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Vintage Computer Festival - Web Log

How Not To Ship a Vintage Computer, or More Silly eBay Foibles
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Sunday March 9, 2008 @ 4:46pm

Recently, I finally snagged an Apple //c LCD panel off eBay:



And I got a decent price to boot (these usually go for US$200 minimum). The seller was a decent enough guy. He was easy to work with as we culminated the transaction via e-mail.

After a couple weeks, I got it. Here's the box in which it arrived:



Yes, that's how the box leaves were folded. The seller didn't use tape to seal the top of the box:



Nor the bottom:



Instead, he used this rope to seal the box:



I think he lives on a ranch or something. Anyway, it gets better. Let's see what packing material was used.



There's an empty box inside this bag that was used for filler.



And--you guessed it--the Premium Polyester Fill gave the //c a very comfortable ride over.



And there was also reading material for the long journey, in this case newsprint:



And what's that around the newspaper? Is that...? Oh, no he didn't...



Oh yes, he did. Magnetic tape!

In spite of this unorthodox packing regimen, the goods did arrive in fine shape:



And it works! I'll still give the seller positive feedback :)



That was with the flash on my camera turned on. This next photo gives you a sense of the readability (or rather lack thereof) of the Apple //c LCD display:



OK, it's not as bad as the photo depicts, but it is fairly hard to read. I can't imagine many people who bought one of these back in the day were very happy with it. Evidently, very few sold, and it's not hard to understand why. They totally suck.

And for more than twenty years, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. What a let-down :(

Oh well, long live Apple ][!



The classic Apple ][ hi-res graphics moire pattern (it's there, I swear!)

P.S. eBay sucks!!

P.P.S. The Vintage Computer Marketplace is returning soon!

P.P.P.S. Click on photos for larger images.


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VCFX This Weekend!
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Friday November 2, 2007 @ 4:13am

So we have arrived at the big moment:

Ten Years of the VCF, baby!

I'll be there...

Will you?


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Come to VCF X, or Stay Home and Miss the Nerd Event of the Century
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Friday August 17, 2007 @ 5:55pm

You are planning to attend VCF X this year on November 3-4, right?

P.S. Sorry for not making it to VCF Midwest 3.0 :(


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S00per S33kr3t Talk at VCF East 4.0!
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Sunday June 3, 2007 @ 12:04am

I'll be giving a special Secrets of the Vintage Computing Guru talk at VCF East 4.0 this coming weekend. Day and time is to be announced at the event. Don't miss it...it's the only time I plan to give this talk.


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Vintage Computing - In Style!
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Thursday November 16, 2006 @ 12:59pm

So, with VCF 9.0 behind us it's time to relax a little and enjoy the fruits of our meaningless toil.

Hans was still in town and Uncle Roger and his family came over for a well-earned dinner (Roger gets stuck with the menial jobs at the VCF, but only because he likes them). So what do nerds--especially ones enamored with old computers--do at a dinner party? Why they bust out a video projector (last generation of course...anything newer would be blasphemous) and hook it up to their favorite old machine, in this case an Apple //e.

Ah yes! 60 inches of vintage computing glory, viewable from the comfort of the papasan set behind my pool table, which provides a luxurious surface on which to spread out an Apple //e and several floppy disk organizers holding hundreds of classic Apple ][ games.

The dinner party has long since passed, but here I am still slumped in my papasan (oh the comfort!) playing old favorites such as Dino Eggs (one of the best games ever for the Apple ][) and Taipan.

There's something extraordinarily comforting about old technology (or maybe it's the papasan). I can't and won't make the time to play any contemporary games (OK, the one exception is Grand Theft Auto) but when the rare opportunity arises to play games from my youth it takes me back to another time and another place: it feels like home.

Stay tuned for the VCF 9.0 round-up, and some hints at what to expect at VCFX. Muhahahahahaha!!!


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How to Get on Television
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @ 1:46pm

To get on TV, follow these steps:

1. Collect a metric buttload of old computers
2. ???
3. Profit!

Ok, in reality, it's a bit more complicated than that. Anybody can collect a hundred or so computers in a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable budget. And that might get you an article in the local paper, perhaps under the "Interesting People to Avoid Getting Into a Conversation With at Lunch" column.

But to get on TV, one must collect enough of something that it eventually creates a gravity all its own, which then proceeds to pull people in its direction.

This is what happened with my computer collection, though I assure you it started out innocently enough. But the net result is that I recently spent a day being filmed going to my favorite collecting spots and buying old computery things for a pilot episode of a new show on The History Channel about people who collect (they call it "salvage") old technology.

With all the gravity that my collection exerts on the real world, it was inevitable that the producers would find their way to me. After several phone interviews it became apparent to them that I was THE guy to fill their "computer salvager" slot.

I've been on TV in various interviews for various purposes enough times that it's not really a big deal for me. Sure, it's fun being the center of attention, but in today's cable saturated market, 15 minutes of fame is more like 6-7 with inflation, and you're just another animal to be gawked at in this gigantic zoo of media. Basically, getting on TV is easy these days. Even a drunken idiot who subsequently gets arrested can attest to that.

So it shouldn't be surprising that I almost turned down the gig because I've been so busy this year working 7-days a week for several weeks at a time, and in some cases 24 hours (or more) a day. At one point, after being awoken by a phone call from the producer in the middle of a much needed midday nap, I went into show-me-the-money mode. "What's in this for me," I asked. Not surprisingly, her answer was along the lines of getting to be on TV, and then maybe you'll get some business from the exposure. Pfeh.

At that point I could have been a primadonna and simply told them to find someone else. I already had enough business as it is and I've already had my 15 minutes of fame (many times over...got the vanity video library to prove it :) But instead I told her I'd get back to her. I really just wanted to get back to my nap.

