Hackaday Visits World’s Oldest Computer Festival: TCF 43

I was fortunate enough to visit the Trenton Computer Festival last weekend. The show struck a very interesting mix of new and old, commercial and educational. Attendees were writing programs in BASIC on an Apple I (courtesy of the Vintage Computer Federation) not more than five feet from where students were demonstrating their FIRST robot.

The one-day event featured over fifty demonstrations, talks, and workshops on topics ranging from a crash course in lock picking to the latest advancements in quantum computing. In the vendor room you could buy a refurbished laptop while just down the hall talks were being given on heady topics such as using neural networks and genetic algorithms for day trading on the stock market.

Recent years have seen a widening of the content presented, but TCF’s longevity means there is a distinct “vintage” vibe to the show and the culture surrounding it. Many of the attendees, and even some of the presenters, can proudly say they’ve been attending since the very first show in 1976.

There was simply too much going on to see everything. At any given time, there were eleven talks happening simultaneously, and that doesn’t include the demonstrations and workshops which ran all day. I documented as many highlights from this year’s TCF as I could for those who haven’t had a chance to visit what might be the most low-key, and certainly oldest, celebration of computing technology on the planet. Join me after the break for the whirlwind tour.

Continue reading “Hackaday Visits World’s Oldest Computer Festival: TCF 43”

Dedicated Button for Toggling Screens

Anyone who regularly presents to an audience these days has known the pain of getting one’s laptop to work reliably with projection hardware. It’s all the more fraught with pain when you’re hopping around from venue to venue, trying desperately to get everything functioning on a tight schedule. [Seb] found that the magic keystrokes they used to deal with these issues no longer worked on the Macbook Pro Touchbar, and so a workaround was constructed in hardware.

The build itself is simple – an Adafruit Trinket serves as the brains, with a meaty 12mm tactile button used for input. The Trinket emulates a USB keyboard and sends the Cmd-F1 keypress to the computer when the button is pressed. The button’s even mounted in a tidy deadbugged fashion.

While it’s not at all complicated from a build standpoint, the key to this project is that it’s a great example of using the tools available to solve real-life problems. When you’re in a rush with 300 people waiting for your talk to start, the last thing you need to be worrying about is a configuration issue. [Seb] now has a big red button to mash to get out of trouble and get on with the job at hand. It does recall this much earlier hack for emulating a USB keyboard with an Arduino Uno or Mega. It’s a useful skill to have!

 

Giving a Powerpoint presentation with an Apple ][

When [Vince] saw a coworker give a presentation with an iPad, he thought to himself what a tremendous waste of computing resources he was witnessing; an iPad is just as powerful as an early Cray supercomputer, and displaying slides isn’t a computationally intensive task. We’re assuming [Vince]’s train of thought went off the rails at that point, because he came up with a neat way to give a presentation with an Apple ][.

To get his slides onto his Apple ][, [Vince] created a tool to convert the text and images for a presentation to an Applesoft BASIC program. Yes, six-color images are supported in a wonderful 280×192 resolution. The presentation was transferred onto a CompactFlash card and loaded onto the Apple with the help of a CFFA card, making it much faster to load images during the presentation than a 5.25″ disk would allow.

Of course, after the presentation some of [Vince]’s coworkers wanted to play Oregon Trail, a request easily handled by the voluminous CF card loaded with Apple ][ programs. You can check out video demo/walkthrough of his presentation after the break.

Continue reading “Giving a Powerpoint presentation with an Apple ][“