VCF West — Exhibits

** back to show homepage **

Hands-on demonstrations of historic computing are the heart of the Vintage Computer Festival series. Update, July 9: Exhibit registration for VCF West is full. See you at the show!

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment — Oakland, California — Located at 3400 Broadway in Oakland, the MADE is a non-profit videogame museum dedicated to preserving our digital history through playable exhibits of significant works, and free programming classes. The MADE also partakes in antique software restoration, and recently open-sourced Habitat, the Commodore 64 MMO.

Microdata and DEC — Jim Stephens and Sherman Foy, Orange, California — Demonstrations of various DEC minicomputers with various operating systems, such as the PDP-8/A and PDP-11/73, along with a Microdata 1600 simulator. DEC front panels will also be shown.

Southwest Technical Products Computers — Michael Holley, Bothell, Washington — Southwest Technical Products Corp. was founded in 1964 by Daniel Meyer to sell kits of electronics parts to hobbyists so they could build projects featured in Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics magazines. These kits were typically audio amplifiers and test equipment. SWTPC started in Daniel’s garage and grew to over $1 million by 1972. In November 1975 SWTPC released a computer kit based on the Motorola 6800 microprocessor. SWTPC remained in business until the late 1980s. A wide range of kits will be displayed, including audio amps, test equipment, training aids, digital clocks, and computers.

The Tomy Tutor Family — Cameron Kaiser, Rialto, California — The Tomy Tutor was an unusual computer targeted at children. Based on the Texas Instruments home computer series, it was a commercial failure but remains beloved by those that grew up with it. The exhibit will include U.S. and Japanese cartridges, and examples of the Pyuuta, its equivalent in Japan.

IBM 1130 — Carl Claunch, Los Altos, California — Come see an IBM 1130 in all its glory. The exhibit consists of the 1131 processor, 1132 line printer, and a custom interface box for peripherals. There will be virtual drives, virtual card reader/punch, a plotter, and more. The exhibit may also include a replica 1130 based on FPGA technology.

Early Sun Workstations & Ethernet Technology — Robert Harker, San Mateo, California — This exhibit features four vintage Sun Microsystems computers — 1/100U workstation, 1/150U server, 3/50 workstation, and 3/160 workstation — along with circuit boards showing early Sun hardware designs as well as early Sun sales literature and price lists. It also shows early Ethernet hardware including 10Base-5, 10Base-T, transceivers, and tapping tools.

HP-85 and Peripherals — Marc Verdiell, Atherton, California — Released in 1979, the HP-85 is a classic milestone in professional microcomputer design. It is the scientific “Macintosh” of the pre-PC area. It combines the attributes of a desktop programmable scientific calculator (a field that HP was dominating), minicomputer-like modular I/O capabilities to control instrumentation and peripherals (another area that HP dominated), and a BASIC general purpose computer. It’s all combined in a light, small footprint design, no bigger than a large typewriter. Versatile, easy to use and program, the HP-85 retained a strong foothold in laboratory automation settings and personal scientific computing well into the PC era. Here it will be presented in driving classic professional HP peripherals of its era:  big HP 9-track magnetic tapes, large dot-matrix printers, scientific plotters, and top-of-the-line HP scientific instruments.

Living Computer Museum — Stephen Jones, Seattle, Washington — The Living Computer Museum features working examples of vintage computers and gaming systems which highlight the achievements of early pioneering engineers. Located in the SoDo district of Seattle, the Living Computer Museum provides public access to restored computer systems of historical importance. From mainframes of the 1960s to the 1980s Commodore 64 to the modern-day Xbox One, experience the changes in computing technology by seeing, hearing, and interacting with milestones of computing history.

Solid-State Monopoly Game — Stephen Casner, Sunnyvale, California — This exhibit features a one-of-a-kind implementation of the famous board game Monopoly where all operations are controlled by a vintage microprocessor and there are no loose pieces, hence the “Solid-State” title. It is built as an oak table for four players to sit around. The game board is laminated to an aluminum panel inlaid in the center with about 500 LEDs of four colors embedded in it to indicate player position, property ownership and improvements. In the center of the board sits a video monitor to display Chance and Community Chest cards and property deed cards. Smaller aluminum panels for each of the four players surround the center panel. Each contains big, lighted buttons to roll the dice and collect rent plus a calculator keypad and display to show the player’s cash balance and allow the player to perform transactions. The game was designed and initially built in 1978 and took first prize at the Personal Computing Festival Contest that was part of the 1978 National Computer Conference. The IMSAI 8080 that first served as the controller will also be on display, but it has been replaced by a small S-100 backplane mounted inside the table and containing three boards including an SD Systems SBC-200 Z80 computer. The software includes a little OS kernel so there can be a separate process for each player as well as the main process that runs the bank and performs the game functions. It’s all written in assembly language and occupies less than 16KB of ROM and 8KB of RAM.

