MARCH recently acquired a one-of-a-kind machine – a custom-made Philbick analog computer made specifically for M.I.T. in 1958.  A large portion of it’s processing is done via operational amplifiers, and almost everything is vacuum tube based (there are a few transistors on this computer though).  It’s a very modular machine, designed to be completely reconfigured and rewired on a task-by-task basis.

It is in serious need of restoration and probably a few dozen or hundred replacement vacuum tubes to bring it back to functional condition.  It also had an era-appropriate oscilloscope used for diagnostics of the computer.  


Dave McGuire had one of my favorite exhibits at VCF East X.  He brought along his PDP-8/E, PDP-11/34, another PDP-11 (I forget which model), a VAX-8250, a handful of DEC terminals, and a few other things – Dave brought alot of stuff.

I’m pretty sure he was the largest power consumer at the event.  All kinds of fun stuff was set up for folks to play with at their leisure.  There were disk packs galore, a few floppy drives, some display-only paper tape readers, and a nice variety of terminals.

I spent a great deal of time playing with the PDP-8/E hooked into the VT-52 which was labeled as a “decscope” – it was massive!  I fired up BASIC and programmed a few little things to entertain myself (namely that pyramid looking graphic).  The Mandelbrot set was not my code.  I also keyed in a sine wave program that was on hand to see how it looked on screen.  

I also accidentally crashed the PDP-8/E by addressing a printer that wasn’t there while trying to list the contents of the directory I was in.  OS/8 on a PDP-8 is very foreign to me, and as intimidating as it was to have access to this system without really much knowledge of how to handle it, damn it was fun!  I wish I knew FORTRAN, or I would have played with that too.  


Corey Little had a few odd machines from Apple’s early days that didn’t work out so well.

First, he had a replica Apple I done in the style of Wozniak’s own wire-wrapped prototype.  This was contrasted by another Apple I replica in the later PCB style.  Apparently the wire-wrapped version was very finicky, and would error up if you looked at it wrong.

Next up was an Apple ][c+ with the exceptionally hard to read LCD screen (along with a proper color screen for when you got sick of looking at the LCD screen).  I tried playing the demo game provided via the LCD screen and gave up after only one round.  I did much better on the CRT.

After that was an Apple III+ in all its terrible glory.  The original official demo was playing, complete with the error in the code that would make the demo seize up after a period of time.

However, the coolest part of his exhibit was the Lisa 1 with WORKING TWIGGY FLOPPY DRIVES.  The Lisa 1 was notorious for having terrible 5 1/4″ floppies known as “twiggy” drives that never worked.  Lisa 2′s didn’t have this problem, and thus were much more reliable machines.  However, after proper restoration, Corey happens to have a pair of fully functional drives on his Lisa, which is exceedingly rare.


Anthony Stramaglia brought along a Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (or CMI).  Keep in mind that these are very hard to find in as complete condition as the one seen here. 

But then it gets better: this is Fairlight CMI serial number 25, formerly owned by the legendary Robert Moog.  I will say that again, this was Dr. Robert Moog’s Fairlight CMI.

It sounded amazing – and the sound was so dynamic.  The amount of configurations that this machine was capable of was astounding!  Throughout the weekend, various classic synth tunes could be heard belted out across the floor, and they sounded even more wonderful in person than on recordings.  It was a thing of beauty to behold for both the eyes and the ears.  The one that is stuck in my head was a rendition of Subdivisions by Rush


Kyle Owen had not just one but TWO PDP-8′s on display!

His PDP-8/E was hooked into a Teleray terminal, and a very powerfully fast paper tape reader.  Sadly, I don’t remember what it was that he was running on here.  But I do know that he had a small transistor radio that he was attempting to play tunes on via some hacking on the PDP-8/E.

His PDP-8/M was hooked into an oscilloscope and a pair of controllers so that he could demonstrate Spacewar! but when I stopped by it was showing off some pretty graphics.  I believe that this machine was to be booted off of a Raspberry Pi standing in for a proper hard drive or paper tape source.

However, his whole setup wasn’t hooked up for very long, and had to be powered off due to electrical grid concerns.  And I really wanted to play Spacewar!


Lee Hart was more than happy to show me his Zenith Z19 terminal.  Without even a second thought, he opened up the case to show me the goodies inside.  What I didn’t expect was it to be equipped with a Northwest Digital Systems Graphics-Plus board, greatly improving its capabilities. 

