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