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VCF 10.0 - Sessions

Year after year, the VCF presents an amazing line-up of speakers and workshops for the computer history and vintage computing enthusiast. We are proud to present the session line-up for VCF 10.0.

This year we have multiple conference tracks. All talks that begin on the hour are in one track and the talks that begin on the half hour are in another. Each session is typically one hour in length and usually includes time for questions and answers at the end.

Make a selection below to view the session descriptions for each day, or click on the session title in the Session Summary to jump directly to a session. To read a brief biography of each speaker, click on their photo or name.

Session Summary

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007
SessionTimeLocation
The Role of the TRS-80 in Computer History10:00 AMGrand Hall
The History of RAMAC: The First Spinning Disk Drive10:30 AMBoole
Deconstructing the Intel 400411:00 AMGrand Hall
The Digibarn11:30 AMTheater
The Disk Drive Industry Family Tree11:30 AMBoole
Intel SIM8-01: A Proto-PC12:00 PMGrand Hall
Hard Disks and WeirdStuff12:30 PMBoole
The Computer Revolution 30 Years On01:00 PMGrand Hall
Director's Notes: Greg Maletic02:00 PMTheater
Micro-KIM Workshop02:00 PMWorkshop
Director's Notes: Jason Scott03:00 PMTheater
Sunday, November 4th, 2007
SessionTimeLocation
The Impact of Magnetic Stripe Media on Computers10:00 AMGrand Hall
Thank You, Jim10:30 AMBoole
Booting Sage Computer - A Subjective Retrospective11:00 AMGrand Hall
International Obfuscated C Code Contest Awards Presentation11:30 AMTheater
A Brief History of Phone Phreaking, 1960-198011:30 AMBoole
Recent Developments in Conway's Life and a Miniblast from Macsyma's Past12:00 PMGrand Hall
The First Computer Store: What Was Then, What Is Now, and Where We Are Heading12:30 PMBoole
The LINC: A Paradigm Shift01:00 PMGrand Hall
PDP-1 Restoration Review02:00 PMBoole
Creatively Vintage: Retro-Tech in Art Space03:00 PMGrand Hall
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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sessions for Boole

Albert Hoagland
10:30 AMAlbert Hoagland
The History of RAMAC: The First Spinning Disk Drive
Founded in 2001, the mission of the Magnetic Disk Heritage Center is "to preserve the history and legacy of magnetic disk storage at 99 Notre Dame, San Jose, California, where it all began."

Beginning in 2003, the MDHC undertook the restoration of a RAMAC disk drive through a loan of the device from IBM.

This talk will first cover the origins of magnetic disk data storage, discussing the design, development and features of the creation of the RAMAC 350 disk file, followed by an assessment of the restoration effort.

Shrikant Desai
11:30 AMShrikant Desai
The Disk Drive Industry Family Tree
The 1970s and 1980s saw disk drive formats shrink from 14 inch hard disks to 3.5 inch hard and flexible media. Shugart Associates was a primary innovator and major influence on disk drive designs that used flexible mylar and hard aluminum substrate media. For example, the patented band actuator that Shugart pioneered became the disk drive industry's work horse technology.

The disk drive industry is a fishbowl, where skilled and experienced people moved from one corner to other in this small arena. From talented engineers at Shugart and Xerox came Quantum, Maxtor, Conner, Seagate, Adaptec, Komag, Vertex, Optimem, Maxoptix, and other businesses like WeirdStuff and Yantrik.

This presentation will highlight the industry contributions of Shugart Associates and trace the companies that it spawned. Its a historical perspective from days when an 8 inch floppy drive sold for around $800.


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Lyle Bickley
Lyle Bickley (Moderator)

12:30 PMLyle Bickley (Moderator)
Hard Disks and WeirdStuff
Learn the amazing history of WeirdStuff. From mouse balls and bearings to electron microscopes and clean rooms--they've sold it all! Dave, Chuck and Jim will tell weird stories of the Valley and talk about selling weird stuff. Learn what has changed (or not) over the years about brokering, retailing and scrapping industrial surplus.

WeirdStuff will be giving away a Polymorphic Systems Poly-88 computer with keyboard and documentation at their session. One winner will be chosen at random. Don't miss it!

Sessions for Grand Hall


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Theresa Welsh
Theresa Welsh (Moderator)

10:00 AMTheresa Welsh (Moderator)
The Role of the TRS-80 in Computer History
David and Theresa Welsh were in business in the late 1970s producing software for the TRS-80. Their main product was a word processor called Lazy Writer, which David programmed in Z80 Assembler. David and Theresa, along with a staff of a few part-time college kids working out of a small office in Detroit, shipped orders worldwide during the years when the TRS-80 family of microcomputers (Model I/III/4) were popular.

In 2007, on the 30th anniversary of the TRS-80, they published a book about those years, Priming the Pump: How TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution, which has received rave reviews. In researching their book, they got the inside story of the development of the TRS-80 from the men who designed it.

