IBM beam spring and vintage computing prices in general - speculators?

Lowworkingmemory

18 Dec 2018, 04:12

Everyone here has seen the absurd prices for IBM beam springs, and some will have noticed the upwards trend in prices for vintage computing equipment.

To me this seems based on two things : Nostalgia mainly for the 1970s and 1980s, and speculation by people hoping to resell for higher prices than they paid. Now many vintage computing items seem to be entering a speculative bubble, with more buyers than sellers. Here is an explanation : https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sp ... bubble.asp

"A speculative bubble is usually caused by exaggerated expectations of future growth, price appreciation, or other events that could cause an increase in asset values. This speculation and resulting activity drives trading volumes higher, and as more investors rally around the heightened expectation, buyers outnumber sellers, pushing prices beyond what an objective analysis of intrinsic value would suggest."

What is the intrinsic value of a vintage computer and related items, and how useful are they? Modern computer technology is intrinsically superior and more useful for the average person than older tech, which is why modern computers generally cost more to purchase than those produced a decade ago.
What is the cost to benefit ratio of buying a Blue Alps keyboards for 400 dollars or even more off E-bay, versus buying a much cheaper keyboard with about as much utility for hundreds of dollars less? I can only think of three reasons. Nostalgia, price speculation, genuine curiosity or combinations of these motivations. What is the cost to benefit ratio of purchasing an IBM beam spring for 2,000 dollars, VS a modern Cherry MX clone keyboard for 40$ from China? 95% of keyboards provide a better value for the price than the beam spring, or wildly expensive old Alps boards.

To me it seems like people who spend thousands of dollars on these keyboards and other vintage computing items are doing it out of a desire for the good old days and possibly to resell them for higher prices. A 70 dollar 1391401 IBM Model M arguably has more intrinsic value and cost to benefit ratio than a 15 dollar rubber dome piece of trash because it will probably last your lifetime, typing on it is more tolerable, and chances are it will work with any modern PC either with the PS/2 plug or a PS/2 to USB adapter.
But what about an IBM Model F 122 for 300$ which requires an adapter, lasts longer than the Model M but doesn't need to because both will fail after you are gone or have given the keyboard to someone else, and feels somewhat better than the Model Ms but does this marginally enhanced key feel really justify the exorbitant price for a keyboard which is possibly less useful than cheaper ones? Why buy multiple keyboards when just one utilitarian model with decent key feel can provide a lifetime of tolerable use? Nostalgia, or you want to resell them at a later date or immediately as an E-bay scalper (speculation), or genuine interest in the keyboards seeking to discover new switches. Or a fourth factor, elitism and seeking only the best of the best, paying whatever the cost for pure luxury items and creating price inflation.

It is mind boggling to me how many people in the mechanical keyboard community pay absurd prices for keyboards irrationally. These people are basically tossing their money away and warping the entire market for vintage computer equipment, turning it from a reasonable and affordable hobby into something more closed off, expensive and elitist over time. Why pay a ridiculous price when you can withhold your money and create incentives for sellers to bring prices down? How much are you willing to pay for this stuff, because the more you pay the more money sellers want, creating a growing bubble which is really just a means for squandering money. Is a vintage computer keyboard intrinsically worth over 200 dollars? Correct me if I am wrong but aren't you burning money on items which will be a nightmare to sell if you ever want to get rid of them if and when this community declines and the bubble is deflated?

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abrahamstechnology

18 Dec 2018, 04:46

I think the prices for vintage boards will only rise, as they are out-of-production and the numbers dwindle year after year.

__red__

18 Dec 2018, 05:35

What a well thought out post, I can only give you my viewpoint:
Lowworkingmemory wrote: What is the intrinsic value of a vintage computer and related items, and how useful are they? Modern computer technology is intrinsically superior and more useful for the average person than older tech, which is why modern computers generally cost more to purchase than those produced a decade ago.
Since we're talking about economics - you know that once a product becomes a commodity the innovation moves from new functionality to reducing costs. When you reduce costs, you either have to reduce the cost of the raw materials, the labor, or the quantity of the raw materials you use. taanstaafl.

Your statement that "modern computers generally cost more to purchase than those produced a decade ago" is false. Costs have plummeted - especially with products like keyboards where the average person sees a keyboard as a uniform commodity.
What is the cost to benefit ratio of buying a Blue Alps keyboards for 400 dollars or even more off E-bay, versus buying a much cheaper keyboard with about as much utility for hundreds of dollars less?
To which I would ask, what is the cost to benefit ratio of buying a violin off aliexpress for $34.95 (incl shipping) vs buying a $3.6 million Stradivarius violin?

