Every community has it's own opinion on what constitutes "retro" - more than x generations ago, more than x years old etc.

Whilst it's very subjective, and the subject of much debate, will there (and should there be) any restrictions on the cut-off for "retro" here? Or is it enough that the mention of a subject should get at least some of us misty-eyed? :)


When starting out, I would like to keep this definition as open as possible so we don't start off by flogging unsuspecting users with some pedantic definition of retro… at least until we see an actual encroachment of those "we didn't really intend this" problems in actual practice.

I like the general concept of Retrocomputing according to Wikipedia. Because of their ubiquity, I would suggest sticking to their example as much as practical. They don't put a specific timeline on the age of the equipment, but their descripton is somewhat suggestive of computer systems that are no longer widely in practical use, but are preserved mostly in the hobby and preservationist arena for their historical and sentimental value.

Retrocomputing is the use of older computer hardware and software in modern times.

Following that premise, I would consider a retro-system as anything that a reasonable person would not consider contemporary to what is modernly available.

not considered contemporary to what is modernly available.

Contemporary does not mean "went out of fashion yesterday." I know that leaves things a bit fuzzy, but it's a start — bring us your Magnavox Odyssey and Commodore Pet questions; the original Xbox and Dell Optiplex aren't quite there, yet.

I wouldn't try and draw a hard line that says {x} years or older is okay, but the year after that is not. Such judgements are largely dependent on the type of equipment and how it is currently deployed (or rather, not). But I don't expect this to become the Super-User alternative to support deprecated hardware simply because an iPhone 5 is considered sort of old hat while Windows XP passed the sunset of support. That is not the purpose of this site.

I'll stop there. I don't expect to resolve this on day one (or in hour one, actually), but it's a scope that I would let develop organically and refine as actual problems start to occur regularly in actual practice.


  • 3
    Now this is an answer – Anthony Pham Apr 19 '16 at 23:20
  • 3
    Regarding computers, if it was built to run the previous generation operating system, and can't be used today for productive work, it's Obsolete. If it was produced before that, and with the added bonus that it evokes in someone feelings of nostalgia, I say Retro. – Charles Mangin Apr 20 '16 at 16:46
  • 5
    Nitpicking, the OptiPlex range goes at least as far back as 1994 (with 486-based models), so there are definitely some OptiPlex models which qualify as retro as far as I'm concerned! If you want a real retro feel, try running DOS or Dell Unix on a 466L ;-). – Stephen Kitt Apr 25 '16 at 20:50
  • 1
    Define "productive work". I still use my 8/16-bit computers for learning new things. And I'm not alone in that regard. So, "obsolete" is also subjective. – cbmeeks Jan 12 '17 at 18:17
  • And what about the other direction? I don't think we'd consider questions about The Millionaire Calculator (YT | Wiki) to be "retro computing" questions; even though it was certainly a powerful computer in its time, it's more antique than retro. – Ben Leggiero Jun 8 '18 at 14:20
  • 1
    @BenLeggiero And thus the problem with subjective. Personally I'm of the opinion that "off topic" is often too narrow. I found this group by searching for info about bell 103 modems. One person thought that was "too old" to be retro. I think the underlying problem is that "retro" and "computing" is often defined on a generational basis. If I were to be more cynical, off-topic often seems to be defined as "I don't know anything remotely about that, and I'm an expert, so it must be off-topic". – Steve Sether Jun 27 '19 at 20:22

The definition of retro is:

imitative of a style, fashion, or design from the recent past.

Thus this site should be about computers and related products around 15 plus years old. These products should not be that common in our current era, like the IPhone 6. Products old from like the 1960's should be well suited to this site.

  • I have to agree on approx. +15 year old rule (by general usage). ipods, smartphones and any systems with current rough equivalents (such as Windows XP and later or OSX) should not be included in retro. – user3169 May 8 '16 at 15:25
  • What about from the 1890s? – Ben Leggiero Jun 12 '18 at 14:59

In the interest of a broad audience, I would consider everything retro that hasn't been sold for some time, let's say ten years.

I pulled this number out of my head, but I believe that it's enough to keep out questions asking merely about used hardware while keeping some more recent but still retro devices on topic.

  • 2
    Ten years is (roughly) the Intel Core CPUs, the original Playstation, just barely excludes the first-generation iPhone but permits the first four generations of iPod, permits almost the entire line of Palm PDAs, etc. – Mark Apr 19 '16 at 20:38
  • 1
    @Mark I was careful to say “not sold anymore since ten years” not “started to be made 10 years ago” so apply that to your list. Anyway, I would be fine with that. – fuz Apr 19 '16 at 20:40
  • 2
    Playstation production ceased in 2005. The Core series was replaced with the Core 2 series in 2007. Fourth-generation iPod production stopped in late 2005 with the release of the fifth-generation iPod. – Mark Apr 19 '16 at 20:43
  • @FUZxxl Playstations are still being resold. So are Apple ][s. Do you mean "sold by the OEM or licensed redistributors"? – wizzwizz4 Feb 18 '18 at 14:51
  • 1
    @wizzwizz4 This whole thing is pretty fuzzy. I was more thinking along the lines of “sold as new.” – fuz Feb 18 '18 at 14:59
  • Originally the 10 year rule was what we introduced for the VCF in 1999. At that point it made a lot of sense, as it marked also the time before the PC took over. 20 years later this rule is obsolete and only usable as one criteria to exclude machines that are with no doubt new. Also, in the meantime the Retro idea was born about doing new old hardware. So by now it has been replaced by a more relaxed coolness rule - and modern PCs are just not cool :)) – Raffzahn May 17 '19 at 14:17
  • Well, that rule means the 6502 isn't retro, since it's still being sold. (Yes, that's a 40-pin DIP that could you just drop into an Apple II.) – cjs Sep 2 '19 at 1:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .