The Madness of Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2022
[festive intro music] [computer buzzes, beeps] Greetings and welcome to an LGR thing all about Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2022! Yeah this is something I did a video about last year. Cannot believe it's already been a year! But yeah, I was invited back and happy to go back. And set up an LGR Things table/exhibit there so folks can get hands-on with some of the stuff that I show here on LGR and YouTube. And yeah I got my brother going with me again to help me film the thing, and set up and take down. And then we're going to hang out in Chicago, yeah we're going to do
a bunch of fun stuff. So this is not going to be the exact same video as last year. Maybe you want to check that one out if you haven't seen that, or want a refresh or more details on... some of the details of the show. But yeah let's just get to driving, because we got a lot of driving.
Alrighty, so! Kicking things off on the Thursday morning before the show, my brother and I set out on our trek from North Carolina to Illinois once again. This time around it ended up taking a full 12 hours each way due to the route we took and the fuel and food stops we made. Not much longer than last year, but we were switching off driving every few hours and farting around with a new GoPro.
Alongside some neat magnetic car mounting options I picked up, which I’d never used before. So yep, typical southeast to midwest road trip here, nothing surprising. And as such it was colossally boring for large stretches of time but whatever. At least that GoPro made for some fun shots! The last time I used one was like 7 years ago, I guess it was the Hero 5 or something. Which I sold shortly after since it didn’t have the combination of visual fidelity and stabilization I wanted, but the Hero 10 is darn close to what I was looking for, and I enjoy it. Uh,
anyway, getting distracted by new tech, this is supposed to be about old tech! And old places, like the Clarion Inn Elmhurst hotel and conference center built in 1975. Quite the fitting venue for any vintage computer festival. Since we didn’t arrive till late in the day we didn’t do much beyond check into our rooms and order a big ol’ pile of Portillos for supper. Then after a night of italian beef-induced sleep, we got up, grabbed some coffee, and headed on over into the conference center side of things. The setup was a bit different this year, despite the same amount of floor space. There were more room dividers rolled out, loosely separating
groups of table types, and us YouTubery online folks were moved to an arc shape in the center room towards the back. In theory this made more sense than sticking us over in the back-left corner like last time, but we’ll get to how this actually worked out a bit later. For now though, this Friday setup period is always a chill time with everyone trickling in with their wares. Just a matter of pulling up to the back hallway entrance, grabbing a cart, and wheeling everything inside to get it all set up and tested. And take care of the inevitable troubleshooting and weird crap that tends to happen to retro hardware on a long road trip. Thankfully only a few minor things needed fixing! So my 2022 table setup consisted of the LGR Woodgrain 486 of course, the IBM 7532 Industrial PC from the nuclear power plant, and the eMachines eOne iMac knock-off that was pulled from the market by Apple. I also brought a woodgrain LGR banner in addition to
the woodgrain tablecloth this time, because why not. As fitting as my little dot matrix “greetings” banner was last year, it was small and got a bit lost up on the big wall behind me. Not a problem with this 6-foot-tall vinyl monstrosity, you can see that sucker from just about anywhere inside the hall. And yeah, with everything all set up, Luke and I wandered on out to grab some lunch, which we thoroughly enjoyed at this place called HB Jones. Top notch burgers and quesadillas and
things, and by far the best tortilla chips I have had in years. No exaggeration, I could not stop eating those chips. So we had to force ourselves to stop, and hey, since we had some spare time before folks met up for dinner we decided to spend the next couple hours visiting Galloping Ghost. A legendary arcade, quite possibly the largest vintage arcade in the country, in terms of the number of individual games available. Something like 900 now. I’ve been many times before but this was my brother’s first, and man, this absolutely never disappoints. Everything is on free play and you pay 25 bucks to play as much as you want for the entire day, all the way till 2AM, where you can come and go as you please. It’s always been worth planning an entire day around visiting,
