Now THIS is a computer collection

Now THIS is a computer collection
Jeremy Mehrle, a collector of Macintosh and other Apple computers, poses for a photo behind a bar made up of 30 Macintosh Classic computers along with an Apple Lisa, left, and original iMac, right, in his basement collection.
O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) - Step down the stark, white stairs into Jeremy Mehrle's basement and meet his Apple computer collection.

He's got 99 computers. No, wait. Make that 100. He just got another last night, he said during a recent visit to his home about 35 miles west of St. Louis. Dozens of his Apple Macintosh computers are on display down here, a techie's dream party pad.

Mehrle, 29, appears to recognize that there's an inherent, well, geekiness to his computer collection, but he's got a sense of humor about it. Perhaps at this level of commitment, it's actually geek chic.

His bar is made out of 30 Mac Classics arranged next to and on top of each other. Guests can drink at the bar, "but no one ever does," he noted. (Just imagine how much technology could be destroyed with just one spilled drink.)

The basement is wired with 20-amp circuits. He doesn't just display his computers, he runs them when guests come over. Classic screen savers, like flying toasters with wings, flutter across screens. When friends stop by, they can play old-school games like "StarCraft" on machines networked together.

For special events, like New Year's Eve, he'll play videos on several monitors or set up strobe effects on multiple machines, creating a rave-like atmosphere.

"I think it'd make you more inclined to dance, even though I don't dance, I guess," he said. "I've never been to a rave, so I'm just basing that on `Alias,"' he joked, referring to the hip TV spy thriller.

Along one wall, he's got every color - or "flavor" - of iMac. While the first one, in "Bondi Blue," sits alone, the other 12 are arranged in rows in the order they were released. They begin with the first colors, like "Blueberry" and "Tangerine," to the last of the bunch, known as "Snow."

Another wall has nine iconic Macintoshes arranged in chronological order. The computers range from the original Macintosh with 128 kilobytes of memory to the 20th-anniversary Mac from 1997. Mehrle bought it on eBay and thinks he paid about $800 for it.

The online auction site has been a big help to Mehrle, once he began amassing a collection. He first got into the machines by using his dad's IBM personal computer. From there, he started collecting computers in general, Commodores and Tandys, Ataris and IBMs. He was interested in how different ones worked and how they evolved.

Then he spotted an iMac G4, a computer with a rounded base and a swivel-head, flat-screen monitor.

"As soon as I saw it, I was like, `I have to have this computer,"' he said. Mehrle hadn't been a huge fan of Apple computers, but he became one.

"The design, the user interface, the way it worked made sense," he said.

Sometimes people donated their old computers to him, but he largely shopped for them on eBay. Some he has acquired for as little as $10, because as he points out, he for the most part buys them when they're considered obsolete.

Leander Kahney, managing editor of Wired News, has written about the Mac subculture in a book and on his blog, "Cult of Mac." He said a lot of people don't throw out their old Macs, sometimes turning them into fish tanks or arranging a display.

But Mehrle's Macs are something special, Kahney said after seeing photos. "It's the most incredible collection I've ever seen."

Mehrle doesn't have every Apple model ever made.

"If I did, that would be awesome, but my girlfriend would probably leave me," he said.

Despite a new full-time job at an Apple store, he's actually slowing his pace considerably when it comes to getting additional computers. His girlfriend, Katrina Bibb, is threatening to get a new pet every time he brings home another machine.

The first floor of their home is brightly painted and decorated with furniture that recalls the stark lines and contemporary curves Mehrle likes from old science-fiction shows.

The rest of the place isn't overrun with computers like the basement, but Bibb notes, "The bathrooms are the only rooms where we don't have computers."

Of Mehrle's collection, she said, "I like how he displays them. I like that he has a passion.

"To me, a computer is a functional thing," she added. "It's not something you would ogle over the design."