RETRO Innovations Booth
Glenn Holmer captured me talking to friends about something of interest at the ECCC 2014 show

It’s interesting to be a part of the continuing “growth” of the classic computer scene.  And, perhaps it is just me, but it does appear the classic machines are seeing more interest now than since they were first placed on the market.  It has been over 25 years, which is a common metric for “classic” status in other arenas (cars, coins, etc.), so perhaps this is the new reality.

Back in the day, I lived too far away from a metropolitan area that held computer shows, so I missed out on the thrill of those years.  And, after passing into adulthood, I had only previously attended 1 show, around 1997, put on by a Commodore user group in Lansing, MI.  While Maurice Randall showed off GeoFAX or some new GEOS app, another exhbitor showed off a way to control audio CDs from the 64, and everyone picked through the consignment table, I hawked printed copies of “Commodore Hacking”, an online magazine I was editing at the time.  As I recall, I did not sell many, and for good reason.  Why buy something you can dload online for free (true, the Internet was not as ubiquitous as today, but Compuserve, Delphi, GEnie, and others had copies, and the mag was in ASCII text, a mere few hundred K of data).

Yet, as I re-invested myself in these machines around 2004, I was invited to attend Commodore computer shows, including the World of Commodore 2004 in Toronto, ON, CA, LUCKI Expo 2005 near Louisville, KY, the C=4 (CCCC) Expo south of Cincinnati, OH, and SWRAP Expo 2005 in Chicago, IL.  As a new attendee, I was surprised so many people remembered me from the Commodore Hacking and even earlier Commodore FAQ days.  I also met luminaries like Jim Butterfield and Jeri Ellsworth.

Sadly, it appears some of the shows were not to continue.  LUCKI shut down first, as I recall, while SWRAP discontinued its show soon thereafter, and CCCC continued on for a few years and then folded when their “castle” venue closed its doors.  I worried I had witnessed the end of the show scene, just as I was starting to enjoy the friendships and witness all of the great hardware and software projects.

Luckily, World of Commodore continued on, while Jason Compton and a group of friends decided they needed to have a time each year to come together and enjoy friendship over Commodore computer discussions, and so the Emergency Chicagoland Commodore Convention (ECCC) came into being on the heels of SWRAP’s decision to forego another show.

ECCC, in particular, was somewhat the “anti-show”.  No table fees, no concrete organization, owing to the primary goal of just having a place for Commodore enthusiasts to hang out and enjoy company.  But, all things change, and a few years back, Jason Timmons asked if other computing platforms could co-located with the ECCC show under the Vintage Computer Festival – Midwest (VCF-MW) banner. There was already a well established VCF-East show in New Jersey, and there had been previous attempts for a VCF-MW in Indianapolis, as I recall. West Lafayette. But, VCF-MW had withered, and so it came to Chicago.

At first, VCF-MW was a small portion of the complete show, but each year, the VCF-MW contigent grew and brought more exhibits and attendees to the combined event.  At other shows, I suspect the primary sponsors would have either disallowed sharing the event date and location, or the organizers would have grown significantly concerned about the changing dynamic of the show, but Jason and the initial contributors seemed unconcerned about such things, probably owing to the fact that the ECCC show was created to enable a meeting place for enthusiasts, not as a formal marketing effort or a club sponsored idea.  I’m not sure a dual show idea would not have been as successful elsewhere, but it thrived in Chicago.

For the last few years, VCF-MW has continued to grow, but there’s still a significant Commodore presence.  While there’s value in having single-platform shows like World of Commodore, KansasFest, or CocoFEST!, such shows can be somewhat insular, as all of the attendees are already aligned with the platform.  And, though one hopes we’ve all matured a bit, there’s some fun in crowing about platform features or enduring a bit of ribbing over platform weaknesses among friends who own competing systems.  More importantly, there are some classic machines too obscure to command a full community, and shows like VCF allow those folks to show off these all-but-forgotten gems (or stinkers, but they are always interesting).

Thus, my hat is off to those who organize the various shows; truly unsung heroes doing lots of work so lazy bums like myself can drive in, grab a room, shoot the breeze, sell a few things, pack up, and leave.  And, thanks to those folks who take the time to document the events, via photos or video, or both.  It’s nice to be able to look back and see how far we have come. Finally, thanks for Jason Timmons and Jason Compton, for ensuring VCF-MW/ECCC continues.

RETRO Innovations will be once again exhibiting and offering products for sale at VCF 12, September 9-10, 2017

Glenn Holmer’s Galleries:

VCF-MW Galleries:




Back from the Vintage Computer Festival – East 9.1!