It has built-in menus, a screen saver (that just stops sending graphical data after a period of inactivity), and several  different graphical modes including 80x24, 80x49, 132x24, 132x49, and even a Tektronics mode!  You can change the baud rate within the menu, reverse the video on the screen, pick your word wrap settings, and much more – all from within a software menu.  Normally to change many of those settings, you open the case and change a few DIP switches. 

And to get all this capability, you just drop this board into a standard Z19 or H-19 terminal, and hook them together.  It should be noted that the Z19/H-19 terminal is its own Zilog Z80 based computer, but with a criminally low amount of RAM. Either way, I need to get my hands on a Graphics-Plus board

Lee and I discussed Heathkit/Zenith terminals for awhile, including my H-19 project.  He was very encouraging about it, and gave me a myriad of suggestions and pointers.  He told me that it would be easy to implement PS/2 keyboard functionality on an H-19 if I just rewrote the ROM, since many people have already given Z80 based computers the ability to read PS/2 keyboards.  I’m guessing that burning custom ROMs is a trivial task for him, since he treated it like an everyday thing to do.  I seem to recall him saying “If you can find a way to add more RAM…” then the implications would mean a stand-alone computer, or at least a more powerful terminal. 

The whole time, Lee’s attitude towards me implied that I could do anything, even though he only had known me for about an hour.  Maybe describing my composite video mod impressed him.  He also clued me in to some secrets about the H-89 when it comes to floppy disk drives…  seems that my hunt for a Siemens FDD-100-5 isn’t necessary to restoring my H-89 to functional status.  We barely even talked about COSMAC ELF 1802 membership cards, despite that being his specialty.  I did let him know I had purchased one at VCFEX though.

Thus ends my Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 10 photos.  I hope you liked what you saw, and learned something too.


Matthew Bergeron had a very nice display of odd early Macintosh Portables.  There were the real deal ones, as well as some clones on display.  Some of the clones required the use of the ROMs out of a real one.

They had some of the smoothest trackballs I’ve ever used on a machine though.  The ergonomics of said trackballs was questionable though…


Bill Degnan had a pretty cool Altair 680 setup with an ASR-33 Teletype and a Hazeltine 1510.  He seemed to have issues reading paper tape all day, so he was constantly tweaking his trying to debug his ASR-33, even going so far as to cart in a second one to hopefully read off of that (after some brief maintenance).

Then after the weekend was over, he supposedly re-read his paper tape at home and found out that there was a small section of garbled data on what he was trying to read that caused the problem. 


Mike Willegal had an Apple II-based Radio Teletype (RTTY) setup, with an oscilloscope to assist in tuning and a massive outdoor antenna extending out of the window behind his exhibit.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the signal to come in strong enough, and all his RTTY would display was garbage.  So, he ended up just pulling the same data stream in via the internet – good enough for the purposes of demonstration.

Mike also had his pride and joy on display:  a replica SCELBI-8H, which would have been one of the first homebrews based on the Intel 8008.


Mike Loewen had a very nice custom TRS-80 Model 4 display.  These things had amazing graphics cards, as well as some impressive storage capabilities, and even a non-standard picture tube color on one model.

I played space invaders on the heavily modified machine, and did surprisingly well, setting a nice high score.  I never did ask how long my high score stayed up on his machine.  Either way, I’ve never seen a TRS-80 this powerful before.


Bill Winters & Anthony Becker had a very thorough and well executed Amiga display.  Their Amiga’s spanned the full run of the series, from 1000 to 4000, and even the CDTV.

There were games, along with quite a few unique Amiga programs on display that showed what the system was capable of.  Behind the computers sat a handful of motherboards showing off what was under the cover of some of the machines.

Boing Ball for the win.


Bill Winters & Anthony Becker did such a great job that they get TWO posts.  

They had an Amiga 1000, 500, 2000, CDTV, 3000UX, 600, 1200HD/040, 4000/040. That’s a lot of Amigas. 

Seriously, they were super friendly and even saved my cool drawing on Deluxe Paint on their Amiga 4000.  I gave King Tut and some 80′s guy some serious graphical edits including: fangs, clown makeup, a green split-fro, one of those hats that looks like Goofy, and creepy eyes.  The whole time I was drawing stuff, this was playing in my head.

I also played Shadow of the Beast on their 500, which was beautiful to look at.  I should have taken a picture of my Deluxe Paint creation though…