Hands-on demonstrations of historic computing are the heart of the Vintage Computer Festival series.
Update: VCF West XIII exhibit registration is closed. Please consider exhibiting next year.
Floppy and Optical Disks — Foone Turing, Milpitas, California — This two-in-one exhibit covers the history and variety of the floppy disk and optical discs, two of the most important storage mediums for computers. We’ve also got a floppy-disk based camera, so you can take 0.3 megapixel selfies like it’s 1997!
Electronic Patterning on a 1985 Computerized Knitting Machine — Adrienne Hunter, Santa Clara, California — See a 1980s method of designing your own knitting pattern using a TV as the monitor, then knitting it by machine. The Brother company in Japan designed and manufactured a series of knitting machines from the 1950s to the 1990s. Automated patterning was introduced with punchcards in 1970, followed by electronic patterning in 1980. The demonstration will show how to use Brother’s computerized add-on box from 1986 hooked up to a TV to design your own patterns, then we’ll download the pattern to the vintage electronic knitting machine and make it. The patterns are stored on 3.5″ floppies using a Tandy drive.
Newbear 77-68 6800 System — Simon Wynn, Redwood City, California — I will show a fully restored and functional Newbear 77-68 6800-based system. The 77-68 was one of the earliest home computers available in the UK. It was available as a kit and I’ve owned the system that will be shown since 1979. The system was restored and expanded to include a simulated floppy drive system using an SD card, and now runs the FLEX OS, BASIC, and PL/M. I will have a full set of documents, photos, and articles. This is one of only two or three systems still in existence.
DEC PDP-11/45 — Fritz Mueller, Oakland, California — A fully restored and operational PDP-11/45 will be exhibited (two cabinets, dual RK05 drives, LA30 Decwriter, several VT52 and VT100 serial terminals). This is the culmination of several decades of parts collection, followed by a three-year part-time restoration effort, as documented at http://fritzm.github.io/category/pdp-11.html and on several threads in the Vintage Computer Forum. Multiple operating systems may be demonstrated throughout the day. Please stop by and swap restoration/troubleshooting tips and techniques, or write and run some MACRO-11, MU BASIC, or FORTRAN code!
Voice Coil CDOS — Jeff Albrecht, Mesa, Arizona — My exhibit is Cromemco-branded Persci 299 double-sided, double-density voice coil stepper as part of 8-inch floppy drives booting Cromemco CDOS in a Cromemco Z-80 system. Their speed will be compared to Altair hard-sectored disk disks with stepper motors running CP/M.
Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) — Ian Finder, Alex Handy, Keith Kaisershot, Laurence Miotto, Matt Swanson — Oakland, California — We’ll show vintage and retro computing & gaming featuring the Commodore Amiga, DEC PDP-11 text adventures, and more.
Acorn Computers — Dominic Pajak, San Jose, California; David Glover-Aoki, Woodside, California; Phillip Pearson, San Francisco, California — We will show British home computers from the 1980s including the Acorn Atom, Acorn Electron, BBC Master, and BBC Micro Model B. There will also be an Acorn A3000 series computer— one of the first commercial uses of an ARM processor. You’ll be able to try the classic space simulator Acornsoft Elite and see custom peripherals including PiTubeDirect, which uses a Raspberry Pi to emulate a variety of second processors for the 8-bit machines.
CompuServe: Their PDP-10 Clones — Madeline Autumn-Rose, Alameda, California — This exhibit is an operational CompuServe SC-40! Remote access won’t be present at the exhibit, but a single-user operational state will be.
1980s HP Desktop Workstations and Handhelds — Francis Bauer, Santa Rosa, California — I will be demonstrating test & measurement and instrument/device control through the use of a number of HP Series 9000 desktop computers/workstations and some handheld computers. The primary I/O mechanisms are the HP-IB/GP-IB/IEEE-488 and the HP-IL interfaces. In addition to using 1980s HP storage hardware I will also use some software/hardware packages to emulate the vintage HP-IB and HP-IL storage devices using a GPIB card on a reasonably modern PC.
Vintage Computer Replicas as Open-Source Hardware — Oscar Vermeulen, Walchwil, Switzerland — Computers from before the microprocessor era are hard to find and even harder to keep going. Making a replica can be a good alternative to experience their history. Shown will be a small range such as the 1950s LGP-30, 1960s DEC PDP-8 / PDP-10, and 1970s DEC PDP-11.
