VCF 9.0 Nov 4th & 5th, 2006

The 2006 West Coast Vintage Computer Festival again this year at one of the the best places for this event, the Computer History Museum

My brother, Richard, was not able to go along this year, so we had to pack light in our little car. The trip over the Altamont this year was clouded in [2] (as you can see) but even with the change in weather my new (to this trip) camera got some nice detail on the windmills [1 & 2].

[1] - [2]

For those of you who are looking for lodging at a future event in the Mountain View Area, the best roads to search for motels is either Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale or El Camino Royale in Mountain View,you will find the majority of inns on those two roads. (I used Google Maps this year to compare motels - i.e. I entered in google maps, “Mathilda Ave., Sunnyvale, CA”, got the map for sunnyvale then clicked on the find businesses button and added “motels” you get several screens of results overlapped on the map the satellite view helped to see if there was anything interesting nearby.)

This year we booked a room at the South Mathilda Motel 6, the rooms were OK, but smaller then the North Mathilda Motel 6, across the street. We arrived early and went to Borders to check out the selection, which being Silicon Valley was great if in the market for just about any computer related book). After dinner we went over to the CHM and helped Sellam Ismael set up the exhibit area, which was a great opportunity to help out while greeting/meeting other fellow computerists before the festival. (I didn't get pictures of that, I was too busy helping set stuff up.)

First order of business on Saturday was to unload and set up my exhibit. This year I presented the multi-machine classic game Flash Attack.


Note: not all exhibits have photos mainly because of the bad results on some of the pictures.

Flash Attack this is an early microcomputer multi-machine two player game (circa 1980) where each player commands their resources on their own machine, Flash Attack requires two original or upgrade ROM PETs, and a simple to construct cable. Most of my battle in preparation this year was getting two computers working well enough to demonstrate the game; I have one original ROM PET which is hard to play on the tiny keyboard, and three upgrade PETS - one of which I discovered one or more of the ROMS died, and another PET with a logic problem (RAM related). Fortunately I got a working pair [3] and here is a close up of the Flash Attack display on one of the PETs [4].

By the end of the first day my Flash cable was falling apart, fortunately a fellow exhibitor, Eric Schmidthuber, lent his soldering iron and skills to get me back running, which also was a quick lesson on improving my soldering as well.

[3] - [4]

CompactFlash for Apple 1 and Replica 1

Rich Dreher's exhibit had not only one of two Apple I's [5] on display (pictured running one of the popular Star Trek games from back when) but also a reproduction of the Apple i case that is in the Smithsonian [6], the modern re-creation of an Apple I (replica 1 which fits on a significantly smaller board) and a new device which allows the Apple I and ][ use compact flash cards as a means of storage.[5]

[5] - [6]

Atari 800 and Atari XE

Leonard Taylor was back again this year (last year he brought an Amiga 500 and Atari ST), this year he had the start and end of the Atari 8-bit line the beginning with the Atari 800 and the last of the Atari 8-bits the Atari XE Game System [7]. The light gun on the XE was a very popular stop for just about everyone young and old. Every so often Leonard's fasther showed off another Atari 8-bit Marvel, the Flight Simulator II cartridge for the XE GS and 130, which I believe is one of the few 8-bit computer 128K ROM capacity cartridges made.

Those four joyports on the 800 was drooling point for programmers such as I, not to mention the greatest Atari game, Star Raiders!

Heathkit EC-1 Analog Computer

Eric Schmidthuber's Heathkit [8] was the only analog computer on display this year, and compared to previous ones was probably one of the best presentations, as it was displaying a bouncing ball gravity simulation on an oscilloscope next to the computer (never know analog computers could do animation).

Laser Light Show

If attendees looked up they would have seen the laser show [9] being beamed up on the wall I didn't get the name of the person who set it up but he did a great job of reproducing many vintage logos (which the camera could not capture effectively) and some nice 3-d animation effects. From what he said it ran on Windows 95/98 and part of the challenge was tweaking his modern ghz speed computer w/emulator to run slow enough to properly drive the display.

[7] - [8] - [9]

The Mark-8 Minicomputer

Bryan Blackburn brought a restored Mark 8 “minicomputer” [10] which used the 8008 microprocessor. Attached to it was an ASR33 teletype which was busy chattering away either printing or reading the programs from paper tape.

