SN9003 has several distinctions.
First it is the earliest serial number recorded.
Secondly, it is white, and could be the white machine seen in the movie Soylent Green which is how the seller advertised it, yet recent information from Nolan Bushnell himself might contradict that claim.
Thirdly, and because of both of the first two points, it has fetched the highest price of all Computer Space units, selling on eBay for $9,900 on April 17, 2007
So, is this the original white unit from the film, Soylent Green? Well it certainly is a low serial number which would hint that it was in circulation around the time of the making of the film (but the same could be said of all Computer Space machines). Without seeing the machine up close it is hard to tell if it has yellowed with age at all or merely a regular machine that has been painted over its original color with white.
The new buyer is one of the founders of the Killer List of Video Games website www.klov.com and he has apparently asked Nolan Bushnell himself about this unit.
Nolan specifically remembers the producers of Soylent Green contacting him about placing a Computer Space in the film. After three and a half decades, he isn’t absolutely sure whether or not Serial Number 9003 was sent out for filming or whether another was quickly repainted white at the request of the production company.
According to Nolan, 9003 is the only white Computer Space that was made. It was made with the same production techniques the other machines were—it is simply not a random Computer Space machine painted white.
Serial Numbers 9001 to 9004 machines were also special machines, possibly being the very first run of production. Besides the white one, there was one each of blue, red, and yellow. The red and blue Computer Space machines are truly unique and apparently visibly different than the regular red and blue production machines. They have not been found and are presumed lost at this time.
Serial Numbers 9001 to 9004 were taken to an industry trade show (A.M.O.A. Amusement & Music Operators Association) by Nolan Bushnell, Ted Dabney (Nolan Bushnell’s business partner), and Nutting Associates. According to Nolan, the backs of the machines were not painted at the time, and the “The computers in these units had a lot of jumpers and mistakes.”
Ted Dabney apparently ended up with these first four machines, since he was the only one that could keep them going. However, sometime after returning from the trade show, the problem was solved. They painted the back of 9003, and its circuit boards were replaced with the standard production circuit board cages. Not long after, 9003 was sold to a coin-op distributor/dealer in Hackensack, New Jersey, who in turn sold it to a man that wanted several coin-operated machines for his home. That man owned this machine for three decades before listing it on eBay.
As far as the white color retaining its hue over all this time, the seller insists the machine is white fiberglass, not painted. Nolan's response was, “I do not think a white one would fade.”
In one early Computer Space flyer, a control panel was seen with a flipper/handle control. Nolan was asked whether or not these first four machines originally had said handles. Nolan has reported that “The concept was dead by then. We could not keep the handle from breaking the switches.”
So perhaps this is not the original Soylent Green machine, regardless it is a very special unit nonetheless. Enjoy the images of what is so far the only white Computer Space known to exist.
And to help refresh your memory, below are the known pictures of the original unit in Soylent Green.