Altair-Duino — Chris Davis, Willmar, Minnesota — Altair-Duino is an Arduino-based MITS Altair 8800 hardware and software emulator. It (almost) completely emulates the operation of the Altair 8800 with the maximum 64K of RAM, multi-boot ROM, 5GB hard drive, and floppy drives. Also exhibited will an ATMEL-powered Kenbak-1 emulator.
Early Microcomputer Chess — Cole Erskine, Portola Valley, California — The game of chess has been an attractive, yet intractable, problem for computer researchers since the mainframe era. Sixty years ago, a program for the IBM 704 could play a complete game at an amateur level. Less than twenty years later, the first chess computers accessible to consumers were introduced. On exhibit will be the first chess games available to the public from Applied Concepts, Atari, Commodore, DataCash Systems, Fairchild/Saba, Fidelity Electronics, Novag and Texas Instruments. A tournament will be held on-site to determine the strongest commercial chess engine of the 1970s!
San Leandro Computer Club Atari Exhibit — Kevin Lund, Livermore, California — We’re exhibiting various Atari computers from both the 8-bit line (800XL) as well as the 16-bit line (1040ST). We will have some rare machines, and more common computers for hands-on demonstrations and game playing!
CP/Maker Lisp Machine — Luther Johnson, Chandler, Arizona — I’ll show a “personal micro-controller”: a bare-metal Lisp and CP/M machine, classic software with a vintage vibe on modern hardware. Distraction-free programming and prototyping, self-hosted development, and a unique dialect of Lisp. You can run Lisp from flash, or boot CP/M and write in Lisp, C, or anything else. In all cases the the machine and general purpose I/O is “right there”. It’s everything you need with nothing in the way. I’ll demonstrate the software on a prototype or pre-production model of the machine.
The Digital Group — Michael Hill, Daly City, California — This exhibit is a collection of items from The Digital Group, one of the lesser-known computer makers of the late-1970s.
Home Computers of the 1950s and 1960s! — Larry Pezzolo, Palo Alto, California — After World War II several remarkable things happened including the creation of giant electronic brains and the baby boomers. Kids as well as adults were fascinated with these multi-ton, multi-million dollar machines that could “think”. The machines had superhuman abilities that could quickly solve problems that would take mathematicians years to complete. To better understand the principles behind these machines a number of educational computers were marketed. My display consists of three examples of the many that where available: the CARDIAC cardboard computer put by Bell Labs, the GENIAC wood-and-wire computer based on the book “Giant Brains” by Edmund Berkeley, and the DIGI-COMP 1 three-bit binary plastic mechanical computer.
ReBoot — Lester Barrows, Mountain View, California — Apple II development continues at a surprising pace for 1970s and 1980s technology. New software is being written, new hardware created or iterated, and old products are being resurrected. We’ll have Dan Liverani’s Genius series of games; ReActiveMicro’s recent revival of an enhanced TransWarp GS accelerator and an Apple II 3.5″ drive controller; the re-release of Rich Dreher’s near legendary CFFA 3000 USB/CF virtual floppy and hard disk card; an inexpensive and easily available RGB/SCART to HDMI video output solution for the Apple IIgs; a new slot-free stereo card enclosure for the IIgs from Manila Gear; and development of modern printer support for Apple II systems over serial line along with other recent items. A few favorite games and applications, including the four-player Kaboom “Bomberman” clone, will also be available via the CFFA 3000 demonstration machine.
STUPID Computer — Steve Toner, Provo Canyon, Utah — STUPID (Simple Twelve-bit Unadorned Programmed Instruction Decoder) is a TTL-based microprogrammed computer that is a recreation and enhancement of a 1978 design that I did as a term project for a lab class at MIT. The 2018 version has a proper front panel, plus additional registers and memory vs. the 1978 design.
MOnSter6502 — Eric Schlaepfer, Sunnyvale, California — MOnSter6502 is a complete, working, transistor-scale replica of the classic MOS 6502 microprocessor. It is 12×15 inches and has 4,769 components, including 313 LEDs so you can see all the internal registers and various internal control line states as it executes real live code!
