Position Statement Chris Fala

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Chris Fala – Position Statement for Steering Committee 

Greetings VCF Members,

I am Chris Fala, and for over two years I have been a member of the VCF
Mid-Atlantic Steering Committee and the Chairman of the Committee for the
past year. Below is a brief self-introduction, and my thoughts on the
future of VCF and why I feel I’m worthy of your vote to stay on the
Steering Committee. I hope you read further. and I look forward to
receiving your confidence and vote as we move forward with the improvement
and expansion of VCF.

I grew up in the 1970s-80s in southern New Jersey. My first exposure to the
world of computing was as a teenager in school on a TRS-80 model 1 (the
only computer in the school) which I used to teach myself how to program in
BASIC. Later, my sister who was a Commodore employee gave me a VIC-20 for
Christmas that she got with her “employee discount” which I recently
discovered was actually $0 (Bil Herd confirmed to me that this was a
legitimate thing at Commodore!). I spent hundreds of hours programming that
computer, trying to create games and other software, as I did not own any
official software. I also learned to directly access the hardware thanks to
the wonderful Programmer’s Reference Guide book. In college, I learned
Pascal and FORTRAN on the Apple IIe computers that were in the very small
computer lab, and learned C at a different school on a VAX system. I have
many other parallel experiences in my young days where I learned about
electronics, experiences which were very impactful to me. Without further
extending this document, suffice it to say that these experiences built a
foundation that firmly rooted my interests in technology. While some who
know me may think of me as a “Commodore guy”, rest assured I have a deep
appreciation for, and interest in promoting, all computer innovations
wherever and whenever they may have occurred in history.

While my personal history has some interesting events that have directed my
life’s path to where it is today, I feel my history is less relevant than
my vision for the future.

With the wonderful events that VCF makes available to its members at the
InfoAge campus, such as workshops, swap-meets, our Holiday Membership
Party, etc., we have a place to hang out, have fun, get to know people, and
play/work with our toys. These gatherings make VCF-MA much more than just a
museum and festival. We are a community of like-minded appreciators of
creativity, preservation, history, and technology. I doubt that this
dynamic will ever change, and I feel that it can only be enhanced by the
growth that I believe we need and deserve.

I have huge aspirations for the future of VCF. Since my first Vintage
Computer Festival, I have been in awe at the literal genius that has been
displayed at our tables. The skill and creativity that I have seen, I feel,
has been sadly underrated based on the size of the event. Instead of being
exposed to hundreds of people, I believe the great creations of our members
and exhibitors should be seen by thousands, if not millions. The level of
genius that I describe appears (in my opinion) to be better expressed at
VCF-East than at other events. I have not had the luxury of attending many
other related events, and I intend no insult or criticism of them. However,
I have heard many testimonies and seen many videos that have painted a
clear enough picture to help me firmly believe that what we have here at
East is very special.

Recently, in conversation where VCF-East was being compared to the other
VCFs, I have heard the term “science fair” attributed to our festival. At
face value, I feel this description can be construed as an insult. A
science fair by definition is usually a children’s event. Our festival is a
science treasure trove! Our exhibitors don’t just say, “here, look at this
cool old computer”. We present fully functional demonstrations of how they
were used in their heyday, dig into the innovations that were foundations
for later technology, promote appreciation for historic creativity that was
derivative of nothing, and invent modern ways to tap into the old
technology while honoring the history. The high caliber of speakers that
have presented at VCF-East speak for themselves (literally!). If you don’t
know, go check out our YouTube channel and see the many historical figures
who have been at our campus. We have an embarrassment of riches.

Our host, InfoAge, possesses history that is unmatched by most other
venues. While logistics can be challenging when putting on an event, those
challenges don’t compare with more significant facts. For example: 1.
Marconi himself worked here. 2. The communications dish was significant in
early space exploration. 3. Other museums on campus are exceptional,
relevant, and unique. These are just a few reasons why the home of our
museum is also a great home to our biggest public event!

We have in our museum several extremely rare artifacts. The UNIVAC, which
is one of very few that is still FUNCTIONAL. The Philbrick Researches tube
based analog computer (that we affectionately refer to as “George”) which
we have been told was assembled to be a teaching computer and likely never
existed elsewhere in this configuration. Our IBM 1130. Our Wang 4000. Our
PDP “straight” 8. The list goes on. Are we the best computer museum? The
most complete? The most convenient? The most attractive? The most well
known? The easy answer to those questions is no. However, we have an
opportunity to change that last one. We need to be foremost in people’s
thoughts when they think of a great place to learn about computer history.
We should make every effort to make VCF-MA well known to anyone who is at
all interested in technology.

If elected to remain a member of the Mid-Atlantic Steering Committee, I
will continue to promote the growth of all the great things I mentioned
above. If you agree with me that these should be our priorities, I
respectfully ask for your vote.

Chris Fala
Chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Steering Committee of the Vintage Computer