Micro-Minis: the "Little" DEC Computers

Pavl Zachary brought some portables (in relation to the larger DEC systems of previous years, with these Micro sized DEC computers. [11] Even though they are micros, a lot of the mini sized functionality was retained in the small boxes.

In the Beginning: The Commodore PET 2001

Robert Bernardo had his first VCF exhibit with a an original PET system [12] and related documentation. The PET had been heavily custom modified by the previous owner, which included a sound/joystick expansion, RAM (via expandapet/expandamem) as well as additional ROM cards, upgrade ROMS, Programmers Toolkit, etc. You can see a Christmas tree in the photo but are saved from the off-key Christmas song that accompanied it.

[10] - [11] - [12]

In one of the two breaks from hardware, Michael Holley displayed the many decades of popular Electronics magazines.[13] which includes excerpts of notable kits and hardware features. (I was more of a Popular Mechanics/Science reader as a kid.)

Pre-Industrial Computing

Evan Koblentz again brought something different and portable (as he travels from the east coast), this was on pre-industrial computing, as far as computing that was not machines of any type, which included classic examples as Napiers Bones, Slide Rules and the Abacus, also of note was the Quipu strings, which has been reported to be a way of recording information (as the Quipu had no written language) using only knotted strings (variations in the strings and knots).

Larry Pezzolo brought two exhibits which he displayed side by side[15]:

Sphere - An Early Computer System

The sphere computer came out around the same time as the Altair, but used the Motorola 6800 CPU (Which was the inspiration for the 6502 of the Commodore computers). Like the Altair the Sphere was not much more than a circuitboard with switcheds, but the display shows a system that had been expanded into a more user accessible environment with a keyboard and I am sure a CRT.

OSI 300 - 6502 CPU Trainer

Ohio Scientific Inc. created this 6502 CPU trainer (training platform to learn how to interface and work with a CPU) which is similar in principle to the KIM-1 but more basic as this used switches and LEDs for I/O instead of a keypad and a hexadecimal display.

[13] - [14] - [15]

The Tomy Family

Cameron Kaiser returned with a display from years past, the Tomy Learning computer. This year he has a complete exhibit of the various models of the computer as well as assorted games and related ephemera. The picture [16] shows Cameron getting some tips from a professional in the fun game “Traffic Jam”.

Computing by Steam

Tim Robinson brought back some of his labor of love, [17] a couple versions of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine created using only Mechano parts (Erector Set for us yanks) The difference engine was a mechanical computer designed by Babbage in 1848 but never built (we got distracted and wanted to build a larger, more versatile computer but ran out of money and backers). Babbages works are considered the first computers, along with Lady Ada Agusta Lovelace's theoretical programming concepts for them which made her the first programmer.

Pictures do not do these extraordinary machines justice, but I was prepared this year and made sure to get video [18] of the machine in operation. The large engine calculates with 4 orders of difference on 12 digit numbers, and was configured here to compute a table of the sine function.

[16] - [17]

[18] Watch the Mechano Difference Engine in operation! mpeg video of mechano difference engine - silent (8MB MPEG Video)

Liza Loop and Apple I #1

Here is Liza Loop [19] and to the right you can see the other Apple I (also in [20]) at VCF, which is serial number 1. Liza Loop founder of the LO*OP (an acronym for “Learning Options * Open Portal,”) Center had been instrumental in developing computer education in schools and helping with many community-based computer literacy programs in the 70s and 80s.


About an hour before the close of VCF on Sunday Selam and judges presented awards for the Exhibits, the Mark-8 won both the Judges Award as well as the Attendee voted “Best of Show”. My display won “Best Presentation Research”. It's always nice to win something but I'm sure for many of us, we take more enjoyment in creating and presenting our displays to here.

[19] - [20]


Here is an overview of the vendors at VCF, as with exhibits the number of vendors was down but the selection was very wide and I understand sales were good for those selling.

