Archive for the ‘Happenings’ Category

The Apple II isn't just a computer; it's a community. Conferences, conventions, and parties are where to meet your fratres in computatrum.

KansasFest 2014 on Storify

July 28th, 2014 10:33 PM
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Having returned from KansasFest 2014 just a day ago, I find myself with have far too many emails to write, packages to mail, and naps to take. As such, I can offer no words of my own to express the joy and attending my 17th annual Apple II convention — so I will let others' words do so for me.

Please enjoy the following Storify, collecting select tweets, Flickr albums, Facebook posts, and more from #A2KFest.

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London's Digital Revolution exhibit

July 7th, 2014 9:35 AM
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I'm a fan of museums — their exhibits, their archives, their outreach all serve as a cornerstone to cultural preservation and education. America apparently agrees with that sentiment, as it was recently determined that the United States has more museums (35,000) than Starbucks (11,000) and McDonalds (14,000) restaurants combined.

From as far back as 2003, when Ryan Suenaga and I visited the Boston Museum of Science, I've toyed with the idea of a Juiced.GS article that marries these esteemed institutions with my favorite retrocomputer. Whether that story would've been simply an overview of the Apple II's appearances and contexts in such institutions, or something more meaningful about the history of the Apple II, I'm unsure. The closest we've come to that pitch was Peter Neubauer's December 2012 narrative of his experience at the newly opened Living Computer Museum.

If we ever do compile such an index, it won't stay current for long, as new exhibits feature the Apple II regularly. The latest, having opened just last week, is Digital Revolution at London's Barbican Centre, "a major new exhibition that explores the impact of technology on art over the past four decades", reports Aaron Souppouris for The Verge. Featured art forms include film, music, games, and more.

Pretty trippy, right? But in addition to the many interactive installation, various displays also let visitors walk the timeline of digital technology — including the Apple IIe.

Digital Revolution Installation At The Barbican Centre

A proud lineage. Photo copyrighted by the Verge.

It's not a significant portion of the Digital Revolution, but it doesn't have to be. It's enough for modern art to acknowledge that it is where it is today thanks to inventions such as the Apple II.

Now that's a good story.

Apple II & feminism at PAX East 2014

March 17th, 2014 1:00 PM
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Two years ago today, I was at GameFest, the opening weekend of The Art of Video Games, an art exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It was the performance of chiptune artists 8 Bit Weapon and ComputeHer that drew me there, but I went home with connections to the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers.

A year later, that connection landed me on stage at Boston's PAX East gaming convention, moderating a panel on the best video games of the year. Having developed my moderation skills at KansasFest, I found PAX an exciting and encouraging venue in which to continue hosting discussions on some of my favorite hobbies.

Emboldened, I sought to return the PAX stage in 2014 with a panel of more critical social value. Inspired by the work of Anita Sarkeesian, whose work I discovered upon backing her Kickstarter, I started brainstorming with Juiced.GS associate editor Andy Molloy as far back as June 27 and finally submitted my proposal last month. With the official schedule for PAX East having been announced last week, I'm pleased to announce that my proposal has been accepted, and I will be moderating the panel "Sex, Sexy & Sexism: Fixing Gender Inequality in Gaming".

The Apple II connection? Not only would this panel never have developed without chiptune artists, Juiced.GS editors, and KansasFest sessions — I was also able to feature the Apple II itself at ten seconds into the above trailer.

The Apple II — it makes all things possible!

KansasFest 2014 teaser

February 17th, 2014 2:15 PM
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Today, the KansasFest committee released this image:
KansasFest 2014 teaser

The blog post had no title (-20 to SEO), no body (-10), no ALT or TITLE tags (-5), and no informative filename (kfest2014.png) or slug (kfest-2014-teaser) — that is to say, no hidden clues.

But that isn't to say we can't make some inferences. Today is not the first time the KansasFest committee issued a teaser in advance of announcing the keynote speaker. In 2012, they posted this image to their Web site:

Quake logo

Three guesses who's coming to KansasFest 2012 — and the first two don't count.


The image made no attempt at being obtuse: gamers quickly recognized it as the logo of Quake, a quintessential first-person shooter from id software, original creators of the Apple IIGS game Wolfenstein 3D. Early id employees included Softdisk alumni John Romero and John Carmack, as well as former KansasFest keynote speaker Lane Roathe. Carmack still has a streak of the retrocomputing enthusiast in him:


Given Carmack's commitments to id and Oculus, it seemed unlikely he was available to speak at an Apple II convention. That left only John Romero — who was confirmed only hours later with an official press release.

So what can we learn from this latest image out of KansasFest? It features an entirely different style from the logos used for KansasFests 2006–2013. Presuming this teaser image is in fact the 2014 logo, and that its departure from tradition is not merely for aesthetic purposes, we should investigate its influences.

Fortunately, the committee has made this part easy. The logo was posted to not only the KansasFest blog, but also various social media sites, including the Softalk Forever group on Facebook. There, KansasFest publicist Peter Neubauer confirmed that this logo was designed in collaboration with committee chair Tony Diaz, who "created a new font using letters captured from original issues."

Softalk #1

The debut issue of Softalk.


