VCF Midwest update?

'Computer Collector Newsletter' news at
Wed Aug 3 20:12:27 CDT 2005

>>> Interesting, I've never heard of this show before now. 

The West Coast Computer Faire is a real part of computer history!  It was
the predecessor to Comdex (LOL, which is also now part of computer history
after shutting down a couple of years ago.)

-----Original Message-----
From: cctalk-bounces at [mailto:cctalk-bounces at]
On Behalf Of Bob Shannon
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 8:56 PM
To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts
Subject: Re: VCF Midwest update?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dwight K. Elvey" <dwight.elvey at>
To: <cctalk at>
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 2:52 PM
Subject: Re: VCF Midwest update?

> Hi
> There was once a show in California called The West
> Coast Computer Fair. When it first started it was one
> of the most interesting shows I've ever been to. They
> had a really nice mix of large vendors and small
> companies. Some even just had exhibits without any
> specific sales ( they did advertise ).

Interesting, I've never heard of this show before now.  Can
you tell me more about how it was similar to and different
from VCF East 1 or 2?

I really need to see a west coast show to get a better understanding
of VCF events.

> Over the years, it did evolve and then died. First
> I think it was that the fellow that originally ran it
> sold it out. This meant that it was intended to be
> a solid profit operation. No more loss leaders ( ask
> a successful retailer what a loss leader is ).

I think we all know what loss leaders are, they are products
you carry in order to make more profits from the other products
you carry. 

You carry a loss leader because if you don't, your customers
will do their business with someone who does, and you
will loose profits.  Loss leaders are all about profit.

> Another thing happened at about the same time. Strong
> union forces in San Francisco force the shows to only
> use union riggers to move material from docks to displays.
> There was no way the little interesting exhibits could
> afford this.

Wow, that sure would kill the shows.  Who would want a
bunch of union workers who may know nothing about your
system moving it?  (I'm thinking mini's and larger stuff here)

> What the owners of the show didn't realize then was
> that they should have subsidized the smaller exhibits.
> It quickly because another trade show that one couldn't
> get their company to pay one to go to. No one would
> want to go there just for hobby sake any more.

I don't think anyone wants to see VCF's become like trade
shows.  That would be a disaster, no question.

But does anyone really need to subsidize a $10 fee?  The cold
equations suggest that at $10, you already got a good deal.

Some exhibits might eat that just in power over a 2 day show!

But think about what we are collecting.  Real vintage mini's
and some microcomputers are historically very similar to
antique steam and early gas engines.  They are machines that
made a huge impact on society, an impact at least as large as
the first industrial revolution (brought on by those vintage engines).

Another collectable from the first industrial revolution are vintage
pocket watches.  Once the engines moved workers from the
fields to the factories, they needed to get them there on time and
the mass production watch came to be.

> Let the Vintage Computer Fair evolve but remember that
> it is intended to be a hobby related show. It should
> be enjoyable for all that go there.

Have you ever seen a vintage engine show?  Or a NAWCC show?
How about a vintage car show?  They are all very different from
todays VCF event from what I've seen.

Vintage computers are very historically important inventions.
They need to be preserved because of their intrinsic value.

Maybe most people today collect and restore these machines
as a hobby.  But thats also true for pocket watch collectors and
even vintage engine collectors too.  A minority of these collectors
do this professionally.  Hobby or not, at some point the financial
value of our beloved machines will reflect their intrinsic value.

This is already effecting our hobby.  Its a fact of life, IMO.

No one had ever suggested that the shows should be fun.
Some have suggested that they could be even more fun.

Clearly people that go to a classic car show don't go there to have
a bad time.

> From my past experience, there are several changes I'd
> make. First, I'd restrict the size of exhibits to not
> much more than equipment size. I'm not much into museum
> exhibits for these kinds of shows. If people are
> interested in something, they should stop and talk to
> the exhibitor. The display should not distract from
> the machines and information ( despite trends I've seen
> at the recent festivals ). If I was expecting such
> empty presentations, I'd go to the Tech Museum in
> San Jose or the Intel Museum ( I've only been to each
> once and see no reason to return ).

Isn't a big part of the reason for VCF events to spread the
hobby to others?  Maybe your not much into museum
exhibits, but didn't you say it should be enjoyable for all
who attend?

I think exhibits are needed that make vintage computing accessible
to people.  

You should have heard some of the questions, and absolute
wonder that came from some of the Sun programmers who had
never seen a blinkinlights CPU before.

I really should have had a canned presentation that explains
how front panels are used, and how vintage systems were
bootstrapped, etc.  

This simple technology has become totally forign to todays
techies.  So why not make this stuff accessible, even to non
technical people who attend?

Or am I missing your point here totally?

Why restrict the exhibits?  How does this make the show more
enjoyable for all?

> Exhibitors should have a place to sit that is not
> in the aisles that the public use. There should be
> a place for the public to stop, sit and chat with
> the exhibitors. This was really clumsy at the last VCF.

Good point.  

At VCF East 1.0, exhibitors were mixed with the rest.
But I really did not see that as a problem.

But at VCF Ease 2.0, we had space behind the tables, and
there was even room to place chairs in front of consoles so
that people could sit and actually use some of the exhibits.

Clearly thats better, space permitting of course.

> I realize that it is a space issue. I also realize that
> some like the "crowd pleaser exhibits" that use several
> tables to display a few items. I have no problem
> with large exhibits like the analytical engine or the
> Dec machine. I just feel that space should be used
> more to create interaction between exhibitors
> and visitors and not so much to create the one pass
> Tech Museum type exhibits.

I think this is really up to the design of the exhibit, not the
people running the show.

In fact at VCF East 1.0 a PDP-12 was playing spacewar.
This was set up as a free-standing, hands-on exhibit.

> As for collecting from exhibitors, I have no issue
> other than making it clearer to the exhibitors that
> they'll have to pay such fees. The first time it was
> a surprise to me as well. The fee amount wasn't an
> issue.
> Just my thoughts
> Dwight

I totally agree with the last point, whatever arrangement
is needed to 'go on with the show' is fine.  People really 
should not be sup by this.  Its always been clear to
me during the registration process.

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