We live in an age of wonders. Well, okay, you could say that of any point in history, but I have to remind my kids that things like my oldest son’s 3-D pen simply did not exist when I was a kid. Somewhat haphazardly, he can create three-dimensional objects on an empty table where that object did not exist before. He didn’t have to prototype it in a CAD program and send it off for someone to do a test shot. He just…drew something in 3-D. I was born in the 1970s, and was present for the transition from foot-tall G.I. Joe figures to Star Wars figures that fit in my shirt pockets. I had Spirograph. My kids have pens that draw physical constructs in mid-air. My mind boggles. I want to play in that world. I can’t afford a 3-D printer. But maybe I can dip my toes in the water by obtaining something 3-D printed. Like these.
Rabbit Engineering specializes in doing custom mods of Atari Flashback consoles, giving them built-in screens on extendable swing arms and lovingly bathing the whole thing in classic ’70s woodgrain. This small operation’s use of the word “Engineering” is not a misnomer. But Rabbit Engineering also has an Etsy store, where they sell tiny replicas – which they describe somewhat nebulously in terms of “two inch” – of classic video game consoles and computers.
I had marveled over Rabbit Engineering’s offerings for some time – there’s an old topic in theLogBook forums devoted solely to drooling over these tiny models – but by the time I decided to make a purchase, the menu had expanded considerably. From some of the oldest (Altair and IMSAI 8800 “minicomputers” so bulky that they could be rack-mounted back in the day) to some of the newest (Nintendo Switch), Rabbit Engineering’s “Mini Machines” are a marvel.
One thing they aren’t is cheap: each one is hand-assembled, painted and detailed after the 3-D printing part of it is done, and the average price hovers around the $11-$12 mark. More elaborate constructs have higher price tags (i.e. the replica of David Lightman’s complete IMSAI setup – speaker, acoustic modem and all – from WarGames). Only a few come in for under $10. It’s so easy to look at the pictures in their Etsy store and say “I’ll take one of each”; actually assembling an order…well, your action figures won’t be opening their own computer showroom anytime soon unless you have a considerably larger budget than I do (which is entirely possible).
One of the things I was most curious about was how well detailed the models would be. I know that additive printing doesn’t result in a smooth object, but rather one whose stryations basically tell the story of how the object was constructed – sort of like counting the rings of a tree without having to cut it in half. I thought the Etsy store photos presented a fairly honest look at how these items would arrive. And the verdict? See for yourself – on the left are the Etsy store photos, on the right the photos of the items I ordered and received.
Will I be picking up any more? As budget permits, sure. Classic home computers like the Commodore 64 and the Atari 400 (to say nothing of the Apple II series) beckon to me…
…and the “old late ’70s/early ’80s computer” aesthetic of these old HP and Sharp computers appeals to me too…
They’re just a little bit educational, too: each model comes bagged with a tiny fact sheet placing it in its historical context. In all, it took nearly three weeks – from placing the order on Etsy to getting the package in the mail – for me to receive my tiny computers, but one expects these aren’t made until the order is placed.
Rabbit Engineering has done a tremendous job with these replicas of classic computers and games, and if you can overlook the rough edges that currently exist with all 3-D printed items, they’re a lot of fun. Collect all of them? Not sure about that yet. That’s a major commitment of money and space. But if you’re looking for some offbeat props to fill out that diorama on your toy shelf, these are hard to beat.