Hello friends, my name is Joe, and one of my (many) nerdy hobbies is rescuing and restoring old computers. Specifically old IBM business computers from the 1970s through the early 2000s. These iconic machines ran hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the world. Because of their size and complexity, they faded from standard use over time as PC and server-based systems outperformed them at fractions of the cost.
I first learned to program on a System/34 in high school, and I went on to work for nearly 20 years in the midrange world as a Field Engineer and System Engineer, so I know the insides of these machines pretty well even today.
I’ve located an old example of these machines, an IBM System/34 and its associated printer, as a prime restoration candidate. I am trying to rescue this machine and return it to working order. The System/34 is rare to see these days – most of them were disconnected in the early 80s and long since scrapped. This particular machine has been in storage since 1984 and appears to be complete and intact. It doesn’t seem to have any noticeable damage from water, mold, or mice that might otherwise render the machine unrestorable.
I want to return this machine to working order and eventually find a home for it in a computing museum, as working System/34 machines are very uncommon. Amongst the IBM retrocomputing hobbyists I know, we can account for maybe 6 or 7 System/34s WORLDWIDE that are still operational and perhaps another 5 or 6 that still exist but are not in restorable shape. This machine is a prime candidate for restoration and museum display.
However, the costs for recovering and restoring this machine are quite a bit higher than other restorations I’ve done so far. Shipping the machine and its printer will cost upwards of $1000, and the current owner is asking $700 for the purchase price of the machine itself (he does have costs of his own to rescue it from being destroyed).
The CPU itself is about 26″ wide, 48″ tall, and 66″ long. It weighs upwards of 700lbs. The printer is 36″x36″x36″ and weighs almost 300lbs. These are not small and easily movable pieces of equipment. I have personally made “crazy road trips” to rescue equipment like this on several occasions; even this distance (2,000 miles) isn’t daunting. However, the size of these machines would require renting a truck with a liftgate, which is much more expensive than renting a simple U-Haul or Cargo Van. Getting this machine myself is more costly than paying a shipper to move it.
Several crazy, generous, and awesome friends in the retrocomputing community have offered to “chip in” to help restore this machine, solely to see it live again and not end up in a scrapyard somewhere. Personally, I have huge issues asking anyone for money for a project like this, but the potential importance of rescuing a “saveable” machine from the scrap heap has driven me to this point.
I’m setting up a GoFundMe to help restore this rare and iconic machine to working order so it can be donated to a museum at some point in its future. The GoFundMe will allow me to be responsible and accountable to donors and respect your donations to the cause.
The estimated cost to get this machine here and get it ready for restoration is US$1850 and breaks down into the following charges:
purchase cost (max, possibly negotiable down a little bit)
Printer purchase cost (max, possibly negotiable down a little bit)
$300 Transport from current location to freight terminal (I have two different quotes within $5 of each other for this job)
$700 Transport from NE to GA (a freight forwarder I’ve used before, this is cheaper than it would cost me to rent a truck and get it myself)
$150 220V Power converter to power the machine up from the 120V power available in my storage unit.
I don’t expect (and don’t really think I could accept) other people completely funding this project. I fully expect to fund the lion’s share of this project myself, including all the costs of repairing the machine electronically and cosmetically and relocating it eventually to a museum that could put it on display. The initial cost of acquiring the machine and shipping is outside of my reach at the moment. It is with the deepest humility that I could ask any of you to help rescue this machine. Any donation you could spare would be greatly appreciated, and all donations will be accounted for in the updates to this page.
If you have any questions about the restoration process or want more information on this machine or its history, please feel free to contact me and ask!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you even more for donating any amount!
You can read more on the history of the IBM System/34 on
Banner photo is a System/34 owned by Mike Ross and featured on the Wikipedia page.