Theo Leanse


5 December 2014

At the Computer Farm

Jim Austin, who teaches neural computing at York University, lives on a farm in the Yorkshire Wolds. At the top of the hill, behind the farmhouse, are four large sheds that shelter the Jim Austin Computer Collection. He's been collecting obsolete computers for nearly thirty years, and has more than 1000 machines. ‘This IBM mainframe was $8.7 million in 1983,’ he told me when I went to see them. ‘Which in today's money is $24 million. I mean, that's astronomical. And they're scrapped after four years. That's it. Scrap.’ He points to another. ‘The Fujitsu supercomputer, I think it depreciated at £16,000 a week for three years. Then it was zero.’ Behind the IBM and the Fujitsu are more machines: DECs, Wangs. ‘I just take them all home. I preserve them. I just collect them, because I like them. And I've got the sheds, so I just put them in.’