The Madness of Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2022

The Madness of Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2022

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[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!

2022-10-03 01:11

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