VCF East 2024 Was Bigger And Better Than Ever

I knew something had changed before I even paid for my ticket to this year’s Vintage Computer Festival East at the InfoAge Science and History Museum in Wall, New Jersey.

Over the last couple of years, attendance has been growing to the point that parking in the lot directly next to the main entrance has been reserved for only the earliest of risers. That hasn’t described yours truly since the days when I still had what my wife refers to as a “real job”, so that’s meant parking in the overflow lot down the road and walking the half a mile or so back to the main gate. Penance for working on the Internet, let’s call it.

But this time, while walking along the fence that surrounds the sprawling InfoAge campus, I came across an open gate and a volunteer selling tickets. When commenting to her that this was a pleasant surprise compared to the march I’d anticipated, she responded that there had been so many people trying to get into the main entrance that morning that they decided to station her out here to handle the overflow.

I was a few steps past her table and into InfoAge before the implications of this interaction really hit me. Two entrances. How many attendees does there need to be before you setup a secondary ticket booth out by the reserve parking lot just to keep things moving smoothly? Well, I can’t tell you what the exact number is. But after spending the rest of the day walking between all the buildings it took to contain all of the exhibits, talks, and activities this year, I can tell you it’s however many people came to VCF East 2024.

Compared to its relatively humble beginnings, it’s incredible to see what this event has grown into. InfoAge was packed to the rafters, and despite what you might think about a festival celebrating decades old computing hardware, there were plenty of young faces in the crowd. I’m not sure exactly what’s changed, but the whole place was positively jumping. Perhaps it’s partially the generational nostalgia that’s kept Netflix cranking out new seasons of the 1980’s set Stranger Things. I’m sure attention (and attendance) from several well known YouTube personalities have played a big part as well.

Whatever the magic formula that’s turned what was once a somewhat somber retrospective on early desktop computers into a major destination for tech lovers, I’m all for it. Love Live the Vintage Computer Festival!

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Vintage Computer Festival Southern California

The Vintage Computer Festival is coming to sunny Southern California in February 2024. That’s right, bring your Commodores, your Tandys,  your PDP-11s, and Altairs. The world of retrocomputing will be open to vendors, visitors, and exhibitors at The Hotel Fera Events Center in Orange, California on February 17th and 18th, 2024.

If you’re thinking there already is a VCF out west, you’d be right. VCF West was held in August at the Computer History Museum. The CHM is in Mountain View, California. That puts it nearly at the epicenter of the microcomputer revolution of the ’70s and ’80s.

Southern California still had plenty of computer enthusiasts though. For the non-geographically inclined amongst us, SoCal is nearly 6 hours from Mountain View by car.  We’re sure we’ll see many familiar faces at SoCal, along with plenty of new ones.

The Vintage Computer Federation holds several events across the country each year. You might have heard some music from VCF Midwest 2023 back in September. Hackaday was also out in force at VCF East this year, where our own [Bil Herd] moderated a panel of vintage computer YouTubers including [Usagi Electric], [Adrian’s Digital Basement], and [FranLab].

Celebrating The 6502 With Song

In a wonderful ode to tech nostalgia, The Taylor and Amy Show, comprised of YouTubers [Taylor] and [Amy], have released a new video “THE 6502 SONG”. This song had me singing along in roughly six clock cycles, possibly a little dancing around may have occurred as well. This isn’t just any chip they’re singing about; it’s the venerable 6502 microprocessor, the silicon heart behind iconic machines like the Apple II, Commodore 64/128, and the Atari 2600.

Their lyrics reminds me of when I lived for assembly language mnemonics and counting clock cycles, the “feeling” of a processor coming out of tristate to pronounce what it had learned in the last 500ns, and the undulations of the DRAMs like speed bumps. To top it off, portions of the song were actually recorded live at the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2023, where fans and computing history aficionados alike were treated to an impressive display of vintage tech.

What sets “THE 6502 SONG” apart isn’t just its catchy, melodic tune; it’s the expert blend of historical detail and genuine enthusiasm that resonates with everyone from grizzled assembly-language programmers to youngsters newly fascinated by the allure of 8-bit computing. With guest appearances from other female tech YouTubers like [Veronica Explains] and [Evie’s Revue], [AJ], [Jeri and Amy- Tilt5] and [FuzzyBad].

I believe [Chuck Peddle] father of the 6502, would be proud to see his creation live on and be appreciated so.

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Vintage Computer Festival Southwest: Bil And Al’s Excellent Adventure

There was a time when seeing an actual computer was a big deal. They were in air-conditioned rooms with raised floors and locked doors. Even at a university, you were likely only to get access to a keypunch machine or a terminal. Then small computers came out, but computer stores were few and far between. Now you can go to any local store that sells electronics and put your hands on hardware that would have been black magic in those days. But the computers back then were also much easier to understand completely. Look at your main computer today. Do you know all the assembly language instructions for it? Can you access the GPU and the MMU? Could you build your own memory for it? Sure, you don’t have to do those things, but it was fun knowing that you could. That seemed to be the overwhelming sentiment among the attendees we spoke to at the Vintage Computer Festival last weekend: We like computers that we can completely understand and troubleshoot.

If you weren’t one of the 900 or so attendees, we can help. Check out our video summary, dive into even more interviews with Bil Herd and guests on our YouTube channel, or just keep reading. The festival happens at several locations throughout the year, but this was the first time one has been in the Southwest for about ten years!

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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.

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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.

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Hackaday Links: April 30, 2023

Cloudy with a chance of concrete? The “success” of last week’s brief but eventful Starship launch has apparently raised some regulatory eyebrows, with the Federal Aviation Administration launching an investigation into the destruction wrought by the mighty rocket. And it’s not just the hapless Dodge Caravan that they’re concerned with — although we found some fantastic POV footage that shows the kill shot as well as close-ups of the results — but also the damage rained down upon residents around the Boca Chica launch complex. Tons of concrete and rebar were excavated by the 33 Raptor engines during the launch and sent in all directions, reportedly landing up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the pad. What’s worse, a lot of debris ended up on beaches that are home to endangered species, which has the Sierra Club also taking an interest. The FAA has apparently nixed any launches from the Texas facility until they complete their investigation.

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