I just returned from a 2102 mile roundtrip excursion to the Vintage Computer Festival – East 9.1 at InfoAge in Wall Township, NJ.  Having been prevented from holding the show in 2013, the VCF-E organizers went all out for the 2014 show, supporting 2 exhibit halls and a separate speaker presentation tent.  I camped out in the vendor hall with our products on display.

IMG_6555 (Large)IMG_6556 (Large)Though this is the first VCF-E I have attended, others remarked that this was the largest Expo they have held.  Thus, I am glad I was able to participate.  Unlike the other shows I have attended, VCF-E is much more structured.  Vendor tables are in their own room, the mornings are dedicated to speaker presentations and vendor sales, and the show floor does not open until the afternoon. Like many of the other more recent events, VCF-E is a 2-day event (Saturday and Sunday), and they even created a special VCF University event on the Friday before the main event.  I didn’t specifically count, but I was told 26 different exhibits were available for viewing in the 2 (yes, two) exhibit halls.

As you can see, I spruced up the vendor tables with some colorful tablecloths, and I brought a vintage CMD-era JiffyDOS wall poster (I purchased it from Click Here SW a few years back).  I brought all of the main store items, though I left some of the more esoteric adapters and such behind as they rarely sell. Sales were not overwhleming, but were satisfactory, especially in light of the fact that most of the day’s action revolved around the “consignment” tables.  I loved the consignment idea (VCF even accepts items for sale, with pricing information from the owners.  They then handle the financial aspects and man the sales table, taking 15% of the sales value).  One individual made over $1600 in sales through this solution.  I even joined in the rush, picking up a TRS80 MC-10 and a Compaq luggable.

Concerning exhibits, there were too many to mention.  I’m not that much into the 60-80’s DEC HW, but it was well represented at the show.  The early microcomputer options were on display, along with some early UNIX workstation options.  Closer to my world, Jeff Brace and Dan Roganti borrowed a number of uIEC/SD and 64NIC+ devices to present their “Artillery Duel”-like multi-player C64 game.  The graphics and such looked awesome, but they were plagued by code issues through the weekend.  They kept the loaner items in hopes of better luck during a June exhibition.  Elsewhere, Michau Pleban and Rob Clarke (An Australian Brit from Switzerland, no joke) were on hand to show off a Commodore 264, a 232, a 116, a Max Machine, and their new cartridge for it called “MultiMax”.  Rob also tried to talk Bil Herd (on site over the weekend) into firing up the V364 Prototype board that Bil had delivered to Rob at the show.  Rob talks more about the unit in his Youtube smoke test for the unit, but it was Bil’s dev board back in the day.

It’s not the same as being there, but here are some galleries to show what was on display and the participants who gathered in NJ:

Heading to the Vintage Computer Festival East!

The ninth “annualish” Vintage Computer Festival East will be held April 4-6, 2014, at the InfoAge Science Center, in Wall, New Jersey.

VCF East is a celebration of computer history from the 1940s-1980s. The schedule includes a hands-on exhibit hall, technical workshops, lectures, a marketplace, tours of the InfoAge museum complex, a dollar-per-pound book sale, prizes, more.

This year’s show will be bigger than ever. New attractions include Friday’s “VCF East University” which is a full day of technical classes. Friday attendees can win an oscilloscope courtesy of Tektronix!

The main show on Saturday-Sunday will have lectures/workshops and dozens of exhibits.

Keynotes include former IBM archivist Paul Lasewicz and IEEE 802 LAN/MAN committee founder Maris Graube. Other lectures topics include software preservation, the history of Franklin Computer Corp., and many more, all scheduled for the morning. In the workshops you can learn hands-on vintage computer repair skills or even build a working replica of something exotic.

This year there will be two exhibit halls instead of one. Exhibits open in the afternoon – imagine an antique car show, but instead of “no touching” signs, everyone has to take you for a ride! Registered exhibits so far cover everything from a real Apple 1 to the M.I.T.S. Altair to DEC minicomputers. In addition, the event’s main sponsor MARCH (Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists) will debut its UNIVAC 1219-B military mainframe computer, circa 1965.

Tickets for VCF East University are just $20 and include a pizza lunch. Tickets for the main show are $15/day and $25/both days. Saturday/Sunday tickets are free for ages 17 and younger. A three-day adult admission is $40.

Proceeds benefit MARCH. Official sponsors include the InfoAge Science Center, VintageTech, Tektronix, the Trenton Computer Festival, Eli’s Software Encyclopedia, and, IBM, and the IEEE History Center are providing informal assistance.

• Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple: “Seeing the early equipment at VCF is an amazing experience. For many of us, it’s better than a museum. It touches on all the hopes and dreams of the time and the many efforts to achieve what others thought would never happen. It brings back memories of a revolution in the making. … The people you meet at the VCF are amazing.”

• Lee Felsenstein, moderator of the legendary Homebrew Computer Club and creator of the Osborne 1 portable computer: “In 35 years the personal computer grew from nothing into the most important device shaping everyday life. It should be part of everyone’s education to see how it grew and to learn from the people who grew it in ways they wanted to see it grow. VCF is the place to be where not only the equipment can be seen and tried out but, perhaps more importantly, where the people who rose to the challenge offered by these machines can be met and heard from.”

• Gordon Bell, top DEC engineer and co-founder of the Computer History Museum: “As a speaker at the first September 1998 VCF, I have been delighted to see it grow and flourish. The Vintage Computer Festival is an important institution for computing history simply by getting everyone together for collecting, sharing, and trading all form of bits. Having a forum, gathering, and market for old stuff a.k.a. vintage computers and the software that made them live is an essential way to preserve and expand the history of computing — for some of us, the greatest invention.”

• Dave Ahl, founder/editor, Creative Computing magazine: “Vintage Computer Festival East celebrates the hard work and vision of all the volunteers who have made the InfoAge Science Center –- now a National Historic Landmark — a place where one can learn from the past to live for the future. Oh, and it’s great fun too!”

Full details are online at and Contact: Evan Koblentz (President, MARCH; VCF East Producer): / (646) 546.9999(646) 546.9999 …. thank you and happy computing!

C4 EXPO 2013 No More

Regrettably, I found out today that the upcoming C4 EXPO (which was going to be a all encompassing retro convention) has been cancelled for 2013.  We last attending C4 EXPO in 2011 when it was held in The Drawbridge Inn in KY.  In addition to the reasons given on the web site,  I think the combination of the venue closure and the fact that the event was being managed by a single person contributed to the cancellation.

With the cancellation, CommVEX appears to be the next Commodore conference event.  I’m not sure if RETRO Innovations can make the trip, but I am considering it.  It would be nice to meet some of the west coast and southwest enthusiasts.

JiffyDOS for VIC-20 and C16/+4 Now Available!

As announced this afternoon at World of Commodore 2012, RETRO Innovations has acquired the rights to offer Click Here Software’s port of JiffyDOS for the Commodore VIC-20, C16, and +4 machines, thus completing the set of JiffyDOS KERNAL replacement offerings.  Within the next few days, the KERNAL replacements and image files will be available in the online store for sale.  Many thanks for those customers who kept asking for the versions, as that helped show that demand still exists for these versions of JiffyDOS.

Toronto PET User Group YouTube Channel

The Toronto PET User’s Group (TPUG) has placed a number of 2009 and 2011 World of Commodore (WoC) presentations online at  Yours truly is in some of the 2011 ones, discussing EasyFlash 3 and ZoomFloppy.  I guess, now that presentations will be online forever, I’ll have to do a better job or presenting and ensuring all information is accurate (I think there’s a few inaccuracies in my WoC presentations).  In any event, if you’ve never met me, check out the videos and realize you’re not missing much :-).

Spring-Time Retro-Computing Convention

Though the Cincinatti Commodore Computer Club (C4) EXPO will not be held in 2012, Payton Byrd is planning the Spring-Time Retro-Computing Convention in Clarksville, TN the weekend of May 25-27, 2012.  The event will be held at the Riverview Inn and will run 48 continuously for 48 hours.  As evidenced by the name, it appears like all classic machines will be represented/welcome.

As with NOTACON, we’d love to hear from readers who would enjoy a meet and greet.  Tennessee is quite a journey from the store, but it’s doable.


Far from being boring, the classic computing events calendar is already filling up!  NOTACON will be held in Cleveland, OH on April 12-15, 2012.  If you’re not aware, this event is short for “Not a Conference”, and its goals are to showcase technologies, philosophies, and creativity not often given a focus at other conferences.  The conference also sports its own demoparty: PixelJam.

RETRO Innovations is considering attendance, and we’d love to hear from others who would enjoy meeting us while there.  They don’t offer sales tables, like at other conferences and conventions, but we could show off development, PCB design, or something else of interest.  If we do come, we’ll unofficially bring some stock for those who want to pick up the latest offerings.