Theresa and David will be talking about their experiences as early software entrepreneurs. They will recreate the flavor of those years with a presentation of the people, the hardware, the software, the magazines, and the stories about this often overlooked corner of early personal computing.

Tim McNerney
11:00 AMTim McNerney
Deconstructing the Intel 4004
From conception through construction, Tim McNerney assembled and led a talented team of engineers and designers to create the Intel 4004 35th anniversary exhibit for the Intel Museum. Critical to the success of the project were "digital archeology" efforts performed in collaboration with the Computer History Museum. Tim will talk about the process of reverse-engineering the Intel 4004 schematics and the Busicom 141-PF calculator ROMs that led his team to uncover elegantly crafted layers of a computational system that makes optimal use of hardware and software.

Zbigniew Stachniak
12:00 PMZbigniew Stachniak
Intel SIM8-01: A Proto-PC
Introduced in 1972 as a low cost hardware aid for program development, the SIM8-01 was not just the first commercially available 8-bit microcomputer but became a blueprint for the design of the first generation of commercial and hobby general purpose microcomputers. It was also an educational aid, a microprocessor trainer, and even a digital laboratory workstation used at some universities to introduce students to the principles of the emerging discipline of microprocessor systems design.

In this talk, I chronicle the development of the Intel SIM8-01 microcomputer and analyze its impact on the first wave of global microcomputer developments, such as the development of one of the world's first PCs by Toronto based Micro Computer Machines.

Lee Felsenstein
01:00 PMLee Felsenstein
The Computer Revolution 30 Years On
Legendary Silicon Valley denizen Lee Felsenstein will give a keynote retrospective talk on the computer revolution begun in the 1970s with thoughts on where we are today and where we're headed.

Sessions for Theater


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Galen Brandt
Galen Brandt (Moderator)

11:30 AMGalen Brandt (Moderator)
The Digibarn
Bruce Damer and Al Lundell will describe how the Digibarn was born, detailing some of the trials and triumphs of creating both a large physical collection and a sprawling cyber-presence.

They will detail tips for newbie collectors, including how to organize the artifacts, how to exhibit a collection on a budget, running open houses in an old barn, working with a large contributor community, managing media presence and the resulting "strange attractor" effect, and the importance of people and story over just accumulating boxes.

Greg Maletic
02:00 PMGreg Maletic
Director's Notes: Greg Maletic
Filmmaker Greg Maletic will discuss his film Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball before a partial screening of the film.

Jason Scott
03:00 PMJason Scott
Director's Notes: Jason Scott
Arrived documentary filmmaker Jason Scott will be talking about the production of his upcoming documentaries Get Lamp and Arcade, as well as his previous work, BBS Documnetary.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sessions for Boole

Jack Rubin
10:30 AMJack Rubin
Thank You, Jim
A tribute to Jim Butterfield, 6502 teacher and friend, who died earlier this year at age 71.

Jim and the 6502 discovered each other in 1976 and we all gained from the relationship. Many of us met him through his writings, especially his columns in Compute Magazine. He was also a frequent attendee--and presenter--at computer clubs and events. To all, Jim was a patient, generous and supportive teacher.

This session is an opportunity to share your memories and stories with others who were touched by this gentle man.

Jim Butterfield

Phil Lapsley
11:30 AMPhil Lapsley
A Brief History of Phone Phreaking, 1960-1980
Some of the characters involved in the history of computing were also involved in another hobby: exploring the telephone system. In this session, Phil will give a brief history of "phone phreaking" from 1960 to 1980. We'll see how the phirst "blue box" came to be, we'll look at why organized crime loved the technology, and we'll see how AT&T and the Department of Justice reacted to this phad in the 1960s. We'll then phollow the phreaks into the 1970s as their hobby hit the mainstream in 1971 with the publication of "Secrets of the Little Blue Box" in Esquire magazine. As a bonus, we'll get to listen to some sounds of the old network! If you've ever used a blue box, this will be a phun trip down memory lane--and if you haven't, you'll get to listen to some great examples of hacking with tones!

Lance Leventhal
12:30 PMLance Leventhal
The First Computer Store: What Was Then, What Is Now, and Where We Are Heading
Dick Heiser opened the first computer store in Santa Monica in 1978. The news media marveled at the idea of a store where people actually went to buy computers! What would be next: nuclear power plants, spaceships, oil refineries?

Today computers are everywhere, and most people living in industrialized countries use them every day for work, play, and general communications. The $100 computer promises to bring the same power to the underdeveloped world. What have we learned-–both good and bad-–in the last 30 years and where are the opportunities and issues for tomorrow?


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Sellam Ismail
Sellam Ismail (Moderator)

02:00 PMSellam Ismail (Moderator)
PDP-1 Restoration Review
Begun on October 18, 2003 and completed on November 1, 2005, a group of dedicated volunteers at the Computer History Museum restored to working condition a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 computer.

Some of the team members involved in this effort, including Lyle Bickley, Eric Smith, Ken Sumrall, and Steve Russell, will recount the epic effort put forth to bring this historic machine back into operation.