but good grief, this place has gotten SO much bigger than the last time I visited! I guess it’s been about four years but jeez, the overall floorspace and number of unique cabinets available has seemingly doubled since then. It is absolutely overwhelming in the best possible way, just an unreal selection of obscure excellence and all-time classics. Not just video arcade stuff either, they also have an entire additional building down the road with pinball tables too! Some of these used to be off in their own corner of the arcade next to all the other games but I guess they’ve just like, bought the whole street worth of buildings and now they’re filling it all up with games of all kinds. It’s just nuts, I love this place. Though I was disheartened to see so many dead machines, CRTs on their last legs, and busted control panels this time. Like sure,
only maybe 1 in 15 games is broken or has a bad display, and considering there’s like, 900 daggone games to choose from it’s still impossible to play it all in a day. There's no shortage of stuff working. But still, I hope they can get more repair staff hired and the components they need to get things fixed up. Stuff used to be in way better shape but like, of course it was more manageable with several hundred games instead of nearly a thousand, right? Still, can’t complain considering there’s nowhere else quite like it on the planet. I mean, where else can you play Primal Rage 2, Night Driver, Death Race, Raiden Fighters, Battletoads, Half-Life 2 Arcade, Pod Racer, and the Quake arcade game under one roof? Heck, I’ve never even seen Quake arcade in action before this trip! What a surreal experience that is too, playing Quake through an arcade control panel on a machine with a Quantum3D PC inside? Yeah I’d love to do a full in-depth review of this someday. Doc Mac, if you’re down, hit me up! Anyway yeah, we kinda lost track of time here. Especially once we
discovered Metamorphic Force, which is just about the best rainbow-infused magic furry beefcake dude beat-em-up game we’ve ever played. Didn’t leave until we beat the game, it was glorious. Buuuut it was then we realized the VCF dinner we were invited to had already been going for an hour, dang it! Eh so it goes, we figured that crowd would understand getting distracted and losing track of time at Galloping Ghost of all places. And in hindsight, I’m glad we were late, since on the way back to our car we ran into two guys that worked there and recognized me as LGR. We said hi and got to talking for a sec, and I believe it was Brandon that asked, “did you get to play the R360?” “Uhh, no?” “Did you want to?” “UHHHH YES?!” Before we knew it, we were being led by two strangers into a locked-up backroom of an old Chinese restaurant west of Chicago. Where
we were greeted by this gargantuan Sega arcade gaming legend. In case you’re unaware, the R360 is a fully rotating motion simulator behemoth released in Japan in 1990, and elsewhere in ‘91 costing like a quarter million dollars back then. It’s 8 feet tall, 7 feet in diameter, weighs 2,200 pounds. And there’s a 20” CRT with a joystick inside, and using a rollercoaster harness you’re strapped into a giant gyroscope that spins around completely as you play. Again, I have never even seen one of these in person, much less had the opportunity to try it. This one had G-LOC: Air Battle installed and running, and hoo boy, those g-forces are no joke! [360-degree arcade bliss ensues] I only had the demo mode recorded here, but I also gave the hands-on gameplay a try afterward and it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had gaming in my life. Okay, so! After all the
rotating g-forces we put our stomachs back into our bodies and made our way back to the hotel, where we did some final tests of the hardware at our table. And caught up with the other guests, exhibitors, and vendors that tend to gather, hang out, and hand out tasty bevvies and things till around midnight. It is the midwest, after all. The show hasn’t even started yet! So it’s time to grab some sleep, or a reasonable facsimile of it. And wake up bright and early to overload on coffee and survive the next two days of vintage computery mayhem! [music fades] [shades slide open] [engine noises, light insect sounds] [van drives by, outdoor ambiance] [footsteps, faint distance voices] [indistinct crowd muttering] [fridge humming, voices in background] [louder indistinct crowd sounds] [backroom ambiance, door opens] [crowd sounds intensify, louder and louder] [upbeat energetic music begins] [music continues, crowd noises fade in] -"Yep, it's goin' on!" [drums kick in, music continues] Ahh, it's good to be back at VCF Midwest for 2022. The buzz of caffeination soon matched the buzz
of the crowd, and man, there’s nothing like the vibe of a good show. Even from the very first hour things were kicking off in a big way, with a truly non-stop wave of folks headed inside to see the sights and enjoy the company. Of course, for the most part I was sequestered to the LGR Things table, demonstrating my machines, talking to viewers, doling out merch and all that stuff. While Luke took advantage of not being the face of a 1.6 million subscriber channel and got to freely wander around the facility grabbing this footage of the people, the place, and the things.