You pretty much answered the question earlier on. If my 6 year old was learning the violin then the $34.95 may do just fine (she's 6 - she'll give it up after 4 weeks) ;-)

However, if you're a world-famous concert violinist who plays to packed houses all around the world and that violin gives you a better experience playing or more ability to express yourself - that $3.2 million may be worth every penny.
It is mind boggling to me how many people in the mechanical keyboard community pay absurd prices for keyboards irrationally.
So, let me speak on my own irrationality ;-)

There are two pieces of computing hardware that I never skimp on. One is the keyboard, the other is the display. Why? These are the two items of hardware that are the physical conduit between the computer and I that I spend almost 20 hours a day in front of.

I've used the same Model M and Model F for over two decades. Not out of nostalgia, but because the one time I switched to a different keyboard model I ended up with severe carpel / RSI. Resuming my old keyboard resolved that health issue.
These people are basically tossing their money away and warping the entire market for vintage computer equipment, turning it from a reasonable and affordable hobby into something more closed off, expensive and elitist over time.
I'm not going to lie - this makes me really sad. When I see someone split a keyboard from a working system I die a little inside.
Why pay a ridiculous price when you can withhold your money and create incentives for sellers to bring prices down?
... because that's not how supply and demand works. The demand is still there.
Is a vintage computer keyboard intrinsically worth over 200 dollars?
Yes, and I have spares which are unconverted should my current production Fs fail.

Thanks again for this post - it was an interesting read.

Red

Lowworkingmemory

18 Dec 2018, 06:43

Since we're talking about economics - you know that once a product becomes a commodity the innovation moves from new functionality to reducing costs. When you reduce costs, you either have to reduce the cost of the raw materials, the labor, or the quantity of the raw materials you use. taanstaafl.

Your statement that "modern computers generally cost more to purchase than those produced a decade ago" is false. Costs have plummeted - especially with products like keyboards where the average person sees a keyboard as a uniform commodity.
Today computers produced in 2018 generally have higher prices than those produced in 2008 because they include more advanced technology and are more useful for the average user which gives them higher intrinsic value.



To which I would ask, what is the cost to benefit ratio of buying a violin off aliexpress for $34.95 (incl shipping) vs buying a $3.6 million Stradivarius violin?

You pretty much answered the question earlier on. If my 6 year old was learning the violin then the $34.95 may do just fine (she's 6 - she'll give it up after 4 weeks) ;-)

However, if you're a world-famous concert violinist who plays to packed houses all around the world and that violin gives you a better experience playing or more ability to express yourself - that $3.2 million may be worth every penny.

First of all, the market for Stradivarius violins is already well established meaning it is probably not a bubble, and second of all world-famous concert violinists most likely don't even need such expensive violins to perform at their best anyway, he/she would probably buy one mostly as a status symbol rather than for it's functional properties. Scientific studies seem to have been performed which proved that many of the qualities associated with Stradivarius violins are myths : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huOFGDpbxHM



I've used the same Model M and Model F for over two decades. Not out of nostalgia, but because the one time I switched to a different keyboard model I ended up with severe carpel / RSI. Resuming my old keyboard resolved that health issue.
Unless you paid an extremely high price for them, it probably isn't irrational. When I brought up irrational buyers, I was mostly talking about people who buy keyboards for hundreds or thousands of dollars when other alternatives are available which are decent, but aren't the best of the best. I'm pretty sure many of those multi thousand dollar IBM beam springs, 600+ dollar old Alps keyboards on E-bay actually get sold, when far less expensive keyboards are available which have key feel far better than rubber domes and will last a lifetime. The best place for preserving IBM beam springs is inside a museum together with their original terminals, but many people here seem to purchase them out of part nostalgia, part price speculation and wanting only the best keyboards at any cost rather than for a practical reason.


... because that's not how supply and demand works. The demand is still there.
If demand is high enough to fuel prices higher than the intrinsic value of an item, it means a speculative mania has probably arisen around the item and the bubble created will eventually burst.

__red__

18 Dec 2018, 07:36

Lowworkingmemory wrote: If demand is high enough to fuel prices higher than the intrinsic value of an item, it means a speculative mania has probably arisen around the item and the bubble created will eventually burst.
You know, the temptation to link this statement to fiat currencies and the gold standard is rather intense right now ;-)

I see the point you're making and there almost certainly is a speculative influence in the market - I don't disagree with you on that. Do I think it's a bubble? Well.. what's the difference between a bubble and a market pullback? Scale.

I see the intrinsic value as higher than you do clearly. All the while others like myself see it that way the price will stay high.

Now, when those who are willing to pay those levels have their 'fill' as it were, there will be a market pullback.

