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Vintage Computer Festival 8.0 100

Sellam Ismail writes "The 8th annual Vintage Computer Festival is being held on November 5th & 6th at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The highlight of this year's event is a Homebrew Computer Club retrospective featuring a panel of original members of the Club including Steve Wozniak, Lee Felsenstein, and others. VCF 8.0 also brings the return of the Nerd Trivia Challenge, a game show style trivia contest for hardcore computer history buffs, and for the first time is hosting the award presentation ceremony for the International Obfuscated C Code Competition."
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Vintage Computer Festival 8.0

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  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:24AM (#13857668)
    ...if I were anywhere near that location. Mine is an IBM with a 36Mhz processor and 1MB of RAM, bought 1981 and I recently installed MS-DOS 5.0 onto it. I was not easy as it could not read most of my floppies. It takes 19 seconds to boot and had a 12" green monitor.

    But I am a young man myself...a 35 year old male!

    • by empaler ( 130732 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:34AM (#13857697) Journal
      I have a 1.6 Ghz WXP box. I would love to have a 19 second boot time...
      • WinXP takes 19 seconds from the point where MS wants you to believe it has booted (desktop shows) to actually being usable (icons on the desktop react to a doubleclick) on my AMD64 3200+.
        • Damn that's fast.

          It can take 3-4 minutes on my AMD64 laptop.
          • then you're probably loading too much stuff at startup. I also have an amd64 laptop and startup only takes about a miniute (max).
            • My WinXP laptop is similarly slow. I blame all the corporate anal probes installed on there. The hard drive on that thing is always crunching away either a virus scan, a backup scan or some SMS inventory script. I quite often have a system load between 50% and 80% at "idle." And, with that *cough* speedy *cough* 4500RPM laptop HD, you can imagine how responsive it is while it boots and loads all this crap, and how long it takes before I can even so much as open the Start menu....
    • I guess it should read 1991, not 1981?
      • 1991 is more like it. The "IBM" processor available in 1981 was the 8088 and the fastest speed was 8 MHz.

        The 386/486 were available around 1991 and personally I wouldn't consider them 'vintage'. You need at least a tape drive or other obsolete I/O device to fall into that category.
        • Agreed, but I would probably count a PC with (only) 5 1/4 floppy drives in, too -- at least the single density ones.

          To some degree, maybe we should consider what the specific machines were used for. If it was mainly for coding things yourself and typing in source listings from computer magazines, I would tend to be "forgiving" and count a few PCs, while if they were just used to run Lotus 123 in a business setting, they're out. (Hey, we need to avoid anything Mac*, while including Apple ][ :-)

    • Quiet young feller before I sic the dog on you....
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Um, what model IBM PC had 1MB RAM and a 36MHz CPU in 1981?

      Answer: NONE. The IBM PC-XT was released around that time, and had a 4.77 Mhz 8088 CPU. As I recall, it came with 64KB RAM.

      You're probably thinking of an 808486/33 MHz CPU... and if you bought one in 1991, then you were a few years late, as they were first released in around 1989, as I recall... and 1MB RAM would have been on the low side by then - 4MB would have been standard, with 8 or 16 more common.
      • 4MB was still a lot of RAM in 1991, unless you were plonking down $4000 for a PC. Then you might get a capacious 8MB or 16MB system. My approx $2000 386SX25 system came with 4MB of RAM, and that was summer of '92. It also had a 1MB video card (ET4000 based).... Ah, the bad ol' days. It even briefly had an out-of-date 68MB ESDI drive in it, but that was quickly swapped out for a 120MB IDE drive. 486s didn't really become popular outside of servers until 1992 or so, and they were still rather expensive
        • If it makes you feel any better, I recall paying $1600 for Samsung 16MB fast page mode DRAM SIMMs at one point in time. I think I bought them for a Pentium-90 system.
        • I have a 286 from 1988 that came with 4MB of ram installed. Must of cost someone a pretty penny back then. Runs Windows 3.1 just great, by the way.
          • Yeah, machines that ran databases, large worksheets or CAD software tended to have such extravagant amounts of RAM back then. :-) I believe the 286-12 I was using at work around that time frame had only 1MB, but I could be wrong. My boss was such a cheapskate that when he got a AMD 386-40, he bought a paper-white monitor to go with its VGA card. :-P

            Man... I still remember programming Informix SmartWare on that machine. It was a pretty neat integrated office suite, and Smart 2's programming language was
    • Sitting in my basement is my Fanklin ACE 1200 (Apple clone), top-of-the-line 128K RAM HD :)
    • You're joking, right? I need to break out my Tandy Model I [oss-in-efl.info] for this... The 4KB of RAM will astound you all! And I think that your machine wasn't 1981, since mine was 1979? That Z80 chip rocked. (37 myself)
    • 80's????

      Try 1977, Commodore PET 2001, 8K builtin Tape and 9" BW display. Chicklet Keyboard.

      Now that's vintage.

      It boot's in about 6 secs. Not bad for 1 Mhz. Runs Microsoft Basic.
    • Semi-customized Compaq Portable III [slashdot.org]
      Tandy 1000 HT
      Sharp "Portable PC" (same as TRS-80 Portables)
      Amigas!!!
      a YIBM PC (IBM clone)
      TRS-80 Model II
      TRS-80 CoCo
      and alot more....
      Too bad I'm on the wrong coast for this—or is it they who are on the wrong coast?
  • Vintage? (Score:5, Funny)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:27AM (#13857671) Homepage Journal
    Other computing luminaries were noticably absent from the gala affair including Drs. J Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, designers of the ENIAC machine. The creator of the Antikythera Mechanism was also not in attendence. Conference organizers said that the originator of the ancient greek computer was unknown, so it was understandable that an invitation was not sent. Similar reasons were given for not inviting the designer of the abacus.
  • Old Data Recovery? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak ( 773371 ) <obsessivemathsfreak.eircom@net> on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:29AM (#13857676) Homepage Journal
    If I arrive, will I finally be able to get those homebrew games
    off my dusty old 5 1/2'' (B:) floppy?
    • Probably more than likely, I myself have been there since the first one, and at times convert data and programs for folks who have the disks and not the computer. Though my forte is Commodore 8-bits (mainly the PETs) but I've ssen people demoing thier TRS-80s, and older CP/M units, etc. If there is any place you can find someone who knows how to do it (or can do it) VCF is the place to go.
  • I wonder? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elgee ( 308600 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:39AM (#13857713)
    I wonder if any of the Obfuscated C Code was ever folded into commercial products? Or mission critical enterprise applications?
  • Hmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by linforcer ( 923749 )
    So it's pretty much a festival for obsolete computers? I guess I can bring my AMD 2400+-pc, too, then.
  • by rtphokie ( 518490 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:48AM (#13857738)
    I remember when this museum was housed in an old storage building on the Nasa Ames base. I've never seen so much computing history, or so many adding machines, in one place. Put the Smithsoneums Information Age exhibit to shame.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:54AM (#13857760)
    With only a few k of memory and a few thousand or few tens of thousands of transistors, these old machine were 100% comprehensible. A hobbyist could readily learn the purpose and functioning of every instruction, every chip, and every circuit trace. In contrast, modern machines are largely inscrutable black boxes with millions of lines of code in deeply layered architectures.

    I'l gladly give up knowledge of 100% of the internals in exchange for the power of OS X on a G5, but those old machines do provide a pleasant simplicity.

    • The amusing thing about old machines is that you may have had to key in every byte of the assembler or BASIC interpreter in hex to get the thing to do anything useful - we're talking a couple thousand bytes usually. But darn it, the machine could actually *do* something with a couple thousand bytes of code!
      • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @02:23PM (#13858661) Homepage Journal
        But darn it, the machine could actually *do* something with a couple thousand bytes of code!

        Actually, modern computers can actually do something with a couple thousand bytes of code too!

        There are three main factors contributing to modern "bloat":

        1) Error checking. It takes resources to detect error, and further resources to recover from them.

        2) Abstraction. Programming in a high level language is not as efficient as programming hand tuned assembly. C is a good compromise, but even there you run across the next problem:

        3) Common code. Common shared libraries, by necessity, always do more than you need them to do. Consider "printf" for example.

        4) User Interface. Textual interfaces bloated software, but they were nothing compared to GUIs. I'm writing a piece of software now that is probably 95% GUI code. I can't see any way to trim it down without losing user friendliness and ease of use.
    • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @11:31AM (#13857899)
      those old machines do provide a pleasant simplicity.

      Not only that, but everyone "into" computers back in the late 70s and 80s were enthusiasts. A computer show/swap in 1988 would draw every nerd in a 50 mile radius ... It was great to be among such kindred spirits: nerds donning vendor t-shirts like sports fans flaunt team jerseys, nerds with nervous ticks, nerds browsing floppy drive porn, nerds diving into bins of cables/breadboards/proms, skinny nerds struggling to carry bulky XT cases across the parking lot. Sadly those days are looooonnnnngggg gone.
  • by elgee ( 308600 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:57AM (#13857767)
    An RPC-4000. Picture here:
    http://home.att.net/~lgaska/images/rpc-4000.jpg [att.net]
    If memory serves me correct, it had 4096 words of rotating drum meemory. Paper tape or Flexowriter input. It was great.

    Yes, I am older than dirt.
  • by Landak ( 798221 ) <Landak@gmail.com> on Sunday October 23, 2005 @10:58AM (#13857771) Homepage
    Pity I can't send my school's 'Sysadmin' there for retraining. He might actually pick up a few new tips too.....
  • by rheotaxis ( 528103 ) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @11:24AM (#13857875) Homepage
    In early 1970's, I recall this computer, the HP 2000 [decodesystems.com], with real-time BASIC, paper tapes, and teletype terminals with modem connections. (My first computer program was on this machine, 1972!) It had great interactive games, all text of course, and some based on real physcial science. I recall one our Physics teacher wrote, trying to land Apollo Lunar module on the surface of the Moon, without running out of fuel, or crashing into the surface too fast. It wasn't easy, and I remember kids screaming with joy when they actully made it safe, which wasn't very often. This was real science teaching at its best.
  • Bought a metal "keybaord case" and a set of keyboard keys and hard-wired it to the ZX-81. The computer and PS went into the case. The keyboard added a reset key and with the PS in the case I added a power switch and an LCD "on" indicator. Hardwired the 16K memory expansion to the computer so I could point the "bus" out of the case where I could plug in the printer and a sound effects card. Grommetted output for the tape drive cord and put in a recepticle to the 6-8 keys (if I remember) so I could use a
    • Got something called a stringy floppy that used tiny videotape cartridges.

      2 things; I didn't know that there were stringy floppies available for the ZX81- I thought that they (the microdrives) only worked with the Spectrum and the QL.

      I know there were other brands, but I never heard of them being released for the ZX81.

      BTW, was there any significance to your use of the phrase "videotape" instead of "magnetic tape" or just "tape"? Just curious...
      • Yup -- A&J Microdrive, Sunnyvale, California. Claimed to be backward compatible with an (8K) ZX80 too.

        I don't see it mentioned in the manual but I seem to remember they said it was some microformat for portable video at the time. They are quite small cassettes (1-1/2"x2-3/8"x3/16"), like a micro audio recorder so tape is much thinner than a standard audio cassette. You can hear it spooling rather quickly when it is accessing data -- they claimed "almost 30 times faster than cassette recorders". They
  • Timex Sinclair (Score:2, Informative)

    by jackbower ( 862227 )
    I was one of the lucky ones and actually owned a 1000,1500, and then a 2068. I had an uncle that worked for Timex.

    Those were the days....

    TS-1000
    http://www.brtb.com/articles/timexindex.shtml [brtb.com]

    TS-2068
    http://www.timexsinclair.org/ [timexsinclair.org]
  • I had a ZX-80, then a ZX-81, then a Spectrum 48k+ then a Spectrum 128k with a TAPE drive, that was awesome.
  • They DO know that VCF is the trade name for a particular brand of Vaginal Contraceptive Film, right? I guess few geeks have need of such things...
  • ``...Obfuscated C Code...''

    Is there any other kind? ;-)
  • Perhaps it's time to dig out my old gear. The oldest system in the Garage of Doom is currently:

    Intellec 8 8008 development system with the 8080 upgrade card, FDOS in ROM.
    Dual Frugal Floppy drive. 2 8" drives and controller in a compact 17" rack mount case.
    ASR33 Teletype, with the big yellow paper roll, and that oh-so-convenient 1" paper tape punch. (Hi, Bill! Want a copy of a BASIC interpreter?)

    http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~hl/c.Intellec8.html [sfsu.edu]
  • Because I am dying to show off my sweet Atari ST, still in perfect working order. I have many find memories playing the original zork on that baby..... damn that was a sweet computer at the time!
  • Will they take a donation of some of the boxes of stuff that I have in the basement?
  • Who is Evan Koblentz and why is he hosting the trivia contest and not Stewart Cheifet [cyberstew.com]?
    • Hi, I am Evan. My main qualification for moderating the VCF's Nerd Trivia Contest is that I am editor of a publication called "Computer Collector" which is a free, weekly, subscription-based newsletter for, well, vintage computer collectors. There is a relatively simple web site at http://news.computercollector.com/ [computercollector.com] if you would like to learn more about us.
      • Further clarification from Evan: I'm not affiliated with the actual domain of www.computercollector.com -- that site is owned by another collector who kindly lets me borrow it with the "news.-" prefix.
  • Real masochists and shitty programmers prefer to obfuscate code in perl. [www.foo.be]

    I would attempt to show a beauty of previous perl code but the /. garbage filter wont let me post it :-)

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