VCF West 2024 — Speakers

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Please note: This year’s show is on Friday and Saturday. There will be no Sunday event.

We have a wonderful group of speakers this year:

Richard RiehleAda speaks – 

The Ada Programming language was developed for the USA Department of Defense in the late 1970’s and became the primary language for developing DoD software with the introduction of the 1983 Ada standard. Until the early 1990’s, it was the mandated language for all DoD software. When the mandate was lifted, Ada was in competition with languages such as C, C++, Java, etc. Unlike most other languages, Ada is designed around engineering principles with complete support for computer programming practice.

Ada is still an important language option, not only for defense projects but also for commercial safety-critical projects. such as avionics, medical, automotive, air traffic control, aerospace, and any kind of application where a software failure would have catastrophic consequences. Most Ada language users are now adopting the ISO Ada 2022 standard which turns-out to be the ideal language design for iterative-incremental processes popular with Agile developers.

Guy Fedorkow – Whirlwind Software Restoration 

The talk Whirlwind Software Restoration provides an overview of the Whirlwind real-time digital computer designed at MIT. When brought on line in 1950, Whirlwind was one of the largest computers in existence. We then focus on restoration of one application of Whirlwind, development and demonstration of an interactive real-time air defense application, using radar data to compute headings to guide piloted interceptor aircraft towards intruders. The 1951 demonstration ultimately evolved into the SAGE continental air defense system.

David GreelishBefore the Macintosh: The Apple Lisa

Before Macintosh: The Apple Lisa” is a fascinating look into the computer that really changed the way we used personal computers; it started the modern personal computer revolution.

The underlying theme of the film is that the Lisa was in fact the unofficial prototype Mac, but there is so much more to tell. Quite a few important people are interviewed from Apple, including John Sculley, Bill Atkinson and John Couch, plus other notable people who were later involved with the Lisa, as well as enthusiasts and collectors.

The film has three parts, “The Lisa at Apple,” “The Lisa after Apple” and “The Lisa today (Legacy).

The video will be presented during the event.

Evie SalomonTesting 678 Chips and Counting

Repairing vintage machines can be extremely frustrating, as anybody who’s worked on one knows. There are numerous troubleshooting tools that can be used, such as a multimeter, logic analyzer, or memory oscilloscope. But what if the problem is internal to an integrated circuit? Layers upon layers of buried logic can take forever to decipher. That’s where automated testing can really come in handy.

Evie will discuss the lessons she’s learned over the last few years from developing the BackBit Chip Tester, what motivates her to keep writing tests, and insights on making even better tests.

Howard Scott WarshawHow Atari DNA Fueled Silicon Valley’s Evolution

Atari lit a match that set the world on fire! The fundamental belief that the right product can change the world (and make us rich and famous) infected everyone who worked there. When Atari ultimately collapsed, over 10K of these people spread throughout the valley, bringing this energy to every company they joined. Howard has been there all along. His talk delves into how this all came to be and how it created other historical landmarks in Silicon history.

Sean HarringtonExtinction Event: Z80 – How will Modern/Retro Survive?

With the impact of Zilog’s announcement in June that the Z80 processor will be discontinued, how will systems that use the CPU be affected? Stockpile NOS and run for the hills? Using the Aquarius+ and ZX Spectrum Next as examples, we’ll talk through the options that collectors and developers will have to consider as the nearly 50 year old processor transitions to the next phase of its existence.

Scott SwazeyLunar Lander and the GT40

A talk about the restoration of the DEC GT40 terminal and the history of the Lunar Lander game running on that device.

Lee FelsensteinPennywhistle 103, the Modem Breakthrough

We will discuss the origin of the Pennywhistle 103 design as a spinoff of the Community Memory Project in 1973, picked up by Marty Spergel (M&R Enterprises) in 1975 and laid out for production by Lee Felsenstein. We review the circuit diagram stage by stage and describe the self-calibration feature, which relies upon handling asynchronous serial data. The active filter design, an original creation, is described and the bidirectional options required for tape recording data and playing it back. We conclude with a discussion of the Kansas City tape standard, written by Felsenstein and Howard Mauch after the eponymous conference held in Kansas City in 1976.

Marcel ErzIntroduction to Digital Electronics: From Schematics to Circuits

Join me for an immersive crash course in digital electronics, where you’ll learn to read simple schematics and assemble digital circuits on a breadboard. This workshop is geared toward beginners who want to extend their vintage computers, focusing on TTL ICs and covering the fundamentals of digital circuit design.

Marcel ErzMastering PCB Design with KiCAD: From Concept to Creation

Dive into the world of PCB design with KiCAD. This session is geared towards beginners. From crafting schematics to generating PCB layouts and ordering prototypes, you’ll gain practical skills applicable to vintage computing and beyond.

Sean Haas – Engelbart, Edge Notched Cards, and Pre-Digital Hypertext

Hypertext is one of those technologies that’s wildly revolutionized the world. It’s one of those wonderful leaps forward that just makes so much sense in digital systems. The random access of links mesh perfectly with the random access of memory. However, there’s a forgotten past to hypertext. Come along as we trace our way back to the earliest days of the link. Before the Internet, before the Mother of All Demos, there were paper systems eerily similar to the modern information superhighway.

There are still spots open, but time is running out! Please contact me if you are interested in speaking.