I don't see them rising ad infinitum, but I also don't see any kind of dramatic drop in the future either.


Red
(Not an economist, has no data, pulling non-expert opinions out his butt for the last few hours) ;-)

Anakey

18 Dec 2018, 09:39

i think that most of the price increase has been driven largely for the hype and mystery surrounding beamsprings which then made them desirable. Trend Chyros good review boards vs prices and i think there will be a correlation there and once a few threads on ebay get into a bidding war, others will see that end price as the base price hence why the $2k+ is now the norm great for those lucky few that find a bunch for cheap and then make a profit on bad for those that actually want to use them. Myself and many in the MKUK discord would love the chance to just type on one though the possibility for 99% of those on there in actually doing so is very slim given the price and lack of availability outside US. Same goes for the model Fs sure xts are pretty cheap but a F107 gets you a full sized board built like a tank that can survive a nuclear apocalypse.

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abrahamstechnology

18 Dec 2018, 23:32

Modern computers have gotten crappier over the years, not better. Sure they are faster, but that's only expected.

andrewjoy

19 Dec 2018, 11:25

abrahamstechnology wrote: Modern computers have gotten crappier over the years, not better. Sure they are faster, but that's only expected.
The software has for sure! It no longer can keep up with the hardware. I mean look at windows trying to handle NUMA nodes properly , its like watching a 1 armed man trying to juggle knives !

__red__

19 Dec 2018, 14:11

... because physics.

We can't make them faster, we can only make them parallel.

Your average software developer is completely incapable of writing software on more than one core.

andrewjoy

19 Dec 2018, 15:36

__red__ wrote: ... because physics.

We can't make them faster, we can only make them parallel.

Your average software developer is completely incapable of writing software on more than one core.
Then they need to step aside for someone who can.

But i would settle for an OS that can keep all of the threads of one app on a single Node or die !

__red__

19 Dec 2018, 17:36

andrewjoy wrote: But i would settle for an OS that can keep all of the threads of one app on a single Node or die !
Why would you want to do that? That limits you severely.

You'd be limited to the number of cores your system has.

andrewjoy

19 Dec 2018, 18:44

__red__ wrote:
andrewjoy wrote: But i would settle for an OS that can keep all of the threads of one app on a single Node or die !
Why would you want to do that? That limits you severely.

You'd be limited to the number of cores your system has.
Because if your hopping an interconnect it causes latency. It should be clever enough to say , ok that app is only using 4 threads , lets keep all them threads on node0. But if you have a massively parallel task that is not impacted by latency like a big ass render it should have access to all nodes ofc.

Or if you boot up a 3D app that uses the GPU it should be clever enough to know what CPU that GPU is connected to and keep the process on that CPU

I should not have to do this manually. Users or even sysadmins should not have to run lstopo and manually assign things to the correct place.


P.S sorry i edited your post by mistake when trying to quote it .... Mod fail :(

Dave_K.

19 Dec 2018, 19:04

Lowworkingmemory wrote: Correct me if I am wrong but aren't you burning money on items which will be a nightmare to sell if you ever want to get rid of them if and when this community declines and the bubble is deflated?
I think this sums up the OP's question, when will the bubble burst? Being a long time collector in the arcade PCBs community, I've seen similar bubble arguments for the last 5-10 years, yet nothing bursts, even with Mame and other means to replicate the same experience (console ports, etc). Similarly, if someone started making beamspring switch keyboards, I'm sure they'd make a lot of money, and it may cause panic selling in the keyboard community, but there will still be those that want the "original" feel either out of nostalgia or elitism. So I feel prices will always continue to rise given the scarcity.

__red__

19 Dec 2018, 22:07

andrewjoy wrote: Because if your hopping an interconnect it causes latency. It should be clever enough to say , ok that app is only using 4 threads , lets keep all them threads on node0. But if you have a massively parallel task that is not impacted by latency like a big ass render it should have access to all nodes ofc.
I think this is our disconnect ;-)

We're mixing terminology here.

If you run out of local hardware cores (let's call them hardware execution threads) then any additional processing you do off-box will of course be slower, but it beats the alternative of not having the execution at all.
Or if you boot up a 3D app that uses the GPU it should be clever enough to know what CPU that GPU is connected to and keep the process on that CPU
When you were originally posting I thought you were referring to binding a process to a specific core so that you didn';t have to worry about data beiong copied around internal to a node. The OS already has that functionality available, the programmer just needs to use it.
I should not have to do this manually. Users or even sysadmins should not have to run lstopo and manually assign things to the correct place.
Agreed. Blame your application programmer.

andrewjoy

20 Dec 2018, 13:08

__red__ wrote: If you run out of local hardware cores (let's call them hardware execution threads) then any additional processing you do off-box will of course be slower, but it beats the alternative of not having the execution at all.