And believe it or not, it only got more intense from here, since it wasn’t long before they ran out of visitor name badges and the halls were packed to the limit. It’s a free show after all, and folks felt free indeed to peruse the place in greater numbers than I’ve ever seen at VCF. Apparently in excess of two thousand people this time. Which, hey, it’s great to see it grow! But naturally this came with growing pains, the lack of things like parking, hotels rooms, badges, merch, and reasonably navigable floorspace. I certainly noticed this with my corner feeling
more like a moshpit at times, and the crowd of folks wanting selfies, autographs, merch and whatnot was so constant that I wasn’t able to get a break or eat a meal until around 6PM. And the main reason I excused myself then was that I’d lost my voice and had to gargle lozenges for a while. However! During the few moments of downtime before and after the main rush, I did get to check out some of the vintage excellence on display, so let’s go over what stood out to me the most. Beginning with one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while: this series of tables from Behind the Screens, with working examples of computers running the Prevue Guide and Weather Channel... channels, as they were from the late 80s through the 90s. Absolutely fantastic stuff here, I always had a fascination with those stations as a kid,
with their smooth jazz tunes and constant streams of information being piped through the cable line to my TV screen. So it was wonderful to see these in action and chat with the folks behind it for a bit. Even better that it was all being broadcast over-the-air locally using a similar setup that I use to broadcast my own analog TV signals to CRTs in my house. And then just over from there was perhaps my favorite thing at the show in terms of something I didn't know existed and I was instantly captivated by. That is this Ansafone
answering machine set up from 1962. Alongside a whole bunch of other telephony fascinating stuff going on. I think it was Jason there that was telling me about how all this worked. But yeah, this Ansafone, one of the very first consumer answering machine systems. One of those that got around the restriction of the telephone company not letting you plug things directly into the line. Instead it would physically pick up the receiver and uses an induction
coil to do the answering machine stuff. It’s just fascinating, just check this thing out in action. [telephone rings, picks up] [answering machine message plays] [Ansafone beeps] -I have an important message for you but I have a feeling that you're not going to get it. [chuckles] -That is so cool. -Then it hangs up. [phone hangs up] -Ah! Literally physically hangs up! That is amazing. -Yeah I don't know what it is about all these old answering machines and telephone setups that continually intrigue me more over the years. But like I said I just loved seeing this one
in action. As well as that Meridian PBX system that they had going around connecting all the phones and fax machines around the room. I mean you could actually dial into these, and send and receive faxes and call up those different phones and answering setups. Just a really cool area to look at. Also over in that general space was Forgotten Machines. And they once again had some great terminals and 70s and 80s goodness. Some of it returning from last year, some of it new.
All of it looking fantastic and up and working, oh it's just so cool! And things like this paper tape punching machine, which was perhaps the oldest piece of hardware I saw at the show. 1950s stuff, former US Navy hardware, apparently. I gather it might have even been used on a submarine or something. I don't know but it was neat. Punching out paper things across the whole weekend. And on a related note, over there was this teletype setup. You know, these kind of things are
utterly mesmerizing. I have always wanted to mess around with a teletype. Unfortunately didn't get to mess around with this one but ehh we got some footage anyway. And it is just lovely. And check out this big old IBM 8232 enclosure over here looking like a mini fridge, with that awesome emergency power cut off. And this was easily my other favorite thing at the show because, check out inside. There is an IBM Industrial PC, the same one that I had set up over in my exhibit.