Multics Reborn — Charles Anthony, Startup, Washington — This exhibit will show the historic Multics operating system on emulated hardware.

Tim Jenison’s Early Work — Tim Lindner, Concord, California — Before Tim Jenison created the video toaster, he created the DS-69, the Digisector for the Tandy Color Computer — a video digitizer for composite signals. After the Macintosh was released Tim made a nearly identical version of McPaint for the Tandy Color Computer called CoCo Max. Both the video digitizer and software will be available to use on a working machine.

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.

Rare Computers From Japan — Duncan Mac Dougall, Santa Clara, California, and Mitch Zollinger, Los Gatos, California — Through the dawn of the computer age, Japan had its own separate ecosystem of personal computers that did not reach Western shores. This exhibit aims to show several different running examples of some of the more impressive platforms that most of the West missed out on – namely the X68000, PC-98, and MSX2+.

Life with Micros — David Henderson, Tempe, Arizona — This exhibit presents various microcomputers running John Conway’s Game of Life and allows the attendees to interact. The computers are a Commodore 64 with custom-built “life engine” hardware board, Jupiter Ace with Life written in a mix of assembly and FORTH, and Cosmac RCA 1802 Elf with Life written in machine language. There will be a joystick available for attendees to populate a cellular universe and see what happens. A poster board will show the basic game rules, well-known shapes, a schematic for the “life engine”, and historical material about the origin of this cellular automation.

Unique S-100 Boards — John Monahan, San Ramon, California — I will demonstrate new S-100 bus boards in a complete system. This will contain a number of unique/new S-100 boards such as a 80486 CPU board and a CPLD-driven Cromemco-style” Dazzler video board.

DEC Spacewar! — Bob Rosenbloom, Santa Cruz, California, and Lyle Bickley, Mountain View, California — Come play Spacewar! on a DEC PDP-8/M minicomputer with a digital/analog converter board and a vector X-Y monitor. Also see an AlphaMicro.

Replicas with Modern Parts — Oscar Vermeulen, Walchwil, Switzerland — Working systems from the 1960s-1970s are becoming hard to find. Making a replica can be a good way to experience these systems. Replicas come in two flavours: authentic reproductions using original parts, and work-a-likes using modern components. This exhibit will show examples of the second variety. Log in to the PiDP-8/I, a reproduction PDP-8/I hiding a Raspberry Pi inside. Or try 6502 machine code on the KIM Uno, a KIM-1 for less than $10 in parts. Also shown is a prototype PDP-11 remake. All are open-source hardware projects you can make with low-cost, commonly available parts.

MOnSter6502 — Eric Schlaepfer, Sunnyvale, California — MOnSter6502 is a transistor-by-transistor replica of the famous MOS 6502 microprocessor on a circuit board measuring 15″ x 12″. There are 167 LEDs on the board so you can see all the register bits and data path control lines. In total, this board has 4303 components! Project details can be found at

AMI EVK 99 –Larry Pezzolo, Palo Alto, California — The EVK 99 was a single board computer with lot of features and a low price that made it much more popular than the Apple 1 with the Homebrew Computer Club members. It featured a 6800 CPU, a 2K monitor in ROM, 1K of RAM, room for 2K of EPROM, a serial port, lots of parallel lines, a built in EPROM programmer, and lots of documentation. At $133 for a bare board and the major chips it was a good start. Championed by Ray Boaz, (Homebrew computer club treasurer and contributor to the newsletter), a user group formed with Ray as the leader. About the same time an IBM engineer was selling a TV typewriter board of his own design. The engineer was very helpful with getting them up and working. Tom Pittman (in charge of the mailing list for the club) had written a 2K BASIC that he sold for $5 on paper tape and adapted it to run in the 2K of EPROM that was available on board. A $50 keyboard kit from SWTPC ( Southwest Technical Products ) was available to go with the TV typewriter. A homemade UART board to convert the parallel from the TVT and keyboard to serial for the computer and a few surplus circuit boards for parts made had a nice little system for less than $300. Cheap in those days, even in mid 1970s money.

Differential Analyzer — Tim Robinson, Boulder Creek, California — Come see a differential analyzer,modeled on Vannevar Bush’s original design from 1931. The construction medium is Meccano, a construction toy manufactured in the U.K. during most of the 20th century which was used to construct working differential analyzers used at Manchester and Cambridge Universities. The differential analyzer is an analog computer that solves linear and non-linear differential equations. They were used to solve problems in all branches of the physical sciences such as ballistics, electrical engineering, and atomic physics. They were in operational use until the 1950s.

