Historic Computing Lab


Retro apple computers
Apple IIe and assorted Macs at DHSI 2019

The University of Victoria Libraries' Historic Computing Lab is home to a collection of older computers, software, and documentation, supporting research and instruction in areas such as Media Studies, Digital Archaeology, and the Histories of Computing.

The collection focusses primarily on microcomputers from the 1980s and 1990s, but also includes computers from the 1960s & 70s, and some from more recent eras. It is particularly strong in the areas of Apple/MacIntosh computers, Commodore computers, and IBM PC compatibles, but also includes examples of Atari, NeXT, and Tandy equipment, among others. Although not all of the computers are fully functional, the equipment is for use, not display. OCaM is a working collection, not a museum.

The collection has been in development since 2016 and has been featured in a number of public events in the Libraries, including Endangered Data Week, IdeaFest, a Traversal of an early hypertext novel by author Tim McLaughlin, and a Donor Celebration event. Its first instructional use was in support of a one-day workshop on Digital Archaeology at DHSI 2018. This well-received workshop led to the five-day course Retro Machines and Media at DHSI 2019, developed in collaboration with Dr. Dene Grigar, WSU. Online versions of the course were offered at DHSI 2021 and 2022.

In addition to its use in research and teaching, the collection also supports the recovery of data from older computing media in the collection of the University of Victoria Special Collections and Archives, and has also been used to recover data for other libraries on Vancouver Island.