Of course without the woodgrain enclosure. This is a little closer to what it would have been really installed inside, with connections going inside and around back to mini computer or mainframe of some type. And rails actually mounting it inside so you could pull the system out and reach things without having to fully unscrew a whole ton of crap like you have to do on my wood-encased setup. Also a pleasure to see right next to that was this Power Station M20, a rare RS/6000 workstation from IBM. I don't believe I've ever seen one of these. And I thought I knew what this was at first, you know an Altair 8800 replica, it looks a lot like the one I have. But! Inside is way more involved
and completely rad, I didn't even know that this was a thing for these clones. It basically is a selection of 3D printed mounts and other hardware to reproduce the S-100 bus going on. This is just so much cooler than the little board that's inside of mine. And then out in the hallway this is no replica, this is the real deal. An Apple Lisa. Not only that but a Twiggy Apple Lisa,
with the double-sided five and a quarter inch floppy drives, known by the code name “Twiggy.” Yeah these are highly sought-after, they had it on sale for $16,000. That's actually not the most unreasonable price I've ever seen for one of these, they go for tens of thousands sometimes.
Either way it was a pleasure to finally see one of these with my own eyes. As was this OS/2 table, just a fantastic selection of software. More OS/2 stuff in one spot than I've ever seen before. Shoutout to Joshua who put this together, the dude is a fanatic about OS/2. I mean, I've never seen OS/2 on a Libretto or on a GL Comm portable. Such a nicely curated selection. And of course there were a lot of SGI systems. But of course I was really drawn to the ones playing
Quake. In fact I believe that this setup or one of the ones nearby was actually running multiple instances of Quake from one SGI workstation. Also a lot was this a giant table-sized Commodore SX-64 Ultimax keyboard. I don't know what the exact story was behind this. I wish I'd gotten a chance
to talk to him about it because I'm only seeing it in detail in the footage here after the fact, and it seems impressive. I did get to talk to Danielle though about this right here, the Casio Loopy. Not only was this a system that I had never seen in person, but didn't actually realize that it had a color sticker printer built straight into the unit. That's just extremely cool, seems like a delightful machine from Japan. And no surprise that there were copious Radio Shack, Atari, Apple, Commodore and other types of those 8-bit and 16-bit systems scattered all about the a place. Many of them showing new projects meant to revive the lifespan of these older systems. And I was happy to see there was no shortage of British micros and Japanese computers once again. Sinclair, Acorn, Sharp, NEC and so on. A lot of this was here last year but even more this
year. Or at least, different stuff this year. That was really the theme it seems. Again it's the same floor space, but just sort of a remix of things I've seen before. It's always interesting, that much is certain. A selfie station was another unique item that I don't think I've seen before.
It's really a black and white thermal printer connected to a camera, but the fact that it was so easy to use and just set up for anybody to use as they like made for a really cool display, and way to take home some souvenirs that are kind of unique. Gave me some ideas for something I might do next year, we'll see. And of course Computer Clan and Ken were back with some interesting Apple items again. Like an iMac prototype, an Apple 1 replica that he actually had for sale. Ooh and check out this extremely eye-catching Atari retail shelving
unit. I mean the computers for sale in there were pretty cool too, but I mean, the shelf! I just wanted the shelf! It was also an honor to check out the Fairchild Channel F and Magnavox Odyssey, these really early consoles that I rarely ever see in person. This was my first time actually playing either of them. They even had one of the Ralph Baer Brown Boxes, which is just insane to see. Of course that was behind glass, there's what only a couple of these that are still around or something. I don't know man but, really rare stuff. Also the Androbots,
there were actually two of them this year which is super cool to see. I've actually been working on some robotics things for here on LGR for the future, so yeah it's just neat to see some of the competition back in the day, up close once again. I just think these things are fascinating. And of course they were all the tables out in the hallways filled with PCs and PC games. And random hardware and vendors selling all manner of things over the whole weekend. I did actually go to one
