ASCII by Jason Scott

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Vintage Computer Festival X —

Over the weekend of November 3rd-4th, I was at my old haunt, the Vintage Computer Festival, which was held once again at the Computer History Museum. This was VCF X, the tenth anniversary of the festival.

I’ve been going to this festival for about half that time, starting with a east coast VCF that was held (I went to it before I started work on the documentary, and talked up a few later interviewees) and going to as many of the west coast (original) VCFs as I could. This year was special, as I attended all three VCFs: East, Midwest, West. I figured it was worth doing, and the difference between the events is notable.

At the Midwest festival, I bumped into the Welshes, who wrote the excellent Priming the Pump, which is a history of the TRS-80 and its context in the history of microcomputers. I called Sellam Ismail, and left a message saying they should speak at the West VCF, the big one. As it turned out, they did! I’ll give a detailed review later, but here’s the short form: it’s worth buying.

A personal highlight for me was the presentation on Phone Phreaking by Phil Lapsley. I’ve been helping Phil a tiny tad with his years-in-the-making project, a book about the history of Phreaking, and I can personally attest that Phil is the real deal, a guy who has been devoting countless hours of his time to getting the story “right”. There’s nothing better for a person who thinks they know a lot about a subject to sit in a talk about said subject and learn a raft of new stuff. In Phil’s talk, I did. I’ll be sure to cry to the world when his book is generally released, likely in 2008.

Somewhere in the middle of seeing old friends, hanging out with legends, browsing the exhibits and attending the talks, I gave a short presentation about GET LAMP that ended up being multiple hours. Sellam was kind enough to ask me to show some stuff from GET LAMP, but the inherent problem is that there isn’t a lot of stuff from GET LAMP at the moment; it’s merely hundreds of classified clips. So I threw some amusing ones together with no intercutting and totalling seven minutes in length, and put everyone’s names below them as they spoke. Simple enough.

I showed the MC Frontalot video (twice, as a miscommunication put 90% of my audience in the wrong room) and then the footage I threw together. Then I talked a lot, an awful lot. And I answered questions and talked even more.

Devoid of too much structure and no real limits on the room (I was the last person to speak in it), I rambled on and on for hours, covering my philosophy in shooting, what I was going for, things I’d discovered, plans I had. I talked way too much about my thoughts on life in general, places I’d been, stuff I’d accomplished. People stayed, and very few ran for the door, which I appreciate, but I have no idea if it was actually an enjoyable experience.

I am pleased the interviews look very good; some kind soul in the audience asked how I’d gotten all the locations to look similar and sound similar and that’s 100% pure luck and practice. I have now officially filmed over 300 interviews in my documentary “career”, so there’s stuff I just “do” now. That was my favorite question, by far.

I should say that I certainly enjoyed myself giving it; I just can’t attest to people enjoying getting it. I think I need more structure in the talks.

I don’t get tired of these events; always a lot of fun, always eye-opening. I’m glad to be a part of them, where I can.

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One Comment

  1. Flack O'Hara says:

    I hate when you plug things like Priming the Pump, because I always run out and buy them. I should track all the things I’ve bought or rented based off plugs in your blog.