IBM 5100 & 5110 — Wayne Smith, La Canada, California — Beginning in the mid-1970s, before the launch of the IBM PC in 1981, IBM produced a number of machines targeted to universities and small businesses. The first of these was the IBM 5100 Portable Computer in the fall of 1975, followed by the IBM 5110 in 1978. Travel back to a time when you could plausibly claim that a computer tipping the scales at over 50 pounds was a “portable.”

The BIGBIT Computer — Gene Falk, Cupertino, California — BIGBIT is a fully functional computer. It contains 32 bytes of memory, 8 instructions, and operates at one cycle per second. Its display consists of about 450 LEDs on a 4′ x 8′ front panel. See for a picture.

Magic-1 HomebrewCPU — Bill Buzbee, Half Moon Bay, California — Magic-1 is a completely home-built computer (including the CPU) constructed from more then 200 TTL chips and wire-wrap. It made it’s public debut at the 2005 Vintage Computer Festival West and won “Best of Show” at the 2007 edition. Amazingly, it’s still running strong and continues to serve webpages and telnet sessions at when not on display. Details about the project are here:

“Big Mess o’ Wires” Handmade Computers — Steve Chamberlin, Belmont, California — The exhibit will demonstrate several handmade computer systems. BMOW 1 is an original 8-bit CPU design constructed from dozens of simple logic chips. Around this foundation is built a full computer with support for a keyboard, sound, video, and external peripherals. The machine’s name comes from the thousands of hand-placed wire wraps used in its construction. It was featured in Wired and won Editor’s Choice award at the 2009 Bay Area Maker Faire. Nibbler is a smaller-scale custom 4-bit CPU, constructed entirely from 7400-series logic and built with wire-wrap. It’s intended as a demonstration CPU with a design architecture that’s easy to understand and modify. Despite its tiny size, Nibbler can play many interesting games and music demos. 68 Katy is a minimal single-board computer based upon a Motorola 68008 CPU and designed to run the Linux OS. The initial prototype was hand-built on a solderless breadboard, and the final version on a custom-made PCB. The operating system is a modified uClinux kernel squeezed into a few hundred KB, running favorites like vi and Colossal Cave Adventure.

Analog Computing — Dwight Elvey, San Jose, California — This exhibit will demonstrate analog computing with a Heathkit EC-1 and Comdyna LGP-20 used by the U.S. Navy.

TRS-80 Model I with Sargon II chess — Cole Erskine, Portola Valley, California — Test your chess prowess against Sargon II, the strongest commercial chess program of 1980! Created by Dan and Kathe Spracklen, Sargon was the first to use the alpha-beta pruning technique to vastly reduce the search tree of candidate moves and is a component of all modern chess engines today. On display will be Z-80 assembly language source code for the program.

Data General DG-One — Tom Wilson, Palo Alto, California — An early example of today’s laptop design: clamshell case, internal battery, LCD screen, and a built-in modem. We will look at two examples, one for an engineer, and one for business. While hardly portable by today’s standards the DG-One represents the “luggable” compact computer.

The Amazing Amiga — The Amiga 30th Team — Los Gatos, California — Come experience over 30 years of amazing Amiga computer technology. In 1985 the home computer world was revolutionized with a new machine that was affordable, fast, and fun. Amiga quickly gained popularly with gamers, artists, vidographers, and programmers. Amiga still lives today with next generation of hardware and software. The exhibit will feature Amiga systems from the Commodore Amiga 1000 to the A-Eon AmigaOne X5000. Along with the systems, unique peripherals will be displayed like early virtual reality glasses (“X-specs”) and the Live! board with the Mandala software. Each system on display will be running and we encourage visitors to explore them.

Adventure — Thomas Conrad, Morgan Hill, California — Play the first “Adventure” game on a 1982 IBM PC. Input via keyboard, lots of fun!

NorthStar S-100 — Pavl Zachary, Mt. Hamilton, California — Come see a demo of circa-1980 computers. In the early days of personal computers MITS inadvertently created one of the most popular buses of all time, the S-100 bus. In the rush to fill demand for small “personal” computers and peripherals, several companies sprang up almost overnight. One of the earliest in 1977 was NorthStar (originally “Kentucky Fried Computers”) starting with a floating-point processor for the S-100 bus that could do math about 25 times faster than a Z-80. They next produced one of the earliest controllers for the new 5-1/4″ floppy drives and from there it was a short time before they were making complete systems with then-exotic built-in floppy drives.

HP Calculators — Don Apte, San Jose, California — Don worked in product marketing for Hewlett-Packard and will show off his vast calculator collection, including a prototype of the legendary HP-35.