of the big tables with big box and small box and loose PC games and jewel cases. Picked up a handful of big box games that I actually didn't have. And some ended up coming home with me too, they were like “hey just take these, nobody wants ‘em.” [laughs] So, that was that. And of course I
was just drawn to this eMachines eTower 566ir. I mean, obviously I've already done a video all about this. See that on LGR here if you haven't, but yeah. One of those machines where it's just so complete, had all the stickers, couldn't say no. And on that note, here's the other stuff that I went home with. Many of these were donated by y’all at the show, so thank you very much! By the way, if you’d like to be credited feel free to comment or email me saying who you are. I
tried to write down everyone’s names at the show, but I missed several. The hubbub this year was, again, a lotta fun but more intense than anyone planned. And even then, I still heard from lots of you that you tried reaching me at the table but weren’t able to find an opening. My apologies for that, I certainly talked to as many folks as I could given the activity, but I know some still felt like you missed out and that sucks. Similar with the panel, which quickly filled up and ended up in a “standing room only” situation. Rather surreal to walk into. -”Oh my gah... Full house!” [crowd cheers]
The panel at least is up on YouTube in its entirety on the VCFMW channel, so you can at least check that out if you missed it in-person. And hey, if nothing else, it’s well worth trying to attend on Sunday instead of Saturday if your main goal is to hang out and enjoy the exhibits themselves. Most of the best vendor stuff for sale is long gone by then, but the main rush of people is gone as well, so Sunday is more relaxed by comparison. Either day is a great time though, and I’m stoked to see where VCF Midwest
goes from here! I can’t imagine things will stay exactly as-is if it keeps growing like this, and I do not envy the organizers. Massive props to them, the volunteers, and all involved in doing their best running this crazy thing. I’m happy to continue being a part of it so long as I’m welcome. And of course, huge thanks to all of you who managed to stop by, donate things,
grab selfies and autographs and whatever else. You are the biggest reason I keep attending, no matter how tiring it gets. And shoutout to my fellow guests, it’s always fun getting to meet up again. Ken of Computer Clan, David of 8-bit Guy, Kevin of TexElec, and Ben Heck of being Ben Heck. Plus all the other creator types that showed up, including Adrian of Digital Basement fame and Alec from Technology Connections, both of whom I’ve wanted to meet for years. And so many other folks I know from online: Mac84 Steve, Jeremy’s Retro Bar, Mr Macintosh, Retro Tech Chris, Ron’s Computer Videos, Steve of Geekenspiel, Brendan of Inverse Phase, the people behind BlueSCSI. It’s just great to step beyond the impersonal digital nature of internet
personas and chill together as real people face to face, even if only for a few minutes. That being said, as enjoyable as it was, we were more than ready to wind down by the end. After packing up around 3:30 on Sunday, we were out by 4 and off to our next leg of the trip in the beautiful city of Chicago. Which, in hindsight, maybe we should’ve done before the festival? I
think I’d rather build myself up to the event by hanging around and having fun in the city, rather than driving 12 hours and diving headfirst into two days of non-stop standing and talking. Whatever, whether it’s before or after, Chicago itself? There’s always something new to see and something fun to experience, and it gives me life. Trains! Architecture! Food! Museums! Boats! Sports! Frank Lloyd Wright! Photography! Yeah this was my first time taking a 100-300mm lens downtown and it was as much of a blast shooting with as I’d hoped. Even if in hindsight, it was almost too much lens. I think a 35 to 100 mil might suit me better, just for the type of shots I most often take from ground level. But going with a longer telephoto setup here was a fun challenge that I appreciated. Ya gotta love all the visual compression and crazy detail you can pull
in from otherwise lackluster camera angles. And hey, if you’d like a little more from that side of the trip, do check out my brother’s channel. Luke's planning a video from his point of view, with more emphasis around shooting on film, so head over there and give him some love. As for me, well, I’ve already made a video on the “never obsolete” eMachines PC I picked up, so feel free to check that out. And I hope you stick around for more LGR Things always
in the works. Oh and if you were at the show, definitely say hi in the comments! Or share pictures and video by tagging LGR on Twitter, it’s always fun seeing the event from others’ perspectives. And as always, thanks for watching, and here’s looking forward to VCF Midwest 2023!