This is a chronological description of my impressions from VCF 1.0. It may seem like an exercise in name dropping, but the people made the show. At the end is a short set of descriptions of some of the people mentioned. All of them I would be proud to count as my friends.
I arrived at the site a little late and found that Sam had gone to pickup the partitions which were used to separate the exhibits from the vendor area. I helped to setup some chairs in the hall used for the workshops and speakers. A little later when Sam arrived, we started unloading the partitions from the truck. Luckily Doug Coward arrived not long after we started and greatly helped in the unloading. After a bit of discussion it was decided that the partitions could be setup and held up using the tables. After working on this for a while I was asked to pickup Jim Willing at the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. He wasn't exactly where I expected, but eventually he was found. On the way back Jim told an interesting story about a business trip he took to England. (Thinking back on it, there was not much to the story, but it was well told. Jim is a very good story teller.)
When we returned to the site, Sam had left to pickup his computers. Doug had most of his machines setup. Some of them had nice displays with good information. He brought some really neat stuff including a couple of SWTP machines, an Altair, Heath 8, ELF, and a few others which I have forgotten. While we were waiting Jim told us about his experience with some guys from Microsoft who wanted to run Altair BASIC on an Altair they had. I can't remember all of the details. I hope Jim writes up all of the story some day and puts it on his web page. Parts of it may already be there. Two of the machines Doug brought were TRS-80 clones. He loaded a slot machine program on it, but the program would not run. We debugged (fixed the errors that were either bit rot on the tape, or were caused by some slight failure of the cassette drive) the program and got it running. It was pretty fun. It has been a long time since I did anything with BASIC. Luckily Jim had an excellent memory and and took over the typing of the fixes.
George Lin dropped by and setup a few computers including TRS-80 models I and III. He slipped out quickly and was not seen again until Sunday evening. Later he told me that he was moving that weekend and was not able to attend much of the festival.
A little later Frank McConnel and Edwin El-Kareh arrived with some machines from the CHAC (Computer History Association of California) collection. They brought some nice machines as well including an Osborne 3 (possibly the only one known to exist), HP Integral PC (this is an early portable Unix box with the kernal and all programs in ROM), and a very neat machine (HP 9000 Series 520) which ran an early version of HPUX and was arguably the first HP 9000.
While these machines were being setup Sam arrived with his pile of hardware. Some of the most interesting ones were the Osborne Vixen, a Cromenco system running some version of Unix, a couple of IMSAIs, and a Spectra Graphics machine. While unloading the truck the Santa Barbara crew (Marvin Johnson and Steven Stone) arrived. They brought more computers. Some machines which were to be displayed were a somewhat dirty (not just Marvin's) so an effort was made to clean them. Marvin has a trick that worked very well. He uses a paint brush to initially remove accumulated dust. This is much easier than trying to use 409 alone to cut through all of the accumulated crud. A good deal of arranging and setup followed. I left around 2315. Sam, Frank, Edwin, Jim, and Doug? were still working.
Saturday morning I had to get up extremely early (6am (9am is usual)) to get up to the site and get setup before the 9am open. I arrived a little after 8. The exhibit area was setup and looked good. There were a couple of others setup to sell stuff in the vendor area.
I bought a couple of Infocom games from the guy (Larry Anderson?) setup next to me. A little later in the day I bought some Data General core memory from Scott Stanton. He was also selling a lot of neat DEC stuff and brought the PDP-10 and PDP-11/23 (plus?) for the exhibit area.
Being that I was in the vendor/exhibit hall most of the day (I didn't want to leave my loot unattended for too long) I missed most of the speakers and workshops. I did have some interesting conversations with some of the vendors, attendees, and others associated with the show. In the afternoon Jim Willing wandered by my table and bought an Apple II Lego card. Pretty cool, I had something that Jim didn't. Of course now he has it and I don't.
Sometime after 5 I closed up shop, grabbed my memory boards and went over to the other hall to catch the end of the panel discussion. Near the end I got pointed out as carrying core memory. After the discussion was over, several people came by wanting to see the boards asked which machine they were for. Somehow at that point I became the Data General guy. My system isn't even running yet. It did net me an Eclipse and at least one Dasher terminal though.
