Restoring The Cheapest TRS-80 At The Swap Meet

We don’t know if you’ve looked into it recently, but the prices for vintage computers are through the roof right now. These classic machines are going through something of a renaissance at the moment, with even relatively commonplace computers commanding several hundred dollars if they’re in good condition. For those looking to start a collection without breaking the bank, you may need to accept some specimens that have seen better days.

That’s the situation [Vlado Vince] recently found himself in — he wanted to get his hands on a TRS-80 Model I, but wasn’t willing to spend eBay prices. So he waited until the Vintage Computer Federation’s swap meet in June and was able to snag a “fully functional” example for $95. Unfortunately the seller must have been using some form of that phrase which we were previously unaware of, as it took a considerable amount of work to get it back online.

Continue reading “Restoring The Cheapest TRS-80 At The Swap Meet”

VCF’s Swap Meet Experiment Helps Support Expansion

There was a time when those looking for tech bargains had to either try their luck at the local flea market, or make the pilgrimage out to a dedicated swap meet. But with the rise of websites like eBay and Craigslist these parking lot meetups started to fall out of favor, to the point that they became all but extinct over the last couple decades.

So there was some risk involved when the Vintage Computer Federation decided to dust off the concept as a way of sidestepping New Jersey’s COVID-era limitations on indoor meetups. But as VCF Vice President [Jeffrey Brace] explained during our visit earlier this month, the experiment has more than paid off. Each swap meet has brought in buyers and sellers from all over the Mid–Atlantic region, helping to not only raise money for the VCF’s ongoing preservation efforts, but spread awareness of the organization and their goals.

The VCF hopes to expand their existing museum.

During our chat, [Jeffrey] goes over the origins and growth of the VCF swap meet, and how it compares to their annual Vintage Computer Festival. He also speaks about the Federation’s desire to expand their already impressive museum space into a far larger climate-controlled area that will allow for even more classic computer hardware to be put on display.

We visited the VCF swap meet back in 2021, and came away with the distinct impression that [Jeffrey] and the rest of the team had a winning idea on their hands. We’re happy to report that as of 2023 the areas where we saw room for improvement — namely the lack of on-site refreshment and a somewhat overly narrow focus on vintage hardware — have both been addressed. In its current form, this is truly a must-see event for anyone with an interest in computers, radio, or even just general electronics who happens to live within driving distance of the Jersey shore.

While eBay certainly makes it easy to bid on a piece of gear, you’re unlikely to make a new friend while doing so. Events like this are more than just a way to buy and sell hardware, but provide a chance for like-minded individuals to connect and build a community. We’re glad to see the event grow larger each year, and hope it inspires similar revivals elsewhere.

Continue reading “VCF’s Swap Meet Experiment Helps Support Expansion”

This Weekend: VCF Swap Meet In Wall, NJ

There was a time where you could regularly find local swap meets to pick up computer hardware, ham radios, and other tech gear at the sort of cut-rate prices so often produced by a sense of camaraderie. But with the rise of websites like Craigslist and eBay, meeting up in person to buy and sell used hardware started to fall out of style. The fact that the prices had to go up due to the considerable cost of shipping such large and heavy objects was an unfortunate side-effect, but it wasn’t enough to stem the tide.

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever truly return to those early days. But if you’re within driving distance of Wall, New Jersey, you can take a step back in time on Saturday and experience a proper swap meet in all its glory. Hosted by the Vintage Computer Federation, the modest $5 entry fee goes to help support their worthy goal of preserving vintage computing history. After the swap meet officially wraps up at 2 PM, a short walk will take you over to their permanent exhibit located within the sprawling InfoAge Science and History Museum.

Continue reading “This Weekend: VCF Swap Meet In Wall, NJ”

Travel The World Looking For Retro Tech, Virtually

For those who have a passion for vintage hardware, whether it be a classic computer or a war-surplus ham radio rig, finding the things without resorting to paying shipping fees on eBay can sometimes be tricky. Your best bet is to find a local fair or swap event, but it always seems they’re the kind of thing you find out about the weekend after they were held.

Looking to make these sort of events more visible and easier to keep track of, [RobSmithDev] has created the Retro.Directory. Scrolling your way across the globe you can see markers that indicate places of interest for the retro aficionado, such as museums, repair shops, and old school arcades, as well as upcoming events. Continue reading “Travel The World Looking For Retro Tech, Virtually”

The First-Ever Kansas City Keyboard Meetup Is This Weekend

Sometimes, if you wait long enough for something you want, it will come to you. Whether it’s the law of attraction or just plain laziness, it has finally happened — there’s a keyboard meetup happening within a 500-mile radius of me. As far as I know, it’s the first one ever in Kansas City. I’m going, I’m bringing weird keyboards, and I might even have some Hackaday stickers to sprinkle around.

Although the event was originally planned to take place in the side room of a coffeehouse in the historic northeast, it was quickly moved to a much larger, co-working space downtown to accommodate all the maniacs like yours truly who want to bring a whole bunch of keebs. I’m even bringing some tables, y’all.

This’ll be more than just a show and tell, because what kind of object-focused nerd gathering would be complete without a swap meet element? You’re probably going to find that all kinds of keyboards and keyboard accessories are for sale, but you also might get lucky and win a cute bag of switches from Kinetic Labs, or a 3×4 macro pad from Boardsource (who will also have stickers on hand).

Come for the cool keyboards, and stay for the conversations you’ll strike up with the awesome folks who brought them. Who knows, maybe we’ll all infiltrate the slammin’ ice cream shop down the street.

Questions? Comments? Just want to share your excitement? Come join the Discord! If you’re planning to show up on Saturday, please take a second to fill out the head count document. If you do, it’ll probably net you a deli sandwich when you get there.

If you can’t make it, that’s okay — stay tuned for coverage of the event, and start planning for the next one, because hopefully, there will be many more to come.

Main and thumbnail images by Mingwei Lim on Unsplash

Don’t Miss The VCF Indoor Swap Meet This Weekend

We don’t need to tell you that these last couple of years have been a real drag for in-person events. But at long last, after a bit of a false start last summer, it seems like we can finally start peeking our heads out and getting back to doing the things we love. So why not celebrate by taking part in that most sacred of geek pastimes: poring through boxes of dusty old gear in search of some electronic treasure?

On Saturday the Vintage Computer Federation (VCF) is holding an indoor swap meet at the InfoAge Science and History Museum in New Jersey, and everyone’s invited. Vintage computers will naturally be the main attraction, but if their previous events are any indication, you should expect the tables to be filled with a healthy mix of general electronics, classic games, and amateur radio gear as well. The doors open up at 8 AM sharp and it’s free to get in, so we’d suggest showing up early for the best selection.

A little less than a year ago we visited the previous VCF swap meet, which back then had to be held outdoors due to COVID-19 concerns, and were blown away by the selection of weird and wonderful hardware up for grabs. From arcade cabinets to luggable PCs and 3D printers, there was a little something for everyone, and all at rock-bottom prices. The only real gripe we had was the lack of on-site food and beverage, which according to the VCF website, has been addressed this time around. No word on whether or not there’s an ATM handy though, so you might want to stop and get some cash before heading to the relatively remote Camp Evans site.

After the swap meet wraps up at 2 PM, be sure to check out the Vintage Computer Federation’s permanent collection at InfoAge, as well as all the incredible exhibits and mini-museums the site has to offer. If nothing else, we strongly recommend you take the walk down the road to the TLM-18 Space Telemetry Antenna that Princeton University currently operates as Linux-powered software defined radio telescope.

The fine folks of the VCF are also hard at work putting together their annual East Coast Vintage Computer Festival, which will take place at InfoAge on April 22nd to the 24th, so mark your calendars.

VCF Swap Meet Takes Step Back To Move Forward

When computers were the sort of thing you ordered from a catalog and soldered together in your garage, swap meets were an invaluable way of exchanging not just hardware and software, but information. As computers became more mainstream and readily available, the social aspect of these events started to take center stage. Once online retail started really picking up steam, it was clear the age of the so-called “computer show” was coming to a close. Why wait months to sell your old hardware at the next swap when you could put it on eBay from the comfort of your own home?

Of course, like-minded computer users never stopped getting together to exchange ideas. They just called these meets something different. By the 2000s, the vestigial remnants of old school computer swap meets could be found in the vendor rooms of hacker cons. The Vintage Computer Festival (VCF) maintained a small consignment area where attendees could unload their surplus gear, but it wasn’t the real draw of the event. Attendees came for the workshops, the talks, and the chance to hang out with people who were passionate about the same things they were.

Consignment goods at VCF East XIII in 2018.

Then came COVID-19. For more than a year we’ve been forced to cancel major events, suspend local meetups, and in general, avoid one another. Some of the conventions were revamped and presented virtually, and a few of them actually ended up providing a unique and enjoyable experience, but it still wasn’t the same. If you could really capture the heart and soul of these events with a video stream and a chat room, we would’ve done it already.

But this past weekend, the folks behind VCF East tried something a little different. As indoor gatherings are still strongly discouraged by New Jersey’s stringent COVID restrictions, they decided to hold a computer swap meet in the large parking lot adjacent to the InfoAge Science and History Museum. There were no formal talks or presentations, but you could at least get within speaking distance of like-minded folks again in an environment were everyone felt comfortable.

Continue reading “VCF Swap Meet Takes Step Back To Move Forward”