slow tech - 2023
For Alison, restoring an old computer is like solving a mystery. It’s deeply rewarding.
Alison, who is retired from a career in finance, is a lifelong self-described nerd. During the pandemic she developed an interest in collecting and restoring vintage computers, primarily old Macintoshes. She finds peace and satisfaction in the process of finding an old machine, diagnosing the issues, tracking down the right parts, and working on it in the basement of her Toronto home.
Part of this hobby's appeal for Alison is returning to machines that can only do one thing at a time. Old computers’ limited capabilities forced users to linearize, instead of the dizzying multitasking that defines modern computers.
When Alison was beginning her career in computers, it was easier to teach any individual to program or build software. Things that are now embedded on a single chip, preventing hacking or tweaking, used to be laid out on a motherboard like a miniature landscape. Memory can be added and parts can be soldered on. Communities of “nerds” like Alison share their tips and tricks with each other in vintage computer forums.
Using old computers also means no ads, no notifications, and no one trying to sell you things. It’s a return to the days of a computer being no more than a tool designed to facilitate a set of tasks for you.
Restoring and using these vintage computers is a private and personal experience for Alison. The appeal of slow tech to her is for the same reason that she’s not on social media. “I think people are getting tired of being inundated with information. It wasn’t always like this. I think people want to go back to a simpler experience.”