VCF East XII keynotes — Enigma Machine, C++, 1977 appliance computer anniversary

C++ inventor Bjarne Stroustrup, Ph.D., Enigma machine expert Tom Perera, Ph.D., and a panel discussion by computer historian Bill Degnan on the 40th anniversary of appliance computers featuring the Apple II, Commodore PET 2001, and TRS-80 Model 1 will be the keynote sessions for Vintage Computer Festival East XII, March 31-April 2, in Wall, New Jersey.

The event is produced by Vintage Computer Federation (www.vcfed.org), a national user group devoted to enabling hobbyists and spreading awareness of computer history. The Federation is a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Stroustrup, who developed the C++ programming language at Bell Labs starting in 1978, will discuss “The Origins and further Evolution of C++” on Saturday morning, April 1. He is currently a visiting professor of computer science at Columbia University and a managing director in the technology division at Morgan Stanley. His talk is sure to be an excellent follow-up to C language author and pioneer Brian Kernighan, who spoke at VCF East X in 2015.

Perera’s company, EnigmaMuseum.com, is in the business of hunting for, researching, restoring, and selling Enigma machines and related items. His talk, “Inside the Enigma: The history, technology and deciphering of an early laptop computer and the real story of the Imitation Game” will be presented Friday, March 31 after lunch. The World War II German Enigma was arguably an original form of laptop computer. This talk will explain the history and technology of the Enigma and link it to the movie “Imitation Game” which tells the story of the cracking of the German Navy Enigma code and the extraordinary contributions of mathematician Alan Turing to this endeavor. In order to keep the audience interested and involved, the movie has allowed some inaccuracies and omissions in the history and technology and in the masterful portrayal of the eccentric mathematician Alan Turing by Benedict Cumberbatch. This talk will trace the actual story of the Enigma and the cracking of the Enigma Code and attempt to fill in some of the Enigmatic aspects of Alan Turing’s personality. Perera will also give a more technical demonstration of how the machines work and a real-time disassembly of an Enigma in a separate session that day. He will give further demonstrations and will offer for sale his Enigmas, Enigma simulators, other historic cipher machines, books, Enigma Library CD-ROM, and related items on Saturday and Sunday. Perera was formerly a professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, Barnard College, and Montclair State University.

Degnan is a co-founder of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of Vintage Computer Federation, a professional programmer and web developer, and formerly taught computer history at the University of Delaware. At his panel, “1977: The year of the appliance computer” you’ll learn about the launch of the Apple II, Commodore PET 2001, and Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1. Bill will guide the discussion to explore how the appliance computer facilitated the expansion of computers as an appliance into small businesses, schools, and the home. Panelists will be separated into three groups each representing the Apple, Commodore, and Tandy/Radio Shack perspective. The panel will respond to questions and share their knowledge and personal experiences. The discussion will continue from 1977 through the milestones of 1980s 8-bit appliance and home computing.

All three sessions will be 90 minutes which includes audience Q&A. Further details will be shared as the event nears.

Growing the hobby

We accomplished great things in 2016. We doubled the size of the museum at our New Jersey headquarters, hosted the 11th edition of Vintage Computer Festival East, resurrected the former Vintage Computer Festival West, and joined forces with the Vintage Computer Forum. It was a fantastic year to be a vintage computing hobbyist!

Now we’re asking for your help to keep the momentum going. Can you make a tax-deductible gift to us this holiday season? Over at our contributions page you’ll find four options — Binary ($10.00), Phreaker ($26.00), 555 Timer ($55.50), S-100 ($100), and Variable (enter your own amount).

If you’d like to do something truly awesome, and you happen to live in or will be traveling to the San Francisco / Silicon Valley area, then bid on lunch with Lee Felsenstein through our friends at CharityBuzz. Lee is a technical and social media legend — he was a spark behind Community Memory, moderator of the Homebrew Computer Club, and a top engineer for both the Processor Tech Sol-20 and Osborne-1. Bring a few friends, have lunch with Lee at your mutual convenience, and we’ll pay the bill!

Where will your money go? We are planning even more things for 2017 and beyond. Vintage Computer Festival East XII will be held March 31 through April 2 at our museum. We are currently planning Vintage Computer Festival West XII and will announce the dates soon. We’re considering expansion of the Festival to other cities, we’re looking to incubate additional regional chapters, we are planning to offer more resources online, and we’re preparing a slew of improvements to the physical museum. If you thought we were active this year, then 2017 is going to exhaust us — but we love every minute of it!

