Remember that story a while back about a bunch of Atari videogames unearthed from a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, inspiring a Microsoft documentary? One of them sold for $1,537, and so far the city has netted over $108,000 on the games' sale on eBay. (Unfamiiar with the story? Watch The Gaming Historian's synopsis below.)
Why? What in the world would make a bunch of eBay buyers throw thousands of dollars at an Atari game, especially E.T., which is widely considered the worst video game of all time?
But that's not all: there's the lady who accidentally dropped off a few boxes of e-waste containing an Apple I computer that sold for $200,000.
Owning an Apple I would have paid for my student loans.
That's to say nothing of the delightfully horrendous Nintendo fitness game that sold for over $100,000 back in February. And if the Nintendo Playstation prototype ever went up for sale, you can bet it would cause a few collectors to go into cardiac arrest.
The reason for all this excitement is that it's the millenials' heritage. For adults in their 20's and 30's, obsolete technology has all the warm fuzziness of a Teddy Ruxpin. They weren't raised on traditional toys: Ataris and Nintendos kept them busy after school, not GI Joes and Barbies. The technology of their youth was simple and straightforward: bad guys were bad guys, graphics were clunky, and the wonder for technology hadn't yet been replaced with apathy.
But besides nostalgia, the Apple I and other rare obsolete technology provides a clear trajectory from where we were to where we are now. It's fascinating, for instance, to think of things like HitClips being fledgling iPods. It's even more remarkable to consider the Apple I being the foundation for the world's most recognized and most respected company. They're mementos from a simpler time that led to the current explosion in IoT and wearables.
As for video games, they're the millennial version of baseball cards. Instead of Babe Ruths, millennials deal in terrible Atari and NES games. Or spectacularly abysmal Castlevania games.
The 1985 Super Marios Bros game cartridge that's worth more than my car.
The internet is awash in rare and obsolete video games, consoles, computers, and other wacky technology that is often worth thousands--if not hundreds of thousands--of dollars. It's become the foundation of our story as builders and designers and, more importantly, as dreamers.
So yes, paying thousands of dollars for a video game that was bad enough to get it thrown in a landfill may seem like a stretch, but it's not the hardware that's worth the money: it's the memories.