More information on the PDP-1 restoration project can be found here.

Sessions for Grand Hall

Jerome Svigals
10:00 AMJerome Svigals
The Impact of Magnetic Stripe Media on Computers
In the 37 years from its introduction, the magnetic striped transaction card is now used by 80% of the world's population. Why so many? How has it impacted computer system architecture? And what are the next evolutionary steps with transaction card technologies?

Jerome Svigals, father of the magnetic striped card and ticket, will answer these and other questions in this historical retrospective.

Rod Coleman
11:00 AMRod Coleman
Booting Sage Computer - A Subjective Retrospective
Rod Coleman, co-founder, will discuss the people, the process and the politics involved in creating the relatively obscure but exceptional Sage Computer.

From technology and finance, to litigation and romance, the details of Sage Computer Technology will be revealed in a candid presentation that will take you back to the early days of the microcomputer industry.

Bill Gosper
12:00 PMBill Gosper
Recent Developments in Conway's Life and a Miniblast from Macsyma's Past
When asked to provide an abstract for his talk, Bill replied:

Abstract: No abstract. Only concrete.

Get ready for a talk by legendary old school hacker Bill Gosper as he takes you on a magical mystery tour of Life, numbers, and hacking.


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Bruce Damer
Bruce Damer (Moderator)

01:00 PMBruce Damer (Moderator)
The LINC: A Paradigm Shift
Back when computers were giant, fiercely-expensive, room-filling affairs that had to be shared, it took corrective foresight to believe that it was possible to put a whole computer into the hands of a single user as owner and master. Conventional wisdom has it that this vision wasn't realized until the 1970s, but in fact such a machine, the LINC, was developed at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in the early 1960s. The particular motivation was to provide a programable computer for real-time, on-line biomedical research. The work was carried out by a small group of enthusiastic colleagues, and the LINC (Laboratory INstrument Computer) proved so successful that in less than two years, under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health, copies were in active use in over twenty laboratories around the country. Over the next decade the LINC and its variants spread through the biomedical research community and significantly advanced the work in numerous disciplines.

The LINC has been identified by the IEEE Computer Society as the first personal computer. However, as the leader of the design team puts it, "What excited us was not just the idea of a personal computer. It was the promise of a new departure from what everyone else seemed to think computers were all about, a corrective point of departure from an otherwise overwhelming mainstream. The need was entirely real, the opportunity was there, the resources superb. Just build and demonstrate a sound counterexample and see to it that it was used humanely, a complete if small computer that did interactive real-time work efficiently, one that could simply be turned off at night with a clear conscience, just taken for granted, no administrators. For us, it was the point of departure."

In the rush of the technological advance of the 1970s and 80s, the LINC became obsolete. Fortunately, one of the most foresightful of us had the wisdom to purchase four of the decommissioned LINCs and sequester them in his garage in St. Louis. Over the last year he and three colleagues, working with great zeal and no funding, managed to bring one of the LINCs back to life, which will be displayed and demonstrated at the Vintage Computer Festival and subsequently move into the permanent collection of the Digibarn Computer Museum.

In the first part of our presentation, some members of the original design team will summarize the early history and applications and describe what was special about the LINC. In the second part, the resuscitation team will describe what it took to rejuvenate an ancient computer that had slept quietly for more than twenty-five years.

It is sad that Charlie Molnar, the LINC's co-designer, died in 1996; we will miss his keen insights and sense of humor. This presentation is dedicated to his memory.

More information on the LINC restoration project can be found at the DigiBarn website.


Christine Finn
03:00 PMChristine Finn
Creatively Vintage: Retro-Tech in Art Space
"Techstyle" is a sculptural art work inspired by one of the most tangible aspects of technology: the wires and cables that connect everything together. It draws on the pre-history of computers (the 19th century coding of Jacquard textile looms) tracing the route to wireless technology via the familiar snarls of grey cables.

The most mundane cables will be adapted as art material by being stripped and exposed, knotted and woven to create a curtain. The piece was conceived as a tribute to the anonymous skillforce of the technology timeline: the loom workers, motherboard assemblers, lab workers, and production line fabricators, whose adept handiwork has helped to advance technology.

In particular this work comes out of an intangible thread--a story which has gone down in computer history folklore about the complex and abundant wiring of early Cray supercomputers which, it is claimed, was made possible by the skills of Scandinavian female workers who had settled in the north-east of America. The piece is designed to evolve over two days, using materials procured from dumpsters, thift stores, and electronic surplus shops. VCF attendees are most welcome to contribute wires and cables--and to contribute their technological expertise.

Sessions for Theater

Landon Curt Noll
11:30 AMLandon Curt Noll
International Obfuscated C Code Contest Awards Presentation
The International Obfuscated C Code Contest is a programming contest for the most creatively obfuscated C code, held annually since 1984 (with the exception of 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003).

Landon Curt Noll, one of the founders of the contest, will announce the winners of the 2007 contest and will demonstrate the winning entries. Knowledge of the C language is not required to attend nor to appreciate the functionality of the winning entries.


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