Retro Computing - Vintage Computer Festival Zürich 2019
My first visit to an exhibition of old computers. It was held on November 30th and December 1st in Zürich in the “Rote Fabrik”. Given my collection of not-so-old computers I wanted to see a collection of really old computers.
The first thing which catched my attention was a PDP-11 emulator with frontend also simulating a Tektronix 4010 graphical terminal. It’s running on a Raspberry-PI fully emulating a PDP-11 running BSD 2.11. I was aware of old Unix V6 or V7 versions running on emulators, but a BSD 2.11 with a TCP/IP-stack is so much nicer.
The following is a real desktop PDP-11 with some emulators for things like tapes and external devices:
I brought some old floppies and was astonished they were booting the oldest Apple machines without any problems. Even the chess program worked (one of my earliest encounters with a computer was playing chess in the computer room back at my high school on an Apple ][).
I was also able to run a “games disk” with a menu system I once typed in from a book during my holidays back in school (yes, floppies where too expensive back then and you learned BASIC as a bonus while typing).
Obviously too excited this still worked I didn’t take any photos of it, so here is a placeholer, the original book with the program listings:
While everybody else at the exhibitation was showing off their machines, the IBM-PC guys were trying to make sure that monitors didn’t explode (one did) and building up a network, so they were constantly busy doing something on those machines. I was able to run a Flight Simulator 4 from Microsoft on an EGA-based machine, really nice:
Really interesting speech on how to implement a VGA “card” on an Atmel-based board. This catched my interest because I’m all in for minimalistic hardware and software on an FPGA.
This was more out of personal interest, as I still own 100nds of Apple ][, CP/M and PC-disks reaching back into the mid-80ies. My oldest two machines (an IMC-2001 Taiwanese Apple/CPM-clone and the Olivetti M290) are not working anymore and I can hardly find a floppy connector on the already old machines I own.
Fluxenine reads floppy images via a 5V FPGA on a stick, one side is an old floppy connector, the oder side a normal USB connection.
I brought some old floppies I could donate (in form of an image) for future analysis.
SGI, a Next, IBM/360 on an FPGA, Amiga, Commodore, tons of Apple/Macintosh, ZX Spectrum, …
I personally missed some CP/M-based machines (not counting the electronic type writer running CP/M and running games from a small tape drive, which was interesting to see). Closest (from the outer appearance) came the following IBM portable:
Also I missed some Atari (like the ST TT series) machines (or maybe I just didn’t see them).
Important Lessons Learned
Talk to everybody! Every single one is an enthusiast and has an interesting history. If you just walk through the hall and stare at the machines, most things will not be impressive at all. Also the talks I can recommend.
- general links
- Vintage Computer Festival Zurich: official Webpage with exhibitors and schedule of speeches held
- Event Information “Rote Fabrik”: event information
- Wikipedia entry on vintage Computer Festival: history and purpose of the event
- Gallery 2019
- Fluxengine: the FPGA-based USB-floppy reader