Video Walkthrough

People often wonder what it is really like to be at VCF or other shows, here is a video to give you an idea [21]. While it does not show a lot, it shows an environment where there is a lot of cool stuff to look at and buy and many people to talk to about it as well. At VCF there are also speakers and workshops, not to mention the Computer History Museum itself with some really remarkable hardware on display. This walkthrough starts at Marvin's table (he always has some great classics), pans past the XGameStation (you can see some of the XGSs in action) and stops to visit Robert Bernardo at the Fresno Commodore Users Group table (many of the computers shown were just on display he sold many of the monitors and stuff before), then past the consignment area (there were many more computers there, this was taken Sunday afternoon), then to a table containing some board and cube puzzles, next over to Pavl's vendor booth (lots of cool stuff there too), and then you see some of the exhibits, such as Pavl's portable (for him) DEC exhibit, the Apple I CF storage/Replica One and a late exhibitor (didn't get the details on that one) Just in the back you can see the Sphere/OSI exhibit.

Bill Kibler

Bill Kibler of The Computing Journal fame, had exhibited or had been a vendor since the first VCF, this year he was selling much of his FORTH equipment and information as he is moving off to Oregon to smaller digs. Pictured [22] is a a home-brew Novix based FORTH computer of he built (I saw a really happy person walk away with that under his arm). Good luck Bill.

Devices and Data

I was tempted by a couple interesting bits at this booth [23], but space limitations kept me from going crazy.

[21] Watch Video Walkthrough of the VCF 9 Vendor's Area mpeg video VCF walkthrough - silent (about 8 MB Mpeg video)

This is a good example of the activity on the VCF exhibit and vendor area, lots of interesting equipment as well as interesting discussions by those browsing and selling.

[22] - [23]

Fresno Commodore Users Group (FCUG)

Here [24] Robert Bernardo is tending to the may Commodore computers and related software and gadgets he has picked up from various places around the world he had on display at the FCUG booth, this was in addition to his PET exhibit. While the Commodore 8-bits were busy, the Vectrex he also put up probably had more interest as Robert had many 3rd party Vectrex games including some recent 3-D ones along with the color imager.

Pavl Zachary

Pavl pulled double duty again this year by having an exhibit as well as a vendor booth [25]. And the theme of his vendor booth for a big part was portable, with many hand-held computing devices, some requiring power, others none at all. Got to see a cool sub-micro Thinkpad which was put up for sale on Sunday and quickly sold.

[24] - [25]

Ron Vargas's Classic Videogame Booth

Ron Vargas was back with his game emporium [26], many many cartridges and accessories for classic video game systems as well as a few software carts and disks for computers. I found one or two VIC-20 gems to walk away with again this year.


The X-GameStation guys were back again with more advancements as well as their demo of their old-school game system kits[27]. They also hosted a “Build It Yourself” workshop where attendees could purchase the kits and then build them supervised during VCF (attendees had to bring their own soldering equipment, so be aware and check if you are interested in doing such at a future VCF). I hear it went well and there was only one problem attributed to a flaw in one of the boards.

[26] - [27]

Going Home

VCF ended about 6PM and everyone packed up and pitched in a little before they left. We stayed over to make the trip back a more leisurely one.

Fry's Electronics

On our trip home we took the opportunity to go to what is described as “Nerd-vana” (play on nirvana) Fry's Electronics. Fry's offers a massive selection of techie things such as computers, software, computer accessories, electronics equipment, electronic components, books, videos, home electronics, appliances and sound systems. In Silicon Valley the Fry's stores are very well stocked.

You may not know this but many Fry's stores have architectural design themes to them, (not all, yet) The ones we stopped at were in Sunnyvale [28] which theme was History of Silicon Valley (I am not sure if the wave on the store there represents sound or an oscilloscope), inside there are some displays of the history of Silicon Valley. The Fremont Fry's [29] I thought was poser station but is in fact the “1893 Worlds Fair” inside there is a lot of 1800s styling as well as a massive Tesla coil which powers up for about a minute each hour on the half hour (I was hoping for more lightning, but it certainly had a great sound to it, think Flash Gordon space ship.). If you want to know more about Fry's designs there is a site trying to document them: The Fry's Photo Project (see pictures of the inside of many of the Fry's there) Fry's is certainly a place to visit if you come to Silicon Valley (or Southern California) to do your own Nerd Tour thing.

[28] - [29]

Back on the Altamont

By the time we arrived to go over the Altamont it was getting toward late in the afternoon and were able to get some nice light and shadow shots [30 & 31] of the ever fascinating Altamont energy windmills.

[30] - [31]

That's it for my VCF West Coast 2006 trip.

Last modified: 2011/04/17 16:51
Except where otherwise noted, content on this wiki is licensed under the following license: CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported