Bay Area Vintage Computer Fest Takes Tech-Enthusiasts Back in Time

While a breadboard’s colorful mishmash of circuits and plugs is hardly recognizable as an integral part of computer hard drives, Rosenbloom said even today computers are built from similar components found in the earliest-vintage breadboards. (Hannah Hagemann/KQED)

Nearly 1,000 tech-enthusiasts gathered this weekend in Mountain View to travel back in time at the Vintage Computer Festival. The event, which was held at the Computer History Museum, explores how modern tech has evolved from the 1950's to now.

Exhibitors displayed floppy disks as thick as 8 inches at the Festival.
Exhibitors displayed floppy disks as thick as 8 inches at the Festival. (Hannah Hagemann/KQED)

Computer aficionados from across the country gathered to put collections of floppy disks, Apple-1’s, and Commodore-64’s on display.

Also on display: breadboards, which are essentially circuit boards that trained early computers how to work.

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While a breadboard’s colorful mishmash of circuits and plugs is hardly recognizable as an integral part of computer hard drives, festival-goer Bob Rosenbloom said even today computers are built from similar components found in the earliest-vintage breadboards.

“This is the fundamentals of digital logic,” explained Rosenbloom, who restores breadboards. “All the computers that we have today are built out of this.”

Alexander Pierson, who flew 3,000 miles to get to the fest, said that in addition to refurbishing just being fun, it also helps him gain a deeper insight into modern computing.

“It lets folks see the building blocks on which skyscrapers are made,” said Pierson.

While 28-year old Pierson missed out on days when much of this technology would have flourished, others like Evie Salomon found that renovating vintage computers of the 70’s and 80’s brings back fond childhood memories.

Pierson with his custom-built Cactus Computer, which simulates the computer culture of the 70’s.
Pierson with his custom-built Cactus Computer, which simulates the computer culture of the 70’s. (Hannah Hagemann/KQED)

“My brother earned enough money on a paper route bought this computer,” said Salomon of the Commodore-64s she works on. “It was the first color computer that I had.”

Playing games like Frogger and Bubble Bobble was “a good distraction from family life at home,” said Salomon. “It was always something I could go to no matter what was going on.”

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