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Vintage Computer Festival East XII
Vintage Computer Festival East XII, held March 31-April 2, 2017 in Wall, NJ, featured 40 hands-on exhibitions of historic computers, peripherals, and software. There were also a dozen technical classes and three keynote speeches. The most notable speaker was Dr. Bjarne Stroustrup, who invented the C++ programming language.
The annual event is produced by Vintage Computer Federation Inc., a national user group for collectors and hobbyists. VCF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It is led by TechRepublic contributor Evan Koblentz, who also produced this gallery.
Core memory is the predecessor to RAM. Each intersection of wires and ferrite metal represents a bit. The core plane is from part of SAGE–the US military’s Semi-Automatic Ground Environment missile defense system first constructed in the 1950s.
The SAGE exhibit, by former system operator Mike Loewen, included this poster showing major system components.
Two-bit logic trainer
Bob Roswell exhibited mechanical computer training devices from the 1950s through 1980s. The unit shown here teaches beginners how to compute binary digits.
German Enigma machine
Tom Perera is among the world’s top experts on Enigma machines, which were used by Axis powers to create ciphered messages in World War II. Most of the machines were destroyed after the war, but his exhibit included this nearly pristine functional unit.
Here’s a complete picture of the Enigma machine exhibit. In addition to multiple authentic Enigma units, Perera also displayed Russian versions called Fialka and several units intentionally damaged by German bullets and grenades.
Twin Apple 1 computers
The 1976 Apple 1 is among the most valuable and coveted collectible computers, and two of them were on display at the show, under lock and key of course. On the left is an original Wozpak–Steve Wozniak’s handwritten notes about how the computer works.
Apple 1 escapes the case
Apple 1 expert Corey Cohen removed one unit from his display case. It’s ready for a close up!
Apple 1 Mimeo reproduction
Cohen also displayed an Apple 1 reproduction kit called the Mimeo, which anyone can purchase. This particular Mimeo is installed in a briefcase, which adds to its authentic design.
Wall of Apples
Craving a byte of an Apple II? Here’s a whole wall of them! Every sub-model of Apple II was on display except for the ultra-rare Japanese-spec version. The exhibit also included various Apple II clones and, for good measure, an Apple III.
Lisa -- "Locally Integrated System Architecture"
Here’s a second-generation Apple Lisa running a music application; this model has the rare external hard drive. Steve Jobs eventually admitted what everyone already knew–that he named the computer for his daughter–although Apple corporate spent many years insisting it was an acronym for Locally Integrated System Architecture.
How about a nice game of chess? Bring your Mac PowerBook, and you might have a good chance at beating other vintage systems.
Commodore 65--no joking matter
You could find plenty of Commodore 64 computers at the show–they were produced in the millions–but a prototype of the never-released Commodore 65 is arguably more rare than even the Apple 1. The show’s exhibit halls opened on April 1, but this is no joke.
Commodore's first computer (sort of)
MOS Technology designed the KIM single-board computer in the middle of the 1970s. Commodore acquired the company to enter the computer business. The owner of this KIM installed it in a light box.
Commodore before computing
Prior to entering the computer business, Commodore sold calculators and typewriters.
TRS-80 Model 1
Here’s an exhibit all about the TRS-80 Model 1. The people who made this exhibit beat Apple and Commodore teams to win the show’s big gag prize: an annoyingly loud rubber chicken. Second place went to the Commodore team, which was awarded an Atari book. Apple took third–its team took home a half-eaten bag of Chips Ahoy.
Early Radio Shack artifacts
Radio Shack sold a huge variety of electronic kits, comic books, and more ahead of and in support of its microcomputer line.
Have some hot CoCo
Following the success of the TRS-80 series, Tandy/Radio Shack next produced the Color Computer series. Enthusiasts took to calling it the CoCo.
Kermit and the Brain
Kermit was a file transfer protocol of the 1980s. One exhibitor demonstrated Kermit on an Intertec Superbrain computer, complete with a 5-foot-tall Kermit the Frog. It’s not easy being green.
Here’s a terminal displaying pre-raster graphics as computed on a Digital Equipment Corp. PDP-8. The exhibitor printed his results in ASCII art.
PiPD-8 replica kit
Most collectors can’t get a real DEC PDP-8 computer due to price and rarity. Enter the PiDP, a small replica built atop a Raspberry Pi microcontroller and powered by a MicroUSB connector. It runs emulation software called SimH, and users still get the front-panel experience.
MicroVAX shines for the crowd
Following the PDP and VAX series, DEC made smaller computers known as MicroVAX and Micro PDP-11. The picture shows a close up of a Micro PDP-11/53 and its illuminated power switch.
France, the UK, Italy, and other nations were represented in this exhibit of microcomputers rarely seen stateside. Brands included Amstrad, Bull, Exelvision, Matra-Hachette, Micronique, Olivetti, Philips, Radiola, Schneider, Sinclair, and Thomson.
Don't forget about Heathkit
Heathkit is best known for its radios, but they were also a player in the early days of microcomputing.
Scelbi (from a company whose name meant “Scientific, Electronic, Biological”) was one of the very earliest microcomputer kit sellers. This unit is a reproduction–there are no known Scelbi-8B computers in existence.
Not just video games
Atari is known for its VCS/2600, 5200, and 7800 home video game consoles, but they also made a successful line of home computers such as the 400, 800, 1040, Stacey, and others.
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