That Old Computer Smell

As part of a trip down to the Bay Area Maker Faire last month, my friend Kirk and I stopped at the Computer History Museum. From the exquisite machining of the operational Babbage Difference Engine, to the switches and blinking lights of 60s big iron, to the first-generation personal computers I grew up with, it was well worth the admission price.

The nostalgia was thick, with phrases like “I had that!” (Apple ][ and countless games) or “I so wanted one of those!” (Tomy Omnibot 2000) leaving my lips countless times.

But more than the sights and the sounds, what really hit me was the smell. The scent of some of those old computers instantly took me back to hours spent as a child digging through my mom’s old camera equipment. Same smell in both cases. I don’t know what it is—something in the finish, the circuit boards, the wire insulation, maybe the tiniest hint of mildew? If someone could distill that smell, I’d spritz it on the DSLRs I’ve got now in order to make them smell like real cameras should. Hell, I’d wear it myself.

2 Comments on "That Old Computer Smell"

  1. Matt says:

    I love that smell too!, nothing smells better than old circuits running, right? (:

  2. Lauren says:

    I am sitting next to a space heater and it brought back the memory of the early 90s computer smell, so I searched Google to see if anyone else had a similar sense and memory association. It always made me think of heat and seems to force an image of Sim Tower into my head. I think it came about from overuse or something, but I miss it.

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