I was surprised and honored to be nominated for the VCF board!
I’ve been fiddling with computers, and by proxy vintage computers about as
long as I can remember. When you’re just getting started cast-off old
machines are your playground!
In 2003 my father and I made the trip from Michigan to DC to visit the
Smithsonian museums. At that time there was a whole section at the National
Museum of American History dedicated to the history of computers. I was
really looking forward to this – and was so disappointed. Static machines,
turned off, behind plexiglas. There was an Alto that either had the worst
case of screen burn, or the CRT replaced with a plastic slide. In either
case it wasn’t illuminated. There was an IBM PC and Mac 128k, behind
plexiglas, turned off.
This is one of the main things I like about VCF: We are able to present
systems that work, systems you can touch, systems you can experience.
Having a static display of “Oh, look at this hunk of metal and beige
plastic” just doesn’t do it for me.
If elected to the board, I’ll continue this tradition of making the full
experience of a system available to our guests.
I got my start with computers in 1978 when I was 9 years old. My parents bought a computer for my older brother (18 at the time) from the electronics store that occupied the other half of our Tackle Shop building at the family business. Ritchie Potter sold marine electronics, ham radio equipment, you name it, and this new thing from a company called Apple Computer. That Apple II from early 1978 became mine when my brother went to college that fall, and the rest is history!
About 7 years ago I pulled my old Apple II machines out of storage, looked online to see if anyone was still into these “old machines” and discovered, amongst other things, VCF East.
I attended the second day, and I’ve literally never left! The last 6+ years have not only rekindled my love for the machines of my youth, many of which I still own, but given me an opportunity to work with and appreciate machines I had only heard of or never knew existed.
I was honored to be appointed to the Steering Committee last year. Having spent time working in the warehouse and museum as docent, attending workshops, Festivus and being an exhibitor and a volunteer for the last half a dozen VCF Easts has given me the opportunity to work with people and computers like never before, and made me realize I want to continue doing it in the future. My proximity to Infoage gives me the unique ability to be at Infoage as much as work (and my wife) will permit.
The Steering Committee has given me the opportunity to dig deeper into the behind the scenes work needed to maintain and expand the VCF collection, work alongside and foster relationships with management and the other groups at Infoage and the township, all while spending time with vintage computers (and sneaking in some game time on a few machines in the museum when no one else is around)
If elected by the membership this year to the seat I was appointed to by the National Board last year, I will continue to work to expand and improve our collection, museum and VCF’s presence and mission.
I have been into computing for most of my life, getting my early start playing with my Dad’s Atari 130XE which I received when he upgraded to a then-new 386. The Atari became mine and I spent a not so insignificant amount of time with that machine, playing games, typing in programs from old Antic magazines, and getting a feel for computing. I progressed, upgrading to better and better machines, mostly built from the used parts as my dad upgraded. We went to computer shows to source the components and I developed a fascination with old machines.
Between garage sale finds and things bought from the bargain piles at the computer shows, I have been accumulating various interesting vintage machines. I learned how they worked and about electronics in general driving my parents crazy by dragging home broken televisions and VCRs found in the trash in our neighborhood to take apart and tinker with. Between this and books from the library and various old Usenet posts on the Internet, I learned how these things work.
My experience varies throughout vintage computers of all kinds, from microcomputers to large minicomputers to mainframe type machines and I am also proficient in the repair of CRT monitors and terminals. I taught myself how to read schematics, and how microprocessors worked, and became familiar with a wide variety of hardware. I have been collecting and repairing vintage computers since the late 1990s, and was part of several message boards and mailing lists. In 2006, at VCF East 3, I became involved with the group then known as MARCH, and continue to be an active member.
Several recent improvements made to the museum and warehouse have brought me pleasure. I enjoy the idea of changing the exhibits in the museum regularly – not only does it provide a new experience to returning visitors, but it gives us the opportunity to repair and present a different machine that would otherwise be languishing on a shelf. The ongoing warehouse efforts to organize, catalog and redistribute items into worthy members’ hands are a welcome, positive change. As a part of the Steering Committee, I hope to continue these policies and feel I can particularly bring useful hardware knowledge to the table and assist with the evaluation and repair of artifacts, especially as it applies to large minicomputers and more obscure machines.
