Hands-on demonstrations of historic computing are the heart of the Vintage Computer Festival series. You will find several dozen exhibits totaling more than a 100 vintage computer demonstrations all in one place!
(March 1, 2017 — Exhibit registration for VCF East XII is closed. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration as a late entry.)
Note: This year, in addition to regular exhibits, there will be team exhibits to honor the 40th anniversary of computer launches in 1977. These exhibits will each be the size of five or six regular exhibits.
Team 1: AppleDappleDudes — Tony Bogan (captain), Brielle, New Jersey; Corey Cohen, Matawan, New Jersey; Mouse Kelly, Jersey City, New Jersey;Adam Michlin, Ledgewood, New Jersey; Joseph Oprysko, Hatboro, Pennsylvania.
Team 2: Commodorians — Anthony Becker, Ossining, New York; Chris Fala, Lansdale, Pennsylvania; Todd George (captain), Quakertown, Pennsylvania; Bill Winters, Tarrytown, New York.
Team 3: TRanSistors — Peter Cetinski; Chappaqua, New York; Kelly Leavitt, Wantage, New Jersey; Dean Notarnicola (captain), Long Valley, New Jersey; Drew Notarnicola, Long Valley, New Jersey; Jeffrey Jonas, Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Following are the standard exhibits. This list is frequently updated.
Battle Chess: Tournament of Micros — Peter Fletcher, Quakertown, Pennsylvania; Joe Decker, Perkasie, Pennsylvania — In 1988, Interplay Entertainment released Battle Chess for the Commodore Amiga. “Great, yet another computer chess game, how very exciting,” you are probably sarcastically thinking to yourself. But you would be wrong! Battle Chess is anything but ordinary. In Battle Chess, the pieces come alive and do animated combat right on the board. The pieces each have unique attacks and parries which vary depending upon opponent. The knight, for example, does his best Monty Python and the Holy Grail black knight impersonation whilst battling another knight. Each animation is distinct and quite humorous. Not convinced yet? Funny animations not your thing? Well cartoon combat is only half of it! Battle Chess was not just released on the Amiga, but was also available on a wide variety of other micros. It appeared for the Apple II, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Macintosh, MS-DOS, Windows and many more. This variety came with an added bonus. Each of these micros could play against any of the other micros via modem. Though head to head modem play is pretty cool, by 1988 that was not particularly unique among chess programs. What is special is that Battle Chess can play these head-to-head matches autonomously. The micros will engage in combat without human intervention: a micro vs. micro tournament for platform supremacy! Which micro will claim the top spot in the Battle Chess Tournament?
Cold War computing: Relics of SAGE — Mike Loewen, State College, Pennsylvania — The heart of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system was the IBM-built AN/FSQ-7 computer, the largest computer ever built. It used approximately 55,000 vacuum tubes and consumed 3MW of power. The SAGE network was in continuous operation from 1958-1983 and incorporated innovations such as core memory, video displays, keyboard and light gun input, duplexed systems, computer controlled marginal checking, and digital communications over telephone lines. This exhibit will feature hardware from SAGE including control panels, core memory, pluggable units, a Typotron digital display tube and other miscellaneous items, plus continuously running audio/visual materials.
A Serving of Apple Portables — Rick Karrer, Galloway, New Jersey — Come see a timeline of Apple portable computers including the Newton eMate, Macintosh Portable, and first-generation versions of the Powerbook and Macbook. This exhibit will show how far we’ve come in portable computing and what you can do to keep old machines chugging along today. Many of the systems on display are upgraded with solid state boot drives and other modifications while retaining their original appearance and function.
European Home Computers — Jeremie Marsin, Brockville, Canada, and Thierry Mazzoleni, Montclair, New Jersey — Following our French Computers exhibit from last year, we will expand to all Europe this year with microcomputers from the 1980s and 1990s. France, the U.K., Italy, and possibly even the U.S.S.R. will be represented with machines from Amstrad, Exelvision, Matra-Hackette, Micronique, Olivetti,Philips, Radiola, Schneider, Sinclair, and Thomson.
Pre-Raster Graphics — David Gesswein, Bethesda, Maryland — Multiple graphics technologies will be exhibited that were common before raster graphics won. See 4K graphics on a 1970s Tektronix 4014 vector storage terminal. Have your picture taken by a PDP-8 computer and printed on a 200 line-per-minute chain printer in glorious ASCII art. See a pen plotter operate.
Commodore 64 Active Assembly Programming — Jeff Salzman, York, Pennsylvania — A recent discovery of original source code belonging to an avid Commodore 64 user from the 1980s revealed 15-plus disks of custom utility software written in 6502 assembler. Some of this software will be demonstrated as ephemera, a view into the past use of a Commodore 64 by one of its users. Another demonstration will show how he was able to use two C-64s connected together to actively write and test his software without having to frequently access the disk drive or reload the developer environment.
Vintage Toys & Noise — Michael Hill, Daly City, California — This exhibit will show a selection of audio/visual gadgetry used with vintage computers, including an interactive exhibit using Commodore, Apple, and other machines interfaced with some modern hardware to create sound and visual effects.