I'm not a former reader of Softalk, so I read Steve Weyhrich's history of the publication. Of the names that were associated with the magazine over the years, two stand out. According to Wikipedia, "Softalk along with founder/editor Margot Comstock and founder/publisher Al Tommervik are named as pioneers of the microcomputer industry in the Smithsonian Institution." Of the two, Comstock is an active participant in the Apple II Enthusiasts group on Facebook. She has also collaborated with Mike Maginnis on providing material to the Apple II Scans project.

Perhaps Comstock is too obvious a choice for this year's keynote speaker — after all, the committee has done an excellent job in recent years of bringing unexpected celebrities out of the woodwork, such as John Romero, Mark Simonsen, David Szetela, and Randy Wigginton. But who else associated with Softalk would fit in the impressive lineup of past speakers?

No matter what, I'll be at KansasFest 2014. But for an opening act? My money's on Comstock.

In praise of KansasFest's inclusiveness

January 20th, 2014 6:40 PM
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The year has just begun, and already it's been busy with conventions! Two weeks ago, I flew to Maryland for MAGFest, the Music and Gaming Festival. My full report is on Gamebits, where I mention checking out the dealer room:

Dozens of indie shops were selling used games, original art, posters, figurines, books, dice, and more. I desperately wanted to expunge all my cash on the awesome artwork and knick-knacks, but every time I stopped myself and asked, "What would I do with it?" That question guided me to buy Moviebob's book, Super Mario Bros. 3: Brick by Brick, from the Fangamer table, though absent from the table was Fangamer founder Reid Young, whom I'd interviewed a year earlier. The last day of MAGFest, I picked up some chiptune CDs at 50% off. That's all the swag I went home with.

Today, I attended a convention closer to home. Arisia bills itself as New England's largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention. This time, I hung out in the dealer room almost exclusively, coming home with dice, hats, buttons, and other assorted knick-knacks.

Arisia 2014

Geekware everywhere!

To get into either of these marketplaces was not free; registration for all of the convention was required. MAGFest was a reasonable $45 for the entire four-day event, whereas Arisia charged that much to attend just the Saturday of show's four days. I found these practices very discouraging. I'd never attended either show and would've gone to MAGFest regardless, but my motivation to attend Arisia draw was not the costume contests or the panels and workshops but solely to support local artists. To charge $45 just for the privilege of looking at the merchandise made the event less accessible to those who have only a passing interest in the hobby.

KansasFest, by contrast, makes its vendor fair open to all. Anyone from the Kansas City area is welcome to come to Rockhurst University on Saturday afternoon to buy, sell, and trade with fellow geeks. It has been this way since my first time attending KansasFest in 1998, and it continues now that I myself am a merchant. Because of this policy, Juiced.GS has a demonstrably larger subscriber base. I appreciate the larger audience and increased opportunities to sell my product, and if I were a vendor at MAGFest or Arisia, I'd be disappointed at how exclusive the event was.

I appreciate that the organizers of these events are likely not meanies with no motivation other than greedily charging admission. Convention centers and hotels have maximum capacities, and especially in the case of Arisia, which had to close registration for Saturday after selling out, it would at best be awkward for the vendors' space to be so crowded; at worst, it would be against fire code. And with the event being so popular, it's not like they need to open any part of the show to the public for the vendors to do a brisk business. By contrast, KansasFest, whose attendance is only in the double digits, doesn't have any of these concerns; and with our hobby so niche, we can't afford to be exclusive.

And yet, it's an issue worth juggling. Having done my time on the KansasFest committee, I understand and appreciate the factors that convention organizers must consider. Few such cons are profitable, instead being held for the love of the community. But that's the very reason why these cons should also serve to embiggen the community by giving them a taste of what it offers. An open vendor space would serve as such outreach while also making it a profitable and attractive proposition for the artists.

The Apple II community in general and KansasFest in particular have not only survived but thrived due to the collaboration and openness of its contributors. The KansasFest vendor fair is one of many things we do right. When and where possible, other cons should look to us as an example of how to make its members feel welcome.

Digital Den launch party

October 28th, 2013 10:59 AM
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Mary Hopper began making waves this August when she announced her intention to found a computer history museum in Boston. News of the Digital Den was picked up by Open Apple, the Retro Computing Roundtable, the Boston Globe, and Apple II Bits.

The museum continues to evolve into a extant institution, as evidenced by the launch party held on October 20. As a backer of the museum's Indiegogo campaign, I received an invitation to the event, where I was pleased to make the acquaintance of Dr. Hopper, Adam Rosen of the Vintage Mac Museum, and Ian S. King of the Living Computer Museum, as well as catch up with fellow retrocomputing enthusiast Dave Ross. On-hand were classic computers such as the Apple II, TI-99, and Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as newer tech like the Oculus Rift. It was an encouraging occasion for a museum that continues to seek a permanent home.

My photos from the event are posted below and are available under a CC-BY-NC license. The book featured below, Gordon Bell's Out of a Closet: The Early Years of The Computer [x]* Museum, is available online as a PDF. For more photos from the event, including a silly one of me by Rus Gant, see the Digital Den's first exhibit photos.

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