In a couple of years, the personal computer will turn 50. The Kenbak-1, designed in 1971, was ahead of its time. Only 40 units were made before its manufacturer folded in 1973. The few that still exist can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

Collectors of vintage electronics have created a thriving industry of techno-nostalgia, from the early Apple computers to the 1980s and 1990s video-game consoles reissued lately by Nintendo, Sony and Sega as "classic" or "mini" editions. Yet far fewer people collect the software and digital services that brought those devices to life.

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