Whist this is true. We have what.... 28 core single die CPUs from intel at the top end and 8 core single dies from both AMD and Intel at the low end. Any app that can use 8 cores is going to be massively parallel anyway.

The issue i have is when the app asks for say a 3rd thread to run its.... lets say audio for example, windows will stick that anywhere it dam likes , it should not do this , it should do everything it can to keep the threads ( and the memory they are using ) local to the CPU or Die.

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digital_matthew

09 Jan 2019, 15:41

This is a really good read, and I've pondered the speculative nature of this keyboard hobby for some time now. If you are trying to think of it as a purely cost/benefit relationship it won't make sense until you address the "Big Shaggy"; the part of the human psyche that cannot be mapped via simulation or game theory. There is just something intrinsically satisfying about using an antique keyboard. Part of it is nostalgia, as you mentioned, but there's also the quality factor. Many of these keyboards date from a time when a new computer cost as much as a car or even a house, and their keyboards were accordingly luxurious. Now keyboards are bought with systems that are far cheaper, and their quality reflects that. From my experience, typing on a Model F is just better than typing on any modern board (except Ellipse's) and that's worth a couple-hundred dollars to me. I have my limits though. I'd never drop a kilodollar on a keyboard even if I was a millionaire, and I consider myself to be an "enthusiast".

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pansku
Member of the Beam Spring cult

09 Jan 2019, 16:17

[OT] Does anyone remember the ballpark figures of what a replacement beam spring unit used to cost back in the 70's and early 80's? I remember seeing like a catalog scan or something like that here in DT, but can't find it anymore :( [/OT]

twasa

09 Jan 2019, 19:02

I agree that the thread is an interesting read. I'm also wondering about the growth in people interested in vintage keyboards over time. With sites like this and youtube channels like Chryrosran's, more people are introduced to the pleasure of using vintage keyboards and demand grows. With growth in demand, price goes up.

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stratokaster

09 Jan 2019, 19:46

I guess it's going to be the same as turntables and all things vinyl. On the height of the vinyl craze a couple of years ago people were trying to sell junky turntables at really inflated prices, however the prices have gone down recently and now it's possible to find even high quality turntables for realistic money. I recently got my Technics SP-10mk2 for a price that would have been impossible in 2017.

As for retro computing stuff, yes, the prices are a bit cuckoo. Some desirable items, such as high-end Amigas, are going for silly money at the moment. I think the prices will come down when all the retro gamers realise they're not going to get their initial youthful excitement back even if the buy the same machines they had as kids.

cloudhax

09 Feb 2019, 03:59

pansku wrote:
09 Jan 2019, 16:17
[OT] Does anyone remember the ballpark figures of what a replacement beam spring unit used to cost back in the 70's and early 80's? I remember seeing like a catalog scan or something like that here in DT, but can't find it anymore :( [/OT]
I don't know, but I would bet it was a lot. And adjusted for inflation, even more so. Didn't model F's cost several hundred dollars new? That an F122 now costs $300+ isn't that surprising to me. I am more shocked by the prices people pay for custom keycaps for their MX boards.

As to OP's point there is certainly an aspect of people willing to pay high prices out of elitism. I am guilty of that probably. I have spent my life behind a keyboard and can afford to buy what I consider the best. I don't buy out of speculation of resale value though.

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OleVoip

09 Feb 2019, 13:43

Average gross prices for IBM replacement keyboards in Germany mid-1986 and what they correspond to today, taking inflation into account, and what that would be in dollars.

Code: Select all

IBM keybd   DM'86  €'19  $
port. PC    654    590   670
Mod. F-XT   572    515   580
Mod. F-AT   721    650   735
Modell M    648    580   655
Source for net prices: http://www.cc-computerarchiv.de/

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JP!

09 Feb 2019, 16:36

Beamspring prices were foretold years ago.
beam.JPG
beam.JPG (156.86 KiB) Viewed 1913 times

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tron

09 Feb 2019, 20:26

pansku wrote:
09 Jan 2019, 16:17
[OT] Does anyone remember the ballpark figures of what a replacement beam spring unit used to cost back in the 70's and early 80's? I remember seeing like a catalog scan or something like that here in DT, but can't find it anymore :( [/OT]
This is the 3101 ad I posted a while back- https://imgur.com/gallery/rK0eM

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pansku
Member of the Beam Spring cult

09 Feb 2019, 21:51

Thanks for the pointers and cool pictures :D

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