Retro computing with a touch of modern and the home for all things, retroCombs (aka Steven Combs).
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11 September 2022
My Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2022 Experience and Commodore PET Purchase
by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
This blog post serves as an outline for a companion video that highlights my experiences at the 2022 Vintage Computer Festival Midwest (VCFMW). This is not a word-for-word script but outline with additional supporting links. For the complete experience, watch the companion video.
We arrived in a timely manner, safely, and in style the evening prior for one-day visit to the festival
We didn’t stay at the conference hotel, but choose a Courtyard by Marriott about 7 minutes from the venue.
We arrived at Elmhurst, IL in time for a dinner and chose this fantastic Italian deli, Frankie’s Deli where we each grabbed a fresh deli sandwich and a side.
Afterward I stocked up on groceries for the lovely accountant.
We enjoyed a fabulous dinner and chatted all things retro-computing before heading back to our hotel for a slumber.
Back in my room, I dozed off to a good book to get me ready for the next day.
We woke up around 8 a.m., checked out, and the three of us meet downstairs in the lobby of the hotel around 8:45 to depart for the event.
This was Mike’s first experience and we travel to the event location, he had questions and we shared our 2021 experience. Before we knew it, we arrived.
As we pulled up, Jamie and I immediately noticed that the attendance for this year was up from 2021. If you are interested that visit, check out the video description for a link to that companion blog post that shares the 2021 experience.
We snuck into a parking spot available at the side of the venue. Grabbed our gear and headed inside sharing a conversation who was attending for the first time from Ohio.
My goal was to immediately head to the Bonus Life Computers tables. Last year I found an amazing value on a TI-994/A, and knew if I was to pick up anything this year, he would be my source. And did I get a find. More on this later.
Mike and Jamie both made purchases for BLC. As an aside, I recommend BLC for all you retro-computing purchases. All items are clean, in working order, and priced accordingly. When you make purchases at the event you save shipping and get to try everything out. The only negative is that horrible Chicago/IL tax rate!
After securing our purchases, we headed into the show to see all kinds of fun things.
This is not a full list of what we saw, but here are my favorites:
The lobby had locations for old tech gear, badges (they were out at 9 a.m.!), and t-shirts. Jamie and Mike both got a shirt. I passed this year.
A VCF banner adorned the hallway in a cool DEC motif.
Down the hallway were tables filled with items for purchase such as Apple, Mac, PCs, Sun, and every other retro-brand.
No matter what you were looking for to either view or purchase, computer, monitor, or printers, you could find it at this show.
One of the most popular hallways was the main hall with vendor tables. This was hall served as the entrance to the main exhibit areas and it was alway crowded.
Tip: Go the vendor hallway first if you want to find bargains and once-of-show opportunities.
What surprised me both years was that retro-computers was not the only items on display or for sale. You can grab deals or look at peripherals and audio/video equipment.
One of the great parts of the show is seeing the things you’ve read about or haven’t experienced since the 1970s or 80s.
In the exhibit rooms, collectors had their tables set up and you never know who you might run into.
One of my favorite stops was a look at old tech used to keep cable channels alive including proprietary video titling and an Amiga 2000 with video toaster.
A Back to the Future home-brew Delorean dashboard was another favorite.
There were several projects I’d like to try lake a terminal connected to a Raspberry Pi.
Another favorites was this teletype printer.
In between favorite tables, I was stopped by Jim, who recognized me from the channel, and said, you have to sing happy birthday with us for the C64 birthday.
A table purchase I made was Wi-Fi RetroModem. This drop in Hayes modem replacement board connects any serial device/terminal to the internet. Scott sold me when I walked up.
Everyone knows I love the MEGA65, but I finally had a chance to take a look at the Commander X16 at the TexElec booth. I have new found respect for this computer since it uses a 6502 and not an FPGA.
About mid-way through the show, Jamie pointed out Robin, host of 8-Bit Show and Tell, who had collaborated with me on an earlier video and someone who I’d only met virtually. We had a great discussion and he’s a great guy.
Attendees found creative ways to share what they were selling. Hope this guy unloaded his Amiga!
This Odyssey display was super impressive and was popular among attendees. There was even a working model for sale. That was hard for me to pass up, but I had to for reasons I’ll share later.
One last computer I had a chance to see in the wild for the first time was a Commodore B128. A unicorn for me, I’m glad I could checked this one off my list. Now if I could only get my hands on a Commodore LCD!
We took a break around noon to get lunch at Portillo’s. It was a popular location for lunch for many attendees and there were several YouTube hosts trying to grab a bite before their 1:30 p.m. panel.
After lunch we returned to find the YouTube host panel room packed. We made one last round in the exhibits while it was thinned out. After about 30 mins, it was time for us start heading back home.
We headed back to the Bonus Life Computers tables to pick up our purchases which brings me back to…
Earlier, I mentioned my purchase:
When I arrived in the morning, I found an original, first generation Commodore PET 2001 with 8Kb of ram, a working internal tape drive, and that fabulous (looking that is) chiclet keyboard. I drooled over it for minutes.\
I asked if it was available and working. It was placed on the table right before I arrived. I’m glad we to the event right at 9 a.m.!
I stayed right in front of the PET while we tried it out trying to fend off the many folks looking at it behind me.
When I saw it was operational, I opened the top to look inside. Cosmetically, the PET is in amazing shape for a computer from 1977. The inside was dirty, but not overly and will be easy to clean up.
I asked the price. It was right about the price I had in my head. I stayed close to it, playing with the keyboard. After Jamie told me, if you don’t buy it I will, I committed to the purchase (sorry, Jamie!).
BLC let me keep it at their table while I enjoyed the show, I didn’t want it sitting in a hot car in a parking lot.
After the show, we packed up all our purchases from BLC on a cart and rolled them out to the car for the journey home.
My hope was the PET would be unaffected by the multiple roads under construction on the way home.
On the way home, I sent a tweet to Chuck Hutchins, a PET guru, to ask a few questions about my first steps.
At home, I plugged in the PET and turned it on to find the PET made the trip safely.
I put it away for the rest of the evening to enjoy time with the Lovely Accountant.
The next morning, I saw a response from Chuck on the things I needed to get the most out of the PET. He had great suggestions.
I visited The Future Was 8 Bit and purchased three items. More on these items in upcoming blog posts or videos.
Thanks to @HutchCA for the Commodore PET advice. Order placed from @futurewas8bit and can't wait to add these upgrades to my PET. I'll share my experience in an upcoming video. Rod, if there's something else you'd like me to show, feel free to drop it in the box! 😉 pic.twitter.com/1QXJS3E1lg
The drive home we chatted about the exhibits, researched our purchases, and talked about what we would do with each of them.
Four hours later, we were back in Columbus unpacking our gear.
This year’s event was a blast. In addition to checking out and purchasing cool retro tech, I made new friends, got to chat with other YouTube hosts, and with four of folks who spotted me in the crowd. They each received a small thank you. Can’t wait until next year!
If you want to see my 2021 experience, check out this video.
For more on my VCFMW 2021 purchase, check out this video.
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