Early registration closes on Feb 17th (extended one week from the original February 10th).  If you’re considering attendance, it’s $25.00 cheaper to register now!


ECCC 2011 Recap

As usual, ECCC 2011 was both hectic and fun. It’s been a few days since the show, as it took a while to travel home and recover.

RETRO Innovations arrived Friday evening in time to unload equipment into the show hall and select a couple choice tables near power and good traffic areas.  However, almost as soon as we finished, it was time to close the hall for the night.  I gathered up a few items and set up in the Fairfield Hotel foyer to finish some soldering and check on email.  When I left at 1AM (early, I know), the room was still full of Commodore folks.

Saturday started strong, with sales brisk until nearly noon.  ZoomFloppies sold well, though uIEC/SD unit sales were nontrivial as well (typically, a large number of the same folks attend each year, so year over years sales of the same item tend to decrease after the first year).  JiffyDOS ROM sets sold at a steady pace, as did IEC cables.  By mid afternoon, sales had tapered off and I was able to present ZoomFLoppy at 4PM in the demo area without too much trouble.  I drug in an 8050 drive to show off IEEE support, recently added to the ZF firmware, while showing the rest of the ZoomFloppy features.

In the evening, I worked with Leif Bloomquist on a long-in-development VIC-MIDI project.  Having first collaborated with Leif on the project in early 2010, it’s been a long road getting to this point.  But, Leif worked on the driver code in the evening and was able to coax correct operation out the circuit before nightfall.  Hopefully, a finished design and a product offering will be available before the first show in 2012.

After the hall closed Saturday night, we once again gathered in the hotel foyer.  I sat with Six and Elwix of Style to discuss some new hardware design ideas, but mainly just enjoyed the din of activity.

This year, the show opened again on Sunday, though I had already made alternate Sunday plans.  Though I was in no hurry, packing went slower than expected since I had to pull items out a number of times to make last minute sales.  I can’t complain about sales, though.  By 1PM, I had stuffed everything back into containers and closed up shop.

Of course, no show would be complete unless purchases were made.  While eyeing some individual 8″ floppy disks, I happened upon a VIC-1540 with an original DOS ROM.  Those ended up in my possession (I already have a 1540, but I don’t have an original ROM). Anticipating purchases, I had left a bit of room for things like this and the 10 VIC expansion cases (Think VIC-1020, but minus the expansion PCB.  They were used to lock down the VIC in an education setting) Leif brought to the show (I purchased them at WoC 2010, but was not in attendance). As well, I asked Six (Oliver Viebrooks) to bring an SX64 shipping box to that show I had stashed at his home years before.  Finally, the shipping box would make it home.

Or not…  At the end of the show, I ended up purchasing a Xerox Phaser 8400 Workgroup color printer (I’ve been looking for a color unit for invoice printing, but couldn’t justify the cost of a new color laser in lieu of the perfectly functioning LaserJet 5 currently in use).  The price was too good to pass up, but the cargo area could not hold the printer, the products, the VIC cases, and the SX64 shipping box in addition to suitcases.  So, the SX box went home to downstate IL with family.  Maybe one day it’ll make it home.  It’s been in IL, then in KY, and now somewhere else in IL.

To be truthful, I attend to see folks and share stories, not sell products.  It was nice to catch up with folks from past events as well as meet people I’ve only known online.  Still, it is nice to sell enough stuff to finance the trip.

Above all, I’m exceedingly grateful that Jason Compton underwrites the entire cost of the event, offering it for free to businesses and attendees alike.  May it continue to be held for years to come.  I’m also excited that the Vintage Computer Festival was held at the same time in the same building.  Though I didn’t get to spend much time at their exhibits, the exhibits were well planned and very intriguing.

Upcoming ECCC ’11 Show

RETRO Innovations will be attending the upcoming ECCC/VCFMW Show September 24/25 in Lombard, IL.  Details are below:

Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 6.0 / Emergency Chicagoland
Commodore Convention 2011 /
September 24-25, 2011, Lombard, IL

WHAT: VCFMW is a free and open exposition of classic computing
hardware, software and memorabilia. ECCC is the world's top September
destination for Commodore enjoyment. Two great shows, one great

WHEN: 8AM Saturday, September 24, 2011 to 4PM Sunday, September 25,
2011 (display area will close 11PM Saturday to 10AM Sunday)

WHERE: Heron Point Building, next to Fairfield Inn and Suites (Marriott)
665 West North Ave
Lombard, Illinois 60148 USA

Mention "Fall Commodore Expo" for special $69/night room rate!

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