Going Forth Into the Past — Brian Stuart, Gloucester, New Jersey — In the late 1960s Charles Moore developed the Forth programming language as a tool for efficiently developing control systems. Ever since, it’s found application in domains ranging from tiny embedded systems, to monitoring sorting belts at FedEx, to implementing workstation consoles, to controlling large telescopes, to controlling large laser arrays doing fusion research. Like LISP before it, Forth developed an avid following of programmers who understood how to use it as a meta-language for creating application specific languages customized to the problem at hand. It has a direct connection to the theory of Turing completeness and is one of the simplest languages to implement. This exhibit celebrates this amazing language by demonstrating several different implementations of Forth on a variety of hardware, all accompanied by educational material to help the viewer understand that concepts behind the language.
HeathKit H8 & H89 — Alex Bodnar, Oxford, Pennsylvania — Two of the three eight-bit Heathkit computers will be demonstrated. Still running after 40 years the venerable Heath machines still compile, run programs, and have many different disk I/O methods for different floppy set-ups such as SSSD, SSDD, DSDD, and DSSD both on hard- and soft-sector formats.
SCELBI 8B Reproduction — Mike Willegal, Tewksbury, Massachusetts — The intention of this exhibit is to demonstrate a reproduction SCELBI 8B and associated software. This is the second and last version of the SCELBI line of 8008-based hobby computers. The SCELBI 8B was released in 1975. There are no known original SCELBI 8Bs in fully operating condition. Hardware consists of the main chassis connected to reproduction cassette, oscilloscope CRT, and keyboard I/O interfaces. The software consists of the original integrated development environment called MEA, (monitor, editor, assembler). You will be able to play Star Shooter, a game for 8008 computers. The game was published in the Byte Magazine issue of May 1976. Using Star Shooter as the target example, you will also be able to see how software development works in the MEA environment.
Kermit and the Brain — Douglas Crawford, Pottstown, Pennsylvania — This exhibit shows the Intertec Superbrain and its historical role in file transfer technology. In 1981 Columbia University pioneered the application of microcomputers for enabling students to transfer their minicomputer and mainframe work files to and from their own personal floppy disk storage. The first client version of Kermit was implemented on the Intertec Superbrain. From that point Columbia University fostered a grand project that spread Kermit to nearly every execution platform in existence. It might be said that our downloads and uploads we do today over the Internet owe some respect to the Superbrain in its first file transfer to floppy. This exhibit will include: a Superbrain QD computer recently restored to operation, highlights of the restoration effort, unique aspects of the Superbrain’s design, the Superbrain’s role at Columbia University as the first Kermit client platform, period development tools, and a build of an early Z-80 assembler version of the Kermit client that I’m making. It will also demonstrate Kermit file exchange using the Superbrain and possibly running the “built” Kermit client along with a presentation of noteworthy Kermit details, history, and its significance to today.
Mechanical Computing — Bob Roswell, Hunt Valley, Maryland — I will bring a selection of devices that add, subtract, multiply, and divide using gears, motors, sliders, and fluid components. If I can make progress on it, I may bring a pneumatic word processor! It works like a player piano, but the “piano roll” controls a typewriter. The exhibit includes Digicomp computers (Dr. Nim, Think-a-Dot, Digicomp I, DigiComp II, and some replicas) along with other training computers.
Silicon Graphics Indy: Unix Multimedia on the “Cheap” — Jameel Akari, Troy, New York — SGI was, from the mid-1980s to the late 199s, one of the pioneers in modern 3-D graphics and visualization. Software innovations such as OpenGL complemented their advanced hardware-accelerated graphics capabilities. SGI systems played an integral role in 3-D special effects in movies and television, and have been credited by name in a number of Hollywood movies. All these capabilities don’t come cheap — unless it’s the year 1993 and you have a flexible definition of “cheap.” SGI’s new Indy workstation brought (relatively) high performance graphics, video, and multimedia all in one neat package, at a then-attractive price point. I will demonstrate an Indy running its native IRIX operating system, first-of-its-kind IndyCam videoconference camera, and graphics demonstration software. Visitors will have the opportunity to play with this system and have their picture taken and printed as a souvenir.
Atari Says Its First Words — Bill Lange, Somerset, New Jersey — This exhibit features a sample of the speech synthesizer products available for the Atari 8-bit home computers, including both hardware and software-based solutions, such as the Voice Box by The Alien Group and S.A.M (the Software Automatic Mouth) by Don’t Ask Software, that began appearing around 1982. While the output would never have been mistaken for human voice and the verbal quality is understandable at best, these speech synthesizer products were an interesting addition to anyone’s home computer setup as shown in the 1983 movie Wargames. Come. Come hear Atari speak!
Vintage Mac Museum — Adam Rosen, Malden, Massachusetts, and Matthew Bergeron, Providence, Rhode Island — With a product lifespan more than three decades long, many variants and oddities exist in the Apple Macintosh universe. For VCF East XII the Vintage Mac Museum will again show off a number of rare and unusual items from the collection, including: the clear sided “HyperDrive” Mac 512k; a Macintosh Portable, Outbound and DynaMac laptop clones, and their successors the PowerBook 1xx series; a (black) Macintosh TV running old Apple advertisements and videos; a working Apple Lisa with LisaOffice software; the always fun Color Classic (with After Dark “fish” screensaver), and a Macintosh Picasso Dealer sign.