After the show closed for the day there was some effort to gather people together to go to the dinner which had been planned. This took some time. Sam bowed out, but eventually a group of about 11 or so people were moved out of the hall and into cars. I made the mistake of parking in the "regular" lot and had to have the guard unlock the gate so I could extract my car. The group assembled at Chevy's. Luckily Edwin arrived there a little earlier and made reservations. We all stood out in the parking lot swapping stories for about a half of an hour. Stephen Stone's (another vendor) wife Susan was a lawyer who worked on an anti-trust case by DEC, Intel, and some others (who???) against DG. It was an interesting story (to me at the very least). I wish I could remember more about it. I had not felt my best all day, but I was feeling steadily worse so I bowed out before we were even seated and headed home. I understand that the dinner was enjoyable and broke up after 11.
Sunday morning came early. Thankfully, we had returned to Pacific standard time so extra hour of sleep was had. Things started a bit slowly. Since there were few attendees yet, I went over to the lecture hall to hear Kip Crosby talk about computing in California. Kip gives a good talk, go hear him if you have the chance. After the talk more people showed up. Fewer than would have been liked.
At one point in the afternoon I got cornered by a real character. I don't remember his name, but it appears that he built a machine which lets him change values in the memory of a video game console while it is running. He uses this to beat the games. While somewhat interesting, he was rather verbose and prone to going off on long tangents about the non-dangers of modifying a running program.
I sold a few more things, talked with Scott Stanton and Ken Sumrall, and traded some software for a subscription to TCJ. Suddenly it was 4 o'clock and time for the talk by Les Felsenstein and Bob Marsh. The talk was very interesting. We got to see and touch the prototype Sol-20. They even powered it up. It didn't work perfectly, but it did work. After the talk was over I packed up my stuff, helped some others load up some of their machines from the exhibit and then headed home. Here is another not to miss: see Sam pack machines into a truck, trunk, anything. It is amazing.
There is some other stuff which don't exactly fit in the chronological flow. The VCF was fun. Everyone got along exceptionally well. I met many people on the classic computer list and now have faces to go along with the names. I saw many interesting and historic computers. It all went by too quickly. After the VCF I did suffer a bout of post-VCF depression. Others also suffered some discomfort afterward. Frank described it as being like a hangover. It was an intense experience.
I don't know if Sam made or lost money on the VCF. There is little mention of him here mainly because he spent most of the time running around making sure things were running smoothly, recording the speakers, etc.
Plans are being made for VCF 2.0. It will be even better than 1.0.
Next time around I'll bring some of my machines. I may be able to fill out some of the workstation end of things. I did very little to help this time, next time I will do more of the up front grunt work. I will also try to find a way to attend more of the talks and find someone to mind my vendor area so I can hear more of the speakers.
Here are some general impressions of some of the people who worked on or attended VCF 1.0. No slander or undue praise is intended. If I left you out, sorry. Some people are difficult to describe in a few lines. Doug Coward - Curator of the Museum of Personal Computing Machinery. I've met him several times. He is a bit shy, looks like Einstein, and is very kind. Edwin El-Kareh - I've hung around with this guy a bit since the VCF. He gave me and Eclipse. He is an interesting guy and a bit of a character. Sam Ismail - The man behind the show. He pulled it off. Hats off to him. Marvin Johnson - Came all of the way from Santa Barbara. I wish I had made more time to talk with him. He seems like a solid dude. Frank McConnel - Another interesting local guy. Knows his HP stuff. I have been around him a couple of times. He has an interesting sense of humor. He is also one of the forces behind CHAC. I forget his title. Bubba? Kahuna? Keeper of the Keys? Scott Stanton - DEC and formerly DG guy. Very nice. He lives only a couple of miles from me. Steven Stone - Another Santa Barbara guy who had some of the cleanest Kaypros I have ever seen for sale. Ken Sumrall - I met him through a mutual friend. He also collects calculators. He is pretty knowledgeable about Atari and HP stuff. He came expecting to stay for an hour but lost track of time. Jim Willing - What more can I say? Check out The Computer Garage.
Thanks for visiting.
Last updated: Tue Jan 6 00:05:17 PST 1998
Copyright 1998, Paul E Coad