Archive: Computer Collector Newsletter / Technology Rewind, Jan. 2004 - March 2006
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VCF Europa 6.0 report
by Christine Finn
I'm just back from Munich and speaking at the 6th Vintage Computer Festival Europa ( http://www.vcfe.org/E/index.html ).
It is not as big as its Silicon Valley twin, though it also has speakers and a flea market, but has the same intention of bringing together early tech enthusiasts and attracting a new generation of collectors.
It has a different locale, too, providing a neat cultural exchange: a sports hall at the back of an antique showroom, where we give our data-projected talks in a room adorned with Bavarian hunting trophies, antlers, and scenes from folklore (the traditional VCFe Saturday supper of hearty German fare is is held in the shooting range next door... similarly decked out, and it also houses the locals' May Day paraphenalia). Enthusiasts wander around the sports hall clutching massive steins of beer, and conversation continues well into the night.
Germany plays a major role in computer history, and has great tech museums in Munich and Paderborn: the place is bristling with stories. Among the collectors at VCFe was Gerd Schuenemann, a former DEC engineer, who fixed the machines for 35 years, making him an expert on the changes over time. I took a photo of him with a core memoryboard from a DEC PDP 11 and afterwards we figured how much more memory there was in the cellphone I'd used to take that image.
The German TV station, ZDF, spent a day at VCF. http://www.heute.de/ZDFheute/inhalt/13/0,3672,2293933,00.html
They got excited by my lusting over a Commodore Pet 8296, which had been painted bright yellow by a previous owner. It was a steal at 10 euros, but I barely have room for a functioning computer in Rome (did I mention that it was sold untested?) so I sadly let it go...
It turned out to have been owned at one time by a German woman called Gaby who I know as one of the few female computer collectors in the world. She said she had bought it for the same aesthetical reason. Maybe it's a girl thang...
I met German digital media expert Winnie Forster, who wrote the well received "Spielkonsolen und Heimcomputer" a few years back. He has just brought out a second edition, expanded as an encyclopedia, and in English, called "Game.Machines" ( http://tinyurl.com/cm437 ). It's a wonderfully-illustrated book featuring more than 400 machines, and it's also a good read for anyone interested in 1970s-present day tech material culture. While tracing the history of Atari and Sega and other big names, the small players are also included, together with those incidental details about sales and software which are keenly devoured by avid collectors. The book certainly ups the nostalgia ante; even I can remember playing "Pong" in a smoky East London pub in the late 1970s.
[Editor's note: this report was originally published in Christine's blog at http://traumwerk.stanford.edu:3455/ChristineFinn/Home]