to save your file?

Floppy disks came in various sizes physically and capacities, however with the 5 1/4" floppy disk that the word floppy truly applies. These disks were super flimsy and if you wanted to protect your work, all you had to do is cover a side notch with a piece of tape.

If you decided to vote using a hard copy ballot, you probably created one of these. What are we thinking of?

Before floppy disks, companies relied on thousands of punchcards to store their data. Because there were so many of these cards, they had to be read in a certain order, and if a single card was misplaced, it could set a team back a few days.

What sized floppy disk was considered mainstream in the mid-1990s?

3.5” floppy disks weren’t very floppy at all. Made of durable plastic, these disks were great for transporting files from one place to the next. On top of which, they had quite a bit more storage space than their predecessor.

Today we have server rooms that house data from thousands of computers from all over the world, but back in the 1970s, these computers would occupy the same amount of space. What computer is it?

In the world of tech, the saying “bigger is better” doesn’t apply; the amount of memory on the IBM 1970 Mainframe was 500 kb of RAM with 233 MB of hard disk space which is over 100 times smaller than the iPhone with the smallest memory capacity.

Do you get migraines? If so, you may not have survived a week working in the 1980s when these emerald and amber displays reigned supreme. What piece of equipment are we thinking of?

In addition to adding color and various sizes to its innovations, monitors now have the ability to filter out blue light, which when looked at for an extended period of time can lead to eyestrain headaches.

What computer essential is needed for typing commands?

When it comes to keyboards, there are many different types to tailor to an individual’s needs. For those of us with a lot of desk space, the ergonomic keyboard can be a little larger than the norm and helps people with pain issues.

In addition to a joystick, the Apple II came with a pair of these to help you game (kind of). Which of these accessories are we thinking of?

Just like joysticks, if you're looking to play with paddles proper calibration is key. Paddles had looser controls, so if you calibrated it poorly, you'd have to wait until you were playing the game to see how bad off you were.

If you've ever participated in a web-based conference call, you've probably used one of these. What are we thinking of?

If you are a coffee lover who is constantly stuck making a fresh pot of coffee for the office, you aren't alone. The inventors of the first webcam used it to monitor the centrally located coffee pot in their lab, where you could check levels before deciding to get a drink.

Released in April 1977, this machine developed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak became one of the world's first mass-produced computers. Which machine is it?

The Apple II computer remained in production until 1987, however users didn't have to fear that there wouldn't be a new machine to replace it. The Macintosh computer system was introduced in 1984. At that time, over two million Apple II units had been sold.

If you wanted to play Oregon Trail, you need one of these to read the program. What is it?

There were two different types of hard drives. The first came equipped with a small door which when shut, would help hold the disk still while the machine read the programs. The second was spring loaded, which was the predecessor to the 3.5" drive.

Which of these devices would you use to copy your favorite playlist onto a CD?

When using a CD burner, you needed to be careful when it came to selecting the appropriate speed. If you were to burn a CD using a faster speed, the disk may not pick up on all the data being thrown at it. If this error occurred, you would need to reburn the CD all over again.

If you ever have received a blueprint from an architect, you have received a product from one of these. What type of printer are we thinking of?

Engineers rejoiced when the plotter first rolled out in 1959. These machines drew their drawings using different pens and reduced time at the drafting table considerably. Prior to this, engineers would have to draw revisions on their drawings by hand.

Need to print a poster for a presentation? What type of printer would you use to produce your eye popping visual aid?

If you ever have to make copies of a larger document, a large format printer will help you in that case as well. Depending on the type of printer, you can create copies and even scan these documents to our email.

Which of these things would you use to read a magnetic tape?

Just like a cassette tape, a magnetic tape drive looks like a massive tape recorder. When Apple first released its Apple II machine, it relied on standard cassette tapes for its storage.

Have you ever worked in retail? If so, you've probably run across one of these when you've rung customers up using a cash register. What are we thinking of?

The touch screen was invented in 1965 by E.A. Johnson, however it wasn't until the 1990s that they became accessible to the everyday consumer. When Bell and IBM launched its Simon Personal Communicator, it featured a touch screen. This was considered one of the first cell phones.

Do you feel the need to speed? What gaming accessory would you use to accelerate your car during a race?

If you were learning to drive, using a foot pedal could help your feet recognize the difference between a gas pedal and brakes. While positioning is important, real time behind the wheel should be experienced so you could learn how to react to everyday traffic.

What computer accessory would you use if you want to communicate with others while killing baddies in an MMORPG?

In 1961 two former pilots founded Plantronics where they designed and manufactured headsets for NASA, who wanted a two-way communicator compact enough to fit in a spacesuit. The following year astronaut Wally Schirra wore the headset on a mission and the rest is history.

If you have issues with your computer overheating, you may need another one of these. What are we thinking of?

If you're a gamer, you've probably run into fan problems in the past. Luckily if you keep running into problems, you may not have to ditch your machine; purchasing an external fan could be the answer.

What kind of computer was the Altair 8800?

While many consider PCs the only microcomputers, there are other electronic devices that are used in everyday activities. Examples of other microcomputers include smartphones cash registers and laptops.