IBM 1620 Jr. & Recreating the Console Typewriter — Dave Babcock, Steve Casner, Joe Fredrick, and team — Mountain View, California — The goal of this project, sponsored by the Computer History Museum, is to produce an operational version of the IBM 1620 Model 1 Level F computer that recreates, as much as possible, the experience (physically, visually, and viscerally) of operating a real IBM 1620. At last year’s VCF West we demonstrated the front panel and simulator. This year we’re highlighting the re-imagined console typewriter. A vital component of the IBM 1620 was its console typewriter, but a vintage device would not meet the project requirement of a reliable, low-maintenance system for hands-on educational use. The innovative solution was to adapt an IBM/Lexmark Wheelwriter 1000 typewriter for computer use. Using a new, patentable technology for adapting the typewriter, we created a general-purpose teleprinter. We are using it for the IBM 1620 Jr.’s console typewriter, but it could be used for any computer with a firmware change. Come to our booth for an update on the IBM 1620 Jr. project, to watch the historic BBC Baseball simulation program running, and to learn how you can use our teleprinter with your favorite vintage computer.
The Cactus: 6502 Blinkenlights — Alexander “Z” Pierson, Falls Church, Virginia — The 1970s featured a variety of mini and microcomputers that used toggle switches and lights for data entry and user interaction. However during the age of the microprocessor, the 6502 was one processor that wasn’t commonly seen with this sort of interface. Come see the Cactus, built with the intention of recreating the homebrew computer experience of the mid 1970s. Toggle in some data, try your hand at BASIC, and experience the answer to “Why did nobody do this 40 years ago?” for yourself.
Vintage Portable Computers — Ariane Nazemi, San Diego, California — Long before the svelte laptops of today, “luggables” ruled the portable computer market! In this exhibit I will demonstrate several computers from the dawn of the mobile computer including systems from Osborne, Kaypro, Compaq, Sanyo, Seequa, IBM, and Toshiba. Try your hand at Zork, Gauntlet, or 3-Demon. Or perhaps dust off your CP/M shortcut list and make a spreadsheet! There will be CRTs, gas-plasma displays, and lots of handles.
Rare Computers from Japan — Duncan Mac Dougall, Santa Clara, California — Japan had its own world of personal computers that, while popular in their native land, 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. This year, in addition to an X68000, PC-98, and MSX2+, we will be demonstrating a PC-88 and possibly even an FM-TOWNS.
Playing Adventure — Thomas Conrad, Morgan Hill, California — I will be running the IBM PC Adventure game on my 5150A IBM PC. I invite people to sit down and actually play the game. I have a large blowup of the Cave which helps to keep people from becoming frustrated. Lots of fun!
NEC’s PC-FXGA — Thomas Daede, Sunnyvale, California — The PC-FX was the failed successor of the TurboGrafix 16/PC Engine video game console. The idea was to have a PC tower style case with expansion boards, though none were ever released. The PC-FXGA is the development kit for this system. It is a complete PC-FX system built on a C-Bus card, designed to fit into a PC-98 compatible system. I/O ports are polled to emulate a CD-ROM drive and memory card. It also allows direct access of the PC-FX’s RAM. In addition, the PC-FXGA has a built-in 3D expansion which can be demonstrated with amateur 3D animation software. The system is demonstrated in a PC-9821 As3.
World of Micros — David Henderson, Tempe, Arizona — The microcomputer boom was a worldwide phenomenon. This exhibit presents an assortment of 8-bit microcomputers from around the world including a Microbee (Australia), Robotron KC85/4 (East Germany), Prologica CP200s (Brazil), 6809-based Fujitsu FM 7 (Japan), Grundy Newbrain AD (England), Cambridge Computer Z88 notebook (Scotland), Pecom 64 (Serbia), Hector I (France), and a representative or two from the USA. Most of the systems will be operational and some will be accompanied by foreign language user manuals which you are welcome to translate.
Teletypewriters — Carl Claunch, Los Altos, California — These electromechanical beasts powered newsrooms and telegram offices through most of the last century, but had an important role as early console devices before glass terminals supplanted them. The popular model ASR-33 spoke ASCII to many early minicomputers and personal computers, while the model 15 and its 5-bit Baudot code served the non-computer world for many decades.