Eventually, I let reality (and my vanity) get the best of me. The only thing to be gained from these things is the fun factor for friends and family. My nephews get to see me on TV and it's another video for my vanity library, even though taking the time out of my schedule meant more 24 hour catch-up days ahead of me.

The fact is, these cable shows don't make a lot of money. Most of the documentaries or series you see on channels like Discovery, The Learning Channel, The History Channel, etc. are produced on very low budgets by production companies that churn these things out like pizzas. Each is round and tasty but just like the one after the last and before the next but with different toppings. By producing these reality-based shows they take advantage of people who like the idea of being on TV to avoid having to pay real actors.

So they come up with an idea for a show and then pitch it to the channel. If it's met with approval the production company gets contracted to go out and find the "talent", film the spots, and then edit it into a nice half-hour or one hour show. They then present it back to the channel and if everything is as expected they get paid. If it gets good ratings it might end up a series and they get paid some more. If it ends up being really popular they might even get mildly rich. If they're lucky.

You'd better bet that if they come calling again when this thing makes it to series, they are either paying me or they are finding someone else. E-mail me if you're interested and I'll put you on the list (behind me of course ;)

I'll post an update as soon as I have a definite air-time.


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What's with the gray border!?
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Tuesday December 13, 2005 @ 1:34pm

You may have noticed (although you may not care why) that the background border for the VCF website is gray today. That's because I'm showing my support for the Dean Gray Tuesday protest.


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Computing Comes Full Circle Again
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @ 5:13pm

I just read an article in today's San Jose Mercury News about how HP will begin renting computer time by the hour.

So called "utility computing", which has been offered by IBM since at least 1999 and by Sun for a year now, is basically the same thing as time-sharing. In both cases you rent computer time. The difference of course is that with utility computing you are augmenting your own computing facilities, whereas with time-sharing you were renting computing facilities since you had none on your own end, just a dumb terminal of some sort.

Anyway, I just find it interesting how old computing concepts are re-invented and heralded as the next big thing, like the "client-server" paradigm that was all the rage in the 1990s, which was just a new fangled name for the old "terminal-mainframe" paradigm of the 1960s and 1970s.

The cost is reasonable I suppose: $.55 to $1.50 an hour depending on the resources you put to use. But before you start thinking about renting out additional computing power to speed up your animation renderings, there's a $5,000 fee to get started. And for that much money, you could go out and buy yourself a pretty nice server that you would own (and therefore have to maintain, but never mind the hidden costs ;)


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Some random stuff...
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Thursday November 24, 2005 @ 8:32am

Happy Day of Imperious Gluttony! My apologies in advance for being such a Debbie Downer but there are people in your own back yard that could use some help so remember them today as you feast and dine.

I just wanted to post some random links I came across--some mundane, others useful--until I can get the blog feedback code working so my audience of 2 can squawk back at me (sure, I could just install someone's blog software, but what's the fun in that?)

If you haven't already, check out this I, Cringley article about what Google might be up to in buying up all that dark fiber. Sounds groovilicious! Go Google!

Consolidated Surplus claims over 140,000 manuals in their inventory. It's all test equipment but maybe it'll come in handy for you anyway.

While doing some research on the Intel 4004, I stumbled across the Wikipedia entry and noticed there was what I considered inaccurate information about the F-14 CADC microprocessor, so I made some corrections. Kjell from Norway e-mailed me shortly after to discuss the edits, and in the process I came across an interesting mailing list called Interesting People (definitely check it out) run by Dave Farber, a mover and shaker in the Internet realm (to say the least). There was a thread that discussed early microprocessors, including the Intel 4004 and 8008, the Four Phase Systems AL1, and Datapoint. They really only touch on the real (convoluted) history behind the development of the 8008, but it involved much more than Intel's engineers. If you didn't know, Datapoint is (in a way) responsible for the design of the 8008.

Coincidentally, there's been an upsurge in interest in Datapoint over the course of the past year or so. Al Kossow and Jack Rubin have been really digging around and finding some cool stuff (and people). I have a sizeable Datapoint collection myself but haven't had a chance to dig into it as much as I'd really like. Datapoint did some amazing stuff in their day (way more than I can expound upon in this blog posting), but they unfairly remain a relatively obscure company in the annals of history. Hopefully the research Jack and Al are doing will bring them more note.


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Excellent Teletype Resource
Posted by Sellam Ismail on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @ 7:44am

Check out Gil Smith's site dedicated to the teletype:

Teletype Machines - 100 Years of Paper Tape and Teleprinters

Gil makes a cool device that allows you to connect an old loop-current teletype to your PC. It's basically a loop current to serial converter, but it's all contained inside a small DA-9M to DA-9F adaptor enclosure. Very cool!

Here's a page that describes a similar device that's much larger, but has more capabilities. Schematics and stuff are included so you can build your own, but I think you can buy them complete from Gil.

Once you've got that (and a teletype) go over to Bill Buzbee's Heavy Metal site and download a copy of Heavy Metal, which allows you to send message to your newly PC-interfaced teletype. You can even have it download news headlines off the web, turn on your teletype remotely, crank out the news story, and then power down again, just like in the old days. You can play Edward R. Murrow in the comfort and privacy of your own living room.


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The Vintage Computer Festival Blog is a way for event producer Sellam Ismail to connect and communicate with the VCF community on a more regular and less formal basis. The blog will include interesting computer history related stories and sites culled from Sellam's daily perusings of the Internet, as well as information about the VCF Archives and upcoming VCF events. Feel free to respond to any item posted in the blog.


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