Apple II at @party demoparty

June 11th, 2012 7:26 PM
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What are you doing next weekend? If you're in the Boston area and want to meet some fellow Apple II users, or learn more about this machine that's developed such a rabid community, then consider coming to @party.

A demoparty founded in 2010, @party is all about squeezing the most impressive graphics, sound, and functionality out of the oldest machines. Think of it like HackFest, except for all retrocomputers and lasting all weekend. But you don't need to be a programmer to compete — there are music, graphics, ASCII art, and other competitions, or "compos". If you just want to attend, there's still plenty for you, including chiptune concerts, text adventure tutorials, and more.

For the first time in @party's history, "more" includes me! I'll be the weekend's first last official speaker, with a presentation on Saturday at 1:30 5:00 PM EDT entitled "The Apple II lives! KansasFest and beyond". Likely to be an adaptation of last summer's presentation to the Denver Apple Pi users' group, I'll deliver an overview of the Apple II history, hardware, community, events, outlets, and more.

At least one other KansasFest alumnus will be there: krüe, an award-winning demo artist. Krüe is a demoparty fiend and will be sure to show you the ropes.

@party demoparty

Hackers hacking their hacks at @party 2010.

Registration ends TONIGHT (June 11) at midnight. Tickets are only $56.02 — not bad for a weekend of camaraderie and retro-fun. Come enjoy your first demoparty!

Jeri Ellsworth, TWiT

April 18th, 2011 11:29 AM
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KansasFest is by its nature attended by eclectic and fascinating people, without exception. But one of the most memorable people I've met in my years at the annual Apple II convention has been Jeri Ellsworth.

Jeri made her Apple II debut at KansasFest 2003, sufficiently impressing the then-editor of Juiced.GS enough with her homebrew hardware to earn her a cover story a few months later. She attended KFest again in 2004, when she and I were assigned to be roommates, inspiring her to decorate our door with the infamous Furbfish. (It was a pittance compared to the strangeness she brought into my home a week earlier, when we attended VCF East 2.0 with Ryan Suenaga, Andy Molloy, and Kelvin Sherlock.) At the last minute, she made her final KansasFest appearance in 2006, provoking a karaoke battle.

Roller Jeri at KansasFest 2006.Jeri's interests have always been diverse, from computer shops to roller derby and race cars. She had her own Web series, The Fat Man and Circuit Girl, for more than a year; nowadays, her passion is pinball. Running in so many circles has earned her plenty of attention; she is, aside from Bill Martens, the only currently active Apple II user I know to have her own Wikipedia page.

Most recently, Jeri appeared on an hour-long episode of Triangulation, a subsidiary of Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast. The show was recorded on Jan 20, published on Feb 2, and mentioned on the KansasFest list by Dean Nichols on Apr 1. Notable segments include how her youth shaped her aspirations and passions, and the C64 DTV computer-in-a-joystick.

Unfortunately, she doesn't get in a word about her Apple II history — in fact, there's nary a single reference to the computer in the entire episode. I'm hoping this is not indicative of her future involvement in the community. I have done my best to lure her back to KanasFest, including by promising a private tour of the Electric Theatre retro arcade, scheduled to open in nearby Independence, Missouri, later this year.

KansasFest is filled with colorful people, and I hope Jeri will again bring her distinctive hue to the event.

What to present at KansasFest

April 7th, 2011 11:58 AM
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KansasFest 2011, having recently opened for registration, has now put out the first call for sessions. Besides the camaraderie that can be found only in the company of Apple II users, the sessions are perhaps my favorite part of KansasFest. They appeal to all interests, from Apple II to iOS and hardware to software, and all experience levels, from journeyman to artisan.

I attended three KansasFests before being promoted to dinner banquet emcee, but it was six KansasFests before I gave my first session. In 2004 and 2005, I reviewed my favorite Apple II games in a pair of sessions that I barely recall. Bruce Baker continued that tradition in 2006 through 2009, focusing primarily on his favorite Softdisk titles and letting me off the hook. I was again just an audience member for 2006 through 2008, with the exception of a self-running showing of a chapter from BBS: The Documentary in 2007 and, to fill a gap in the 2008 session schedule, a brief and impromptu tour of the social media site Facebook, which I had joined five months earlier.

Then, in 2009, KansasFest started becoming very busy for me! I kicked off a new series called "Classic Gaming Inspirations", which looked at modern-day titles that capture the feel or spirit of original Apple II titles. I also compiled and showed the segments of the television show Dancing with the Stars in which Apple II inventor Steve Wozniak competed.

Deciding that two sessions wasn't enough, in 2010, I cranked up my commitment to an unprecedented five sessions:

If I follow the 2x+1 formula that represents my increase in sessions from 2009 to 2010, then I'll be giving an exhausting 11 sessions in 2011. I'm determined to go the opposite direction and ease up on my contributions, making room for other attendees to participate and allowing myself time to enjoy more of KansasFest.

Apple's Growing Divide Between Users and Programmers

'The brain power there caused the room to tilt a bit!'
said Kirk Mitchell of this KansasFest 2010 panel.

To that end, I've thus far committed to only two sessions: a behind-the-scenes look at the Open Apple podcast with my co-host Mike Maginnis, and a sequel to last year's banquet activity of the live-action text adventure game Action Castle. My tradition of offering a gaming session will again die, I hope to again be picked up by someone who's been similarly inspired.

But I would like to offer a third session: another panel, akin to last year's "Apple's Growing Divide Between Users and Programmers". The Apple II community has some genuine experts in their fields, and the opportunity to tap that collective wisdom shouldn't be overlooked. All I need is a topic that is relevant and of interest, but without being too controversial — we don't want to leave the room with any hard feelings, after all.

What sessions or panel topics would you recommend for KansasFest 2011?

KansasFest 2010 begins

July 22nd, 2010 11:00 AM
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This week marks the 21st annual KansasFest, a week-long computer convention dedicated to the Apple II. My first year in attendance was 1998, making this my lucky 13th consecutive KFest. And boy, am I lucky!

Though every year's KansasFest brings with it different attendees, sessions, and opportunities, it is never any less a blast year to year. We're missing the physical presence of regulars Ryan, Sheppy, and Bruce, among others — but in their stead, we have six first-time attendees, including Krue, who I previously met at last month's demoparty, as well as our keynote speaker, Mark Simonsen. Each person is obviously thrilled to