RETRO Innovations

Archive for September, 2010

ECCC Show 2010

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Computer Shows

Brain Innovations attended the now legendary ECCC EXPO in Chicago on September 18, 2010.  Given our new location, logistics became the largest area of concern for attendance.

Due to the relocation, I needed to find a new place to live (and, as previously noted, somewhere to build a proper facility for the company.  As with previous career changes, the hiring company offers temporary housing of some type for a certain time period, typically 1 to 4 months.  Complication matters this time was the inability to find suitable temporary housing for 2 adults, 2 children, and a dog.  Pets are evidently not as welcome in Sioux Falls, SD temporary housing.  Thus, our temporary home became the Residence Inn in Sioux Falls (highly recommended, BTW).  This is important to the logistics, I promise.

As I prepared for the ECCC show, I asked if the family wanted to attend.  In years past, the children came, not so much for the show itself, but mainly for a chance to stay in a hotel room for a few days.  This time, though, they had stayed in a hotel for over a month, which diminished the uniqueness.  On the other hand, our previous location, Cedar Rapids, IA, was on the way to Chicago, and staying there would allow them to visit with friends recently left behind.  Thus, a decision was made to drop the family in CR, and travel onto Chicago alone.  Because of the delay in making a decision on lodging needs, the hotel booked up, but a request for room sharing was fulfilled.

"Packed" for the Trip

"Packed" for the Trip

After looking at all the options, we decided to take the RV to IA and park it as temporary housing for the family during the Chicago trip.  I would trailer another vehicle behind and then drive that vehicle to the show.  Obviously, I decided to trailer “Smartie”.  The combination was an interesting combination of machinery:

Smartie loaded with the "essentials"

Smartie loaded with the "essentials"

Given our relocation efforts, the business had been temporarily reduced to a few cubic feet of product, my trusty Commodore SX64 (for testing), and a ‘scope.  Thus, the small cargo area of the ForTwo easily accommodated all of the equipment needed for my table at the show.  Thankfully, the drive to Chicago in the ForTwo from IA was uneventful.  Filling up but twice with gasoline during the trip and paying not more than $35.00 in total for fuel, coupled with the shared hotel room, certainly made for an inexpensive trip.

Given the circumstances, I was behind on project work and did not plan to show anything.  I did bring what stock I had to sell, and I enjoyed the other presentations and impromptu discussions at the show.

Earlier in the year, I started working Nate Lawson to bring his USB-to-IEC drive adapter to market.  Though I was not able to have PCBs done for the ECCC show, I did get to meet Nate at the show, at least to apologize.  A subsequent post will detail more information about the “ZoomFloppy” project, as it is now called.

Leif and I debugging VIC-MIDI

Leif and I debugging VIC-MIDI (Courtesy Glenn Holmer)

I also touched base with Leif Bloomquist, who is trying to bring a VIC-MIDI cartridge to fruition.  I suggested at the WoC 2009 show that the design would be easier to manufacture if the now-obsolete and hard-to-source 6850 could be replaced with a newer 16X50 UART part.  I had wired a 16450 to his prototype cart during the CCCC EXPO in May, but there were still issues.  Nate and I debugged the design while at the show, though more needs to be done.

Tower of X-Panders

Tower of X-Panders (Courtesy Glenn Holmer)

This year, the afterparty did not include a very-drunk set of wedding guests and a fire alarm with water cascading down the hotel stairs.  Honestly, as in years other than 2009, which included the aforementioned festivities, the event was very low key.  Attendance looked to be healthy, no doubt influenced by the Vintage Computer Festival – Midwest event that shared space with ECCC.  I’ll be back in 2011, hopefully with more to show and present.

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New Company Car :-)

by on Sep.02, 2010, under Miscellaneous

I remember attending the World of Commodore 2004 and falling in love with a small commuter vehicle seen while going out to eat one night in Canada.  At the time, there was no need for a commuter vehicle, and the idea passed on.

Fast forward to 2010.  With this new position and our new location in the country, I will be commuting 30 minutes to work each day.  Since the Ford F350 truck is not known for great gas mileage (and, diesel tends to be more expensive than gasoline), I once again thought of that commuter vehicle.

After some research (including a test drive of one in Omaha while enroute to Sioux Falls), I was able to purchase a used model with all of the options I desired.

The vehicle?  It’s a Red 2009 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet:

Red 2009 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet

Red 2009 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet

The photo shows it with our RV in the background.  It gets ~41MPG, weighs less than 2000 pounds, will indeed fit in the bed of the pickup, and can go at least 80MPH (Interstates in SD are 75).  The convertible option is truly non-essential, but some would say the entire car fits that description.  My 6’2″ frame fits comfortably in the vehicle, with plenty of legroom.  The kids fight over who gets to ride in the passenger seat, and it has been nicknamed “Smartie” already.  It does seem fitting that the Brain family would own a “Smart” car.

Obviously, it’s no match for the worst of Winter in Sioux Falls, but those are days when the truck will justify itself as a commuter vehicle.

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