What computer part shares its name with a part of a castle?

Most high performance gaming computers are towers because it gives them room to add graphics and memory cards as well as fans to keep the overall system cool. If you want to get fancy, you could add interior lighting to give your machine a futuristic glow.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, you'd recognize this piece of equipment that is pivotal to the recording process. What is it?

If you are thinking of becoming a podcaster, some planning needs to happen. Aside from finding your studio, there are microphones for different types of podcasts. If you are recording with others you'll need multiple hookups and if you travel there are microphones built for mobile use as well.

If you're a digital photographer, you should recognize this memory storage device. What is it?

Before memory cards were used in digital cameras, 3 1/2" floppy disks were used. While this was convenient, memory cards provided more space and gave the photographer options to get higher quality photographs.

When it comes to digital imaging, you need one of these to get a nice, clean copy. What device are we thinking of?

Common in offices today, image scanners have had a long history; the first scanner was used in 1952 and was invented by a team at the U.S. Bureau of National Standards led by Russell A. Kirch.

Have you ever signed for a package? If so you saw the delivery person use one of these before you signed for it. Which tracking device is it?

Did you know that UPC scanners are over 40 years old? The first item to be rung up using a barcode scanner was a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, which was purchased a little after eight in the morning at a grocery store in Ohio.

Which of these things would you use to create a network in your home?

Cisco didn't invent the first router (as many would believe); it was Bill Yeager, a researcher at Stanford. How did it come about? In 1980, Yeager was brought into his boss's office and given the task to sync up the computer science, electrical engineering and medical departments.

Do you want to print some of your digital photos for a scrapbook? You probably will want to use one of these. What are we thinking of?

Inkjet printing was first developed in the early 1950s, however it wasn't until the late 1970s that the inkjet printer gained the capability to reproduce computer-generated images.

What kind of printer would you use to produce heavy duty shipping labels?

One of the reasons why shipping companies use a thermal printer instead of the standard inkjet printer is because instead of using an ink, a thermal printer burns the information onto the label. This helps in the long run, because then you don't have to worry about weather blurring the label.

If you sign for a package delivery, you're going to need to use one of these before receiving it. What piece of equipment are we talking about?

When you look at styluses, it is rather hard to pinpoint when they first came into existence. The closest date that archaeologists can guess is that it was invented around 1300 B.C. by the Romans, who used them to write on tablets. (Computer versions are a little bit newer.)

Today, we use this type of device to unlock our phones using our fingers. What kind of computer accessory is this?

Biometric devices are still relatively new to the computing world, however using fingerprints to identify people has been around since the late 1800s. It wasn't until the Thinkpad T42 was released in 2004 that the general public got a chance to utilize this technology.

If you've played with a classic Nintendo system, you've probably used one of these portable devices to play your games. What are we thinking of?

Even though game cartridges are best known for gaming consoles, several computers utilized this same technology. One of these was the Commodore 64, which was considered one of the best gaming computers ever made.

The Cray, invented in 1962, is considered the first one of these. What kind of computer are we thinking of?

Supercomputers are still used in almost every government agency today. In one instance, a supercomputer was used to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention develop new therapies used in the treatment of hepatitis C, which helped reduce or even cure patients with liver disease.

Many businesses use one of these to store their data. What is it?

When you're at work and hear the word "server," they're probably talking about a minicomputer. These computers are specifically designed to store various types of data and have the capability to service multiple users at once.

If you have ever had your digital photos printed at a drug store, you're receiving a product printed by one of these printers. What kind of printer is it?

A laserjet's method of printing is a combination of inkjet and thermal printers. When paper passes through a laserjet printer, it is sprayed with toner and heated by laser. By using this method, prints come out dry and smudge-free.

On one hand, gaming companies want to encourage their users to go out and get some fresh air. On the other hand, they encourage the use of a pair of these to prevent hand injury. What are we thinking of?

While gaming gloves are most associated with console gaming, there are some that exist for PC use. These gloves are designed to help create an ergonomic environment for PC gamers who use desktop computers to play.

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Image: Wiki Commons by Plasticboob

About This Quiz

For those of us who are techies, there is one sentence in the English language that elicits fear and excitement at the same time, “You need to get a new computer.” The minute that those words process through our mental CPUs, we grab our closest laptop or tablet, head to our favorite computer brand's website and start to build our dream rigs. Light up displays, extra fans and additional USB ports are a must, however, it comes with a price. When our new toy finds its way home, there are the learning curves that come with working with a new piece of equipment. While recreating shortcuts and installing software is a little frustrating, it’s when you have a new operating system and discover that you need new equipment when the good turns to annoying really fast.

Because computers are constantly evolving, it is no surprise that a typical techie household has something we’d affectionately like to call a junk box. These boxes are basically a miniature electronics store housing cables with outdated cords equipment that can still be used in a pinch and even some relics that even the owner has no idea existed. 

We invite you to take a look inside our junk box to see if you can name all these items that we've collected through our years of computer building. Feel free to take anything you want and have a few laughs because we can’t believe we bought those things either.

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