Dell uncovers world's oldest working PCs

Dell finds an Altair 8800b that boots up faster than a Win98 machine.

Old computers never die, they just wind up in an attorney's office in Winnetka, Illinois.

Or at least one very old -- no, ancient -- computer does. It's an MITS Altair 8800b, and it has been churning out wills and other legal documents for John C. Shepard for the past 22 years. And yesterday, its advanced age earned Shepard a dubious distinction: He was named the winner of the Dell Computer contest to find the oldest working PC.

Then again, age has its benefits. Shepard's old Altair, considered to be the world's first PCs, will retire in style: It'll spend the rest of its days in the Computer Museum of America in La Mesa, California.

And Shepard will start doing his legal work in technological resplendence: As the winner, he's receiving a Dell server and a combination of Dell desktop and notebook PCs worth some $15,000.

The Altair's longevity helped it outlast 209 other entries, according to Dell. Shepard bought his machine -- with its 2MHz processor and 256 bytes of memory -- in October, 1976. Ironically, he spent about as much as he would have for a fairly high-powered PC today -- about $1,300.

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