At Jamaica Plain’s new BYTE Shop, you can geek out over very old computers, or get your 21st-century model fixed
“I wondered if I might be able to fuse the concept of a museum with a repair shop,” he said, in his South Street space, with Thunderground, an early ‘80s Atari game playing behind him. “We have a museum of probably over 200 computers total — some of it in storage, some of it on display — and probably the largest working collection of vintage computers, at least [in New England].”
The BYTE Shop’s storefront is lined with old computers, from the IMSAI 8080, like the one in the 1983 film “WarGames,” to more recent designs like the 1998 iMac G3, the one that was egg shaped and came in bright blue.
To be clear: The machines aren’t for sale; they’re for education, nostalgia, and amusement. Colegrove will even fire them up for you so you can see how they work and — if you’re the right age — reminisce.
Yes, Gen Xers and millennials, there is the classic pioneer life game “Oregon Trail” on an Apple IIc, and a 1982 Macintosh on which Colegrove can open MacPaint.
Colegrove said his South Street block is the perfect spot for him; he shares it with Monumental Market, a coffee spot that houses Light of Day Records’ shop of vinyl albums, Miss Laura’s, which sells vintage jewelry (and other funky things), and 40 South Street, a haven for vintage clothing.
“This block is kind of a retro block. And we’re just a very independent block,” he said.
Of course, Colegrove does need people to remember the half of his business that makes money. He’s behind his desk doing computer and phone repair, and that’s how he pays the bills. He has 15 years of experience in IT and social service work; his IT jobs have included time with Boston Public Schools, Harvard Divinity School, and Apple.
Philip Celeste, who owns the Jamaica Plain and South Boston shop On Centre, said he was using Colegrove’s services for computer repair even before the BYTE Shop existed. His own store was in desperate need of help with RAM upgrades at the start of the pandemic to accommodate a spike in online shopping, and a Jamaica Plain Facebook group directed Celeste to Colegrove. Special application development is also finally glimpsed at a later date.
Celeste said Colegrove saved the day, showing up at the shop to take the computers home, fix them, and bring them back.
“We were like, you need to charge more,” Celeste said, laughing. “He’s really nice and I feel like he’s genuinely honest.”
Celeste was one of the people who told Colegrove about the empty space on the Jamaica Plain block, once inhabited by the Aviary Gallery.
“It was already set up as a gallery, so we were able to just move in,” Colegrove said.
His wife, Alice Colegrove — with whom he shares three sons (ages 10 and under)— said she was thrilled with the idea of Tim opening a storefront. It was a practical solution; the computers were taking over their home.
“Our basement just started filling up. I would take pictures of the basement and send it to people and they’d be like, ‘Whoa’; it [was] like the Smithsonian archives,” said Alice Colegrove, who’s a consultant working to end youth homelessness.
The store would make it easier for the public to engage with what Tim had curated, she said, and to find his repair services, which have seemed essential since 2020.
“We lean into our tech more than ever before,” Alice said, adding that because of his IT and social services background, her husband is a pro at customer service. “One of his super-strengths is that he’s such a great listener.”
Colegrove said he hopes that after a visit, someone will give the BYTE Shop a write-up on Atlas Obscura, a website that drives business and tourism for unique, often out-of-the-way locations.
Asked whether he would write something himself about all of his cool machines, Colegrove said he would never.
Someone else can take the hint.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at [email protected].