If you want even your news even more frequent and granular, then you’ve got options! Read our blog at vcfed.org, join the discussion forum there, like us at facebook.com/vcfederation, and follow us through twitter.com/vcfederation.

Finally, if you have questions or comments, then please feel free to contact me directly.

Thank you,
Evan Koblentz
Director, Vintage Computer Federation
Evan@vcfed.org

Expanding the Federation leadership

We have two new board members! Michael Brutman and William Degnan. Welcome, gentlemen.

Mike grew up wanting to work for IBM and got his wish for 18 years. (He continues to be gainfully employed in tech.) When nobody is looking he writes networking code for DOS so that his PCjrs and related machines can sneak onto the Internet. Other passions include flying and trying to keep up with home improvement projects.

Bill collects everything from minicomputers to 8-bitters. By day he’s an independent programmer and web developer. By night he’s a bass player and Frisbee golf fan. He co-founded the Federation’s original Mid-Atlantic chapter.

Learn more about our governance.

Coming soon: Vintage Computer Federation BBS!

Everyone should experience the joy of connecting to an authentic dial-up bulletin board service. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. 🙂

It’s why we ordered an 8-port analog PBX with a GSM module today.

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Our plan is to connect this to a PC running the MajorBBS software. Visitors at our museum and at Vintage Computer Festival East (or heck, why not bring it with us to VCF West too?) will get to pick from a selection of vintage computers, hear a dial tone, hear the handshake, and be productive at 300-2400 bps. People could also telnet in over the Internet and, in phase two, dial in through the GSM connection.

We’ll share an update this winter when the PBX arrives.

Reaching our goals

Vintage Computer Federation has big dreams. We’re restructuring our organization to help make them come true.

Our mission is to empower collectors, grow the community, and teach everyone about computer history. We especially want to raise interest in computer history among young people.

To do so, we are planning many changes. For example, we want to expand the Vintage Computer Festival event series, offer new resources on the vcfed.org site, foster regional chapters, and improve our museum space. There are still other ideas that we hope to share in 2017 and beyond.

We firmly believe these goals are attainable and imperative. However, as an all-volunteer unit, there simply isn’t enough time to devote to our cause without overly sacrificing time spent at our regular jobs, being with family, collecting vintage computers, and so on.

As such, effective today, Vintage Computer Federation co-founder Evan Koblentz is stepping down as president and accepts the new position of part-time director. Evan is the Federation’s first employee. He reports to the board. Evan will continue day-to-day administration of the Federation and will embark on new fundraising initiatives.

Erik Klein, formerly vice president, is now board chairman. Jeffrey Brace, also formerly a vice president, is now vice-chairman. Corey Cohen retains his role as business manager.

We feel this new structure will help us gain resources, meet our goals, and continue to save and teach computer history for many years to come.

Vintage Computer Federation Inc. is a 501(c) non-profit organization.

Many more videos are posted!

We recently acquired a huge amount of video from the original Vintage Computer Festival West (1997-2007) in addition to our own videos from last month’s reincarnated Vintage Computer Festival West XI. The first batch of old & new videos are already processed and on our YouTube channel. Many more will be posted soon! Stay tuned to this blog or to our Facebook / Twitter accounts for updates. (PS.: Some of the audio quality isn’t great. We apologize for that.)

VCF West XI: news, photos, and more

Vintage Computer Festival West XI last weekend saw more than 1,000 attendees. Huge thank-you to all who attended, exhibited, gave lectures, consigned, volunteered, helped us spread the word, and supported us overall. Special thanks to the Computer History Museum for hosting us, Hackaday and The MADE for being sponsors, and the many organizations that helped with marketing including the Living Computer Museum, ACM, Computer Science Teachers Association, and CharityBuzz.

We are processing the lecture videos and will post links here when they’re ready.

Meanwhile, there are some excellent pictures, articles, and videos already online. Hackaday covered us here and here. Organizations and people who posted include TechRepublic, TechCrunch, San Jose Mercury NewsSD Times, Mike Brutman, Bill Degnan, and Jim Stephens. Jim also posted video as did Marc Verdiell. Let us know if you’d like to share your own media of the show!