Model Mainframe

Art & Sculpture Technology
Model Mainframe

With how important desktop and laptop computers are to the world today, it’s hard to imagine that, not too long ago, they used to be the size of refrigerators and entire rooms. However, Nicolas Temese has found a way to keep the memory of these gigantic machines alive — by shrinking them down to a fraction of today’s size via polystyrene scale miniatures. 

This article appeared in Make: Vol 81. Subscribe today for more robot projects and tips.

Temese, who lives in Montreal, Quebec, has always been fascinated by the designs and aesthetics of the first generation of computers, especially those made by tech pioneer IBM. Although he has prior experience with miniature modeling, Temese said his tiny versions of the IBM 1401 (1:15 scale) and IBM 704 (1:16 scale) took hundreds of hours over several months. The miniatures are approximately 4 inches tall, but he strove to maintain every minute detail of IBM’s groundbreaking machines, 3D printing them in resin or etching them in copper for greater accuracy. The 1401 model also contains some extra non-polystyrene elements to make it feel more alive; a custom ATmega board spins the tape drives with tiny motors and controls small LEDs inside the control panels, animated pseudo-randomly to increase that sense of realism. “It’s not just about making a replica,” he admitted. “It’s about capturing the essence of the computer and the people who built, designed, and engineered these machines.”

Temese’s commitment to the spirit of his miniatures caught the attention of IBM themselves, who commissioned him to make similar replicas of the modern z15 microprocessor and the Power 10 E1080 server. Additionally, IBM also greenlit a limited run of 40 miniature IBM 5150 Personal Computers to celebrate the original model’s 40th anniversary. Beyond this series, Temese is still determining what on his long list of miniature projects he’d like to make next. Whatever the case,
it’s clear that this maker’s skills are giving credence to the phrase “small but mighty.” You can check out all of his past and future projects under the name “miniatua” on Instagram and YouTube, or his
website —Marshall Piros

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!
Marshall Piros

Marshall Piros is a freelance writer, upcoming college student, and lover of all things retro, pop-culture, and sci-fi. Despite not being a maker himself, he is always happy to showcase the creativity of others. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, CA, Marshall spends his spare time reading, drawing, playing video games, and practicing the piano.

View more articles by Marshall Piros
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).