Wikipedia defines retrocomputing as simple as
Retrocomputing is the use of older computer hardware and software in modern times.
It would be interesting to learn how some random Wiki edit could be related to this site - especially as there are so many different way of doing 'Retro' as there are people
Browsing through the list of current questions and answers finds roughly 90% of questions relating to history of computing rather than practical use of old computers.
And history is not practical?
("why was something done this or that way", or "what was the first computer to ..." instead of "How do I resurrect my dead Apple II").
Well I have a hard time to consider the last one ("How do I resurrect my dead Apple II") really anything that would require a separate SE section at all, as it's just about plain (digital) electronics. There is noting retro not computing. The fact that an Apple II is some years old won't change it.
Similar I have a hard time to see how the "why was something done this or that way" question is not related to practical use. Or don't you think that asking for the reasoning to build a computer/device/program a certain way won't help to operate/restore/understand it?
After all, what is usage without knowledge? Noting more than button pressing!
I do agree that some of the "what was the first computer to ..." are rather pointless. Otherwise such questions may be a good way to learn about predecessors and investigate compatibility-issues due heritage. It might be hard to understand the qurks of an Apple IIc+ without learing hw it was done on a straight II.
Equally interesting is, that to my observation, the question trend is almost exactly the other way around. I noticed way too many borderline ('when was this optical mouse introduced') or unrelated ('Gotek configuration for a PC') questions creeping up.
In-your-face question: Does this site want to be the home of the armchair amateur computer historian or the practical user of historic equipment?
"Armchair Historian" ? Mind to explain that?
I think you're are trying to creating a dichotomy where there is none. Sure, I can imagine someone with knowledge about computing history without knowledge aboute computers and their workings and there might as well be such ivory tower historians (*1), but at the same time, I can not imagine someone serious into old computers without touching their history, inner workings and whereabouts.
So here are my two points:
- Choosing the fashionable term 'Retro' which has not realy a good definition was maybe not the best choice, but it's as good as any other.
- While I'm like you uneasy with some questions, I do not feel that RC.SE is a wrong compilation.
*1 - Well, there are. I remember one high level meeting of techno historian where two of them, in front of several dozend participants started to argue in an almost physical manner about the mindset of Zuse in relation to the Nazi government. I even have a hard time to fine any historical relevant aspects here, even less about his work ans engineer which the symposium was about. So yes, they are out there. Still, So far no sign of this kind of people on RC.SE.