The quest to collect, to rescue, to repair and to track down these machines has been the bulk of my life’s focus, and I hope this knowledge will benefit VCF as a whole as it continues to grow and reach new heights.
My name is Alexander Jacocks, and I am a candidate for an open seat on the VCF steering committee. I joined what was then MARCH, back in August of 2011, making this my 9th year of being associated with the group. My wife and I visited the museum, in its old location, just a month afterwards, where we first met Evan. He gave us a tour of the collection, and I immediately realized that I had found a group of kindred souls.
My interest in joining the steering committee is mostly centered on moving forward the efforts surrounding improvements to the museum. The things that I think are the most important are:
1) to determine if VCF (and InfoAge itself) can get a longer-term lease for the Camp Evans facility
– The commission of significant resources to the needed building improvements only makes sense if we have some sort of guarantee that we won’t have to find a new facility, in the near term. Thanks so much to Jason Perkins, and to Curtis Craddock, for the donation and delivery of the portable air conditioning units!
2) to work with the other committee members to improve our accession process
– We need to make sure that we document the date, donor, and any stories passed on to us, as part of a donation. We also need to make sure that we don’t end up with artifacts that do not fit our collection. Additionally, we need to consider the documentation of any significant artifacts, once they are in our position, with photographs, and note on condition. As part of this effort, we need to finish the implementation of a collections database that others have worked on.
3) to establish or enhance relationships with other computer and technology focused museums, and to forge links with local universities with museum studies programs
– Both of these efforts will help VCF to find assistance outside of our ranks. Primarily, I would like to see us start to bring in interns to help our work on sorting, cleaning, and documentation of our existing collection. Everyone who has worked in the warehouse has accomplished an incredible amount, but there is always more to do. University students who are working towards becoming curators need to do internships as part of their degree programs, and they can pass along knowledge to us that we may not already have.
4) to bring new members to the organization and to make them feel welcome
– This may seem like an obvious thing to many of us, but I believe that we need to reach out further and to make sure that others feel that they are welcome in our midst. Specifically, I would like to see us have more active members from non-traditional computing backgrounds. It can seem intimidating to join an organization like VCF, if nobody looks or sounds like you! I’m sure that none of us intend to come off that way, but it’s still something that I think we need to consider.
I care deeply about this organization, and am ready and willing to help to build it to even greater heights. In all of my efforts, I am significantly assisted by my wife, Amy, who is the brains of our household, and has significant professional experience with museums, small and large.
Last, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to get VCF to this point. We wouldn’t be here without our founders, Evan, and Andy, our founding members, including Bill Degnan and Herb Johnson, our local officers Jeff and Corey, and without the work of everyone here. I don’t know our other officers (Erik Klein, Michael Brutman, and Dag Spicer), but I hope to forge a good working relationship with them, as well. Let me also say thank you, for the many hours of labor that so many have put into the museum, speifically including Tony Bogan, Adam Michlin, Bill Dromgoole, and Jeff Jonas. I am truly in awe of what you have accomplished. Please consider yourself thanked, even if I have neglected to mention your name!
I’m an engineer in my early 50s, and I’ve been passionate about
technology since I was a child. As a teenager in the mid-1980s, I lucked
into a DEC PDP-11/34A, a powerful computer system about the size of two
household refrigerators placed side-by-side, and it resided in my
bedroom. It wasn’t an “antique computer” at the time; it was just old
enough to be mostly unwanted in a typical commercial environment. But it
belonged to a class of systems known as “minicomputers”, which are
powerful, serious machines designed for scientific or business
applications. While all of my friends were playing games on their little
Atari, Apple, and Commodore systems, I taught myself a half dozen or so
programming languages on that big PDP-11. This naturally and directly
led to my career as an engineer.
Using large, powerful computers both at work and at home is just how my
life has always been. I loved my systems, and I ended up just keeping
the old ones as I upgraded, occasionally running them for fun an
nostalgia in my free time.
I’ve been peripherally involved with VCF for many years, starting early
in the MARCH era, helping out here and there behind the scenes with
hardware donations and swaps, donation transport, and general advice and
guidance. If elected to a Steering Committee seat, my intention would
be to provide further, much closer guidance and technical assistance on
the “big iron” side, to round out the VCF presentations a bit. And, as
the head of LSSM in Pittsburgh, another big focus of mine would be much
closer collaboration and involvement between VCF and LSSM.