“Shall We Play A Game?” Original IMSAI 8080 Computer Movie Prop from WarGames to be Sold
April 12, 2010 by Jason DeBord
As covered by the Original Prop Blog back in 2008 (see “WIRED WarGames Roundtable, Original IMSAI 8080 Computer”), WIRED magazine published an article about classic 80s film WarGames (1983) starring Matthew Broderick. The article included an image of the original IMSAI 8080 computer that was used in the movie, which was remarkable in that the prop was saved and preserved for over a quarter of a century. I’ve learned in recent weeks that this piece of motion picture history will soon be made available for sale, so this serves as a notice to the original prop community in advance of further details.
Last week I spoke with the owner of the prop, Thomas “Todd” Fischer of www.IMSAI.net, about the upcoming sale of this iconic prop from a film for which many in my generation hold much nostalgia. Mr. Fischer was an employee of the company which produced the IMSAI product line, which he and his wife took over in 1978. To this day, they continue to support the IMSAI name and legacy products with parts and support in an effort to “keep the legacy and hardware alive”.
While the plans of the sale of the WarGames IMSAI 8080 are still in the works, it is Mr. Fischer’s hope and expectation that it will be preserved as a “piece of historical significance” and that it may well prove to be the most expensive “PC” ever sold, with an appraisal of well over $25,000 in the personal computing and electronics field. I suspect that it may well prove much more valuable to movie prop collectors.
A wealth of information about both the history and the provenance of the piece can be found at Mr. Fischer’s website, www.IMSAI.net, on the page dedicated to the movie and the prop:
To his credit, Mr. Fischer has preserved an extraordinary amount of provenance outlining the relationship between this prop and the film, WarGames, all of which can be found on a second page found on his website:
In addition to the wealth of information and history found on Mr. Fischer’s site, the aforementioned WIRED article published in 2008 can be found in electronic format on wired.com which includes a roundtable discussion with principals from the production:
Included on the WIRED site is the original WarGames trailer, which includes scenes featuring the IMSAI 8080:
Mr. Fischer was kind enough to pass along some photos for readers of the Original Prop Blog, which marks the first time that they have been published for the public.
The following images are from a photo shoot by AT&T back in 2006 in Playa del Rey. The IMSAI 8080 was borrowed as a prop for their “Text to Speech” commercial which featured the 1939 World’s Fair’s VODER, (an animated) Rosie the Maid robot from The Jetsons, Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, WOPR and the IMSAI from WarGames, and KITT from Knight Rider. As described on the AT&T website:
In April 2006 AT&T launched a national television commercial highlighting voice technology, its long development history within AT&T, and its use in current services. The robot hand at the beginning is demonstrating the Voder (“VOice coDER”), shown by Homer Dudley at the 1939 World’s Fair. A human operator used the contols to manually control the sound output.
Below is the original 30 second AT&T commercial:
Below are the behind the scenes photos, exclusive to the Original Prop Blog (click images for high resolution):
I will publish a follow-up article as more details materialize about the future sale of this piece, which Mr. Fischer describes in his own words as the “historic and unique nature of this one-of-a-kind icon of film and significant link to the beginnings of today’s digital technology”.
As noted a few weeks ago, another icon from Mathew Broderick’s classic 80s film career is also being made available for purchase (see Bonhams to Auction Prop Ferrari 250GT Spyder California Used in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), which makes it a remarkable time to be a high end collector of original artifacts from movies of that era.