Southwest Technical Products — Michael Holley, Bothell, Washington — Southwest Technical Products began selling audio and test equipment kits in 1964. The kits were based on projects published in magazines like Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics. They sold the kit for Don Lancaster’s 1973 TV Typewriter that was published in Radio Electronics. The February 1975 issue had a much improved computer terminal, the CT-1024. Later that year a computer based on the Motorola 6800 microprocessor was released. In the mid-1980’s they focused on point-of-sale computer systems. The display will include early audio and test equipment, a nixie tube clock, along with a computer with floppy disk and terminal. There will also be selection of period magazine and catalogs.
MicroVax and PDP-11 — Douglas Taylor, Indian Head, Maryland — In the mid-1980s Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) began selling smaller versions of the popular VAX and PDP-11 line of computers. These were big hits since they fit into the office environments and blended in… somewhat. The exhibit consists of a working MicroVax II running VMS 5.5 and 7.2, along with a working MicroPDP-11/53 running RT-11. Each computer is configured to boot from a SCSI interface disk. Rather than actual SCSI disks the computers use SCSI2SD adapters to attach microSD memory cards as disk storage.
Microsoft Xenix on the Apple Lisa — Jason Perkins, Springfield, Virginia and Eric Rucker, Newark, Ohio — I will demonstrate Xenix, which is the Microsoft/SCO implementation of AT&T Unix. Planned demos include text processing, development, spreadsheets, email, file transfer, and general Unix goodness. A MicNet RS232 network between varied hardware will be shown, including an Apple Lisa 2/10, IBM Portable PC 5155, Tandy, and serial terminal.
An Atari Secure Digital Trifecta — Ralph Dodd, Toms River, New Jersey — On display are three Atari 800XL computers driven by modern electronics and fueled from 2GB secure digital cards. One has a built-in SIO2SD device that allows you to load games/applications into 8-bit Atari computers via SIO interface from SD/MMC cards. A 16×2 LCD display allows manual selection of programs or selection can be made from an onscreen menu. The second one has a built-in SDrive. The SDrive is a device that connects to Atari XL/XE’s serial (SIO) port and simulates an Atari floppy disk drive with full read/write access to programs and data stored on a Secure Digital flash card (SD). An onscreen menu makes program selection easy. The third 800XL has 128 8K ROM images stored internally which are selectable from seven switches on top of the case. A device known as the Ultimate Cart is plugged into the cartridge slot. This cart runs almost all ROM images ever created and also runs Atari executable files. An SD card plugs into the top of the cart to supply the data.
Ready Player Vintage — Stephen Mayo, Grafton, Massachusetts — This exhibit will showcase the games and other material from the popular book and upcoming movie Ready Player One. Games from the book will be playable on vintage systems such as the Dragon32, Tandy Color Computer, Atari 2600, etc. A scoreboard will be kept for those who can complete the challenges as in the book.
Hot CoCo — Anthony Stramaglia, Florham Park, New Jersey — In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the home computer market was filled with 6502-based offerings. But in 1980, Tandy Corporation threw their own hat in the home computer ring and offered a Motorola 6809E-based micro called the Radio Shack Color Computer — affectionately known as the CoCo. It developed a devoted following, and as a result, Tandy released two more generations, the Color Computer II in 1983 and III in 1986. A low-cost entry-level “little brother” called the MC-10 was also released in 1983. I will exhibit all three generations, an MC-10. and a variety of peripherals, games and other applications.
Digging through the Trash — Tom Hornberger, Spring City, Pennsylvania — This exhibit features my start in “microcomputering” 🙂 The hardware includes my TRS-80 Model I and expansion interface with aftermarket floppy drives, the system desk, and a DMP-105 printer. Software includes word processing with LeScript, program development tools for Asm & FORTRAN, and games featuring Dancing Demon, Pinball and other favorites, plus various books including the “Better and Faster” series from IDG Publishing. Also on display will be the recent “discoveries” at my childhood home of the shipping boxes for my Model I, expansion interface and DMP-105 printer. For the strong of heart, I’ll have pictures of the modifications I made to my Model I to enhance its looks and performance.
A Chiptune Modular Synthesizer Gig Box — Brendan Becker, Baltimore, Maryland — What happens when your job is to write music on pre-1990s computers and consoles, and things aren’t hard enough as it is? Make them harder, of course, by building your own synthesizer and music software to control it! Inverse Phase will be showing off his in-progress chiptune gig box, which will allow him to produce authentic sound from eight (or more) systems simultaneously, all without having to carry each of the systems to shows and the like. Also available will be demos of various hacked software that enable chiptune creation on modern PCs, which can then be easily ported to retro hardware.
Internet Archive — Jason Scott, Hopewell Junction, New York — An introduction to the Internet Archive and its many aspects to preserve information content.