Yesterday, a Winnipeg, Canada-based artist named Rocky Bergen released a free collection of miniature papercraft vintage computer models that hobbyists can assemble for fun. They are available on The Internet Archive in a pack of 24 PDF files that you can print out on letter-size paper and fold into three dimensions.
Among Bergen’s Barbie-size papercraft models, you’ll find representations of classic computers originally released during the 1970s and ’80s, such as the Apple II, IBM PC 5150, Commodore 64, Apple Macintosh, and even the rare Apple Lisa 1. You’ll also find papercraft models of a few classic game consoles like the Sega Master System and the Nintendo GameCube.
Bergen began creating the papercraft models in the summer of 2016, starting with an Amstrad CPC 464 he designed for a CPC fanzine. “I grew up with a Commodore 64 and have always been a fan of old computers and their industrial design,” Bergen told Ars Technica. “I would love to have a huge collection of them, but it’s not always practical for people to have a massive amount of hardware with them at all times.”
To create the models, Bergen collects photos of the equipment from the Internet and slices and dices them in Adobe Illustrator until he gets a satisfactory result. “I typically keep the serial numbers intact so it is possible to check to see if I used your computer or not,” he says.
Many of Bergen’s papercraft models include extra variations with different software or games on the monitors that can be exchanged by inserting folded screen images into slots on the units. Many models also include delightful details, such as appropriate scale-model accessories: disk drives, mice, floppy disks, software boxes, and even modems.
“The response from the Internet has been very encouraging,” says Bergen. “So I have created a large number of these models so that you can go nuts and build out an entire computer museum.”
Once printed, cut out, and folded, the models typically only stand 3 to 4 inches tall, but the scale varies depending on the paper size used. Bergen designed the models for 11×17 paper (A3). At that size, they appear “the size of a typical mini console.” But they can also be automatically scaled down to 8.5×11-inch letter-size paper, which makes them roughly “Barbie Doll scale.”
Bergen finds assembling the models a meditative experience. “I did not think I would enjoy the cutting and folding process, but it is my favorite part of the process,” he says. “I thought it would be stressful to do, but it turns out to be quite relaxing.”
To get started building your own papercraft museum, you’ll need a color printer, paper, and scissors. Download the PDFs from the Internet Archive, print them out, cut along the lines, fold the tabs, and insert them into the slots. Bergen says that working with thicker paper makes it easier. “A paper-folding tool (referred to as a bone folder) really helps to create nice edges,” he says. “But any butter knife without serrations will work excellently, too.”
It’s no secret that the prices of vintage computers and game consoles have been skyrocketing over the past few years, especially during the pandemic. That makes collecting the actual machines far more difficult and expensive than a decade ago. Bergen says those factors are always at the back of his mind while designing his papercraft sculptures.
“I like the idea of removing rarity or cost from the equation,” he says. For the price of paper and ink, you can have fun with rare vintage machines that might cost thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars. “My Apple Lisa 1 will only cost you your time, and you might learn something about it, too. I know I did.”