andrew's blog

because it's 1999

VCF day one

April 27, 2019

We went to VCF Southeast this morning, and spent most all of the day there. After looking around the floor for a while, Doug McIlroy gave his keynote presentation. Doug worked for Bell Labs and, among other things, was one of the UNIX developers. He had some great stories to tell about it.

Afterwards, I spent some time playing with Doug Dement's FPGA and ODE (optical drive emulator) hardware, which was a great insight into the technology for me.

I typed a message onto a punchcard encoded in Hollerith code, and spoke with James who was using the museum's machine to troubleshoot his own punchcard terminal keyboard. According to James, a single card holds a little less than 400 bits of data.

I (mistakenly) believed that someone on the Bitchin' 100 mailing would exhibit their Model 100 at the festival, and I brought mine to match (and to write my notes for this blog post). Instead, I met Jon who was exhibiting his portable computer collection. He had an HP-95, which is about the size of a modern smartphone and has a full disk OS, much more advanced than my Tandy 102! He also had several Alphasmarts, a very cool Random Colleague terminal, and other tiny goodies. We chatted for a good while about portable computers and word processors, libraries, and the VC/maker scene in the Atlanta and Greensboro areas. You can see more about his collection here on Jon's website.

Nathan from Toasty Tech was there, with a wonderful exhibit that was essentially his GUI website in person! I have been going to Nathan's website for reference for years, and I was excited when I read that he would have an exhibit. He has a lot of great research on the history of the GUI, and it was really great to hear him talk and see the progression of Visi On, GEM, Windows, and OS/2 in person.

I also had the chance to play Space Wars on the Vectrex, as well as a recent homebrew game. I fell in love, I'll have to add a Vectrex to my VC wishlist now.