Let's say I owned a pretty retro device some years ago, but it broke beyond my repairing capabilities and I trashed it.

Would it be still on-topic to ask e.g. how I could have fixed a specific error (just out of curiosity) or how I could have done this and that with it?

I am aware of the problem that it's impossible to verify potential answers on no longer existing hardware, so it could be difficult to both word the question in a detailed enough way and to later accept an answer.

However, I think this could become interesting for a larger community, as our topic here is about old hard- and software. I am sure most members here do not own all of the pieces they're going to ask a question about, unless they work at a museum maybe...

So where exactly do we want to place the border?

  • No hypothetical questions about problems on stuff you don't have access to. Only ask about hard facts that could written into an encyclopedia.

  • Only questions that could likely somehow be reproduced on another device of the same model.

    Like e.g. "My X Model Y always showed an error 02 when trying to boot from a foreign HDD. I don't have it any more, but (how) could I have fixed this?"

  • All questions about old computer stuff are on topic as long as you word the question detailed enough to be answerable.

  • Anything in between those options?

2 Answers 2


I say yes, if only because this sort of thing happens on many other SE sites all the time. On Electronics someone will come with a question about a design, and maybe eventually build it, or one inspired by good answers. On Programmers many of the questions are about techniques or APIs that the OP hasn't even heard of (yet) and may not be immediately verifiable.

A good answer is not always one that has to yield a field-tested, verified result that is then validated with a checkmark. It just has to address the concern outlined in the question, or set the OP (and future visitors) on the right track.

Not to mention that some questions, even those about technology, may just be conceptual in nature. Note that I'm not speaking about opinion or conjecture. But of the way we can hold valid, testable ideas in our collective heads.

A concrete example is emulation, which is on-topic here. Emulators are not perfect, and they rarely act like silicon or firmware at some level. Questions about a specific technique for emulating tricky operations, or comparing emulated behaviour with hardware that may not be immediately available would make great content for this site.

(As a personal example, I can't quite bring up my TRS-80 Model 100, but that shouldn't keep me from coming up with good questions about the repair or emulation of a TRS-80 Model 100. These are the exact sorts of things retrocomputing enthusiasts think about. It may even be the main reason some of us do this crazy thing.)

But if the question is good and covers the subject, and inspires good answers that may help someone else, then that is a win.


The principle of StackExchange Q&A sites is that you should be able to check if an answer is correct, which means, if it solves your problem. So I would say: no.

  • 8
    I would agree with you in general, it's just that retrocomputing becomes a more and more theoretical field for the average community member, as not everybody owns "ancient" technology... Of course it's difficult to answer something if you can't really request the OP to check something or reproduce it or look it up somewhere as well as to verify and accept answers. I'm just wondering if this site should be a tiny bit less strict... Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 13:40
  • So actually, you want someone to answer "yes" to your question... Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 14:40
  • This is to some degree my personal opinion, but nothing more. I'm open to what the majority decides. And if you're asking about the downvote, that wasn't me. Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 15:47
  • I don't think that's how a Q&A site is supposed to work. Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 12:46
  • 2
    @ByteCommander Meta sites work a little bit differently; you should downvote all teh thingz if you don't agree with them. The poster doesn't lose or gain any reputation, because that discourages people from making potentially controversial suggestions.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 17:00

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