Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vintage 1961 Minivac 601 Computer

Here was a very rare item up for sale on eBay, it's Minivac 601 Computer from 1961. Here is excerpt from the acution text: "Up for auction is a nice 1961 vintage Minivac 601 computer. The really neat thing about these is that when running a program the relays are clicking, and the lights are blinking, etc. A real conversation piece. This unit is tested and fully functional, but due to it's age I'm selling it as-is."

Then you find some of the problems with it: "Let's talk about the problems that I have attempted to highlight in the photos, there are a few stains on the base paint, the frames of the relays have oxidized, and the most serious is a crack in the top panel that was difficult to photograph. It would be extremely simple to reinforce the crack if it's of great concern. None of these flaws affect operation in any way. One last item, the unit originally had 6 rubber feet, and now it has 5. Quite frankly, the method that was used to secure the feet on these should have been an embarassment to the company, but it is what it is and I'm not responsible."

Hint: When you buy vintage technology, I would always set your expectation low about the equipment working properly. In generally electronics will break down after a few decades, for example capacitors are notorious for going bad.


Barry L. Kramer said...

I was given one of these Minivac 601 computers as a gift in the mid- or late-70's, and it was one of the reasons I developed an interest that led me into the computer field. Unfortunately, it was improperly stored in a shed and became separated from its box and I haven't been able to find the box nor the manuals which is endlessly annoying to me since I know I have them and never would have discarded them....

However, the good news is that it is easy to disassemble and I was able to restore it to working condition in a few days. It had to be taken apart and cleaned (and every wiring hole scraped a little with a needle file), and I had to make a new power supply for it, and it needed repainted due to rust. I went to a paint shop and they matched the color (I needed a few ounces but had to buy a quart, so if anyone wants to repaint theirs, I'll be happy to trade the correct color paint for a copy of the manuals!) as well as give advice and post photos of my restoration.

The 601 was a great, fun educational product and mine is still getting used by my kids 47 years after it was made, so I have to disagree with anyone who says that anything about this machine is an embarrassment. I think it is just lovely.

Barry L. Kramer (

Jay Goldstein Mapei C40 said...

I had one pre-1965 and kept it for years. I think my parents sold it in a garage sale when I was off to college. I would love to play with it again.

Anonymous said...

I have a Minivac 601 that I got as a hand-me-down a few years ago. It is in the original box with all the manual, which have only been looked at a few times. The manuals look like new. I recently plugged it in and everything worked. I can't tell you how excited I was, making this thing work! It is like stepping back in time and doing electronics the old fashioned way, and seeing how far we have come. I am going to get my grandkids involved and let them see how it all works. I'd sure like to know the value of this machine now!