The Machine Room

  • Alexios
  • retrocomputing
  • historical

The Machine Room was my retrocomputing site and one of the first retrocomputing sites of the then nascent World Wide Web, back in 1994.

It started off as part of my homepageat the University of Edinburgh's (then) Department of Computer Science. First it listed the computers I owned. The first versions had entries for the Oric Atmos, Apple IIe, and Commodore 64.

Then it started including computers I liked back in the Eighties. It started gaining momentum and getting built using various Perl scripts. Around 1996, it was hosted gratis by the Edinburgh University's Tardis Project, on (if I remember correctly!) a Sun 4/330, Sun's first SPARC server.

By 2005, it had over 1,200 computers listed, with maybe 2,500 referenced or simply listed. It had detailed information about a few hundred of them. By that point it was running on PHP, using an XML format to define the entries, and was database driven.

At that point, Tardis had suffered a catastrophic disk failure and I was running the Machine Room from home on a motley combination of hardware including a Sun SPARCstation 5 and a couple of PCs.

Machine Room Splash Page.

The Machine Room splash screen. I'm sure that was stylish back then.

In its hayday, anyone could start an account and add information, although I retained editorial control of a lot of it. There were hundreds of users, a ‘guess the computer’ pictorial game, and even a way to list computers you'd collected—a bit like discogs these days.

Between 2004 and 2007, my life took several bad turns all at once and I ended up having to leave many things behind. Somewhere along the line, I let the domain name lapse, and the site was irrelevant anyway: second-generation sites like were taking over, and Wikipedia was making personal projects useless.

Machine Room Computer Listing.

A listing of computers from 2006. The broken design is because The Wayback Machine doesn't have all the assets.

Many years later, I managed to get the ancient PHP code working again for a few months. My professional opinion is that the code is unrescuable at this point. The PHP was written when the language was pretty useless, full of exploitable ‘features’, and the code was written for a more naïve time anyway.

I would very much like to revamp the site and maybe host the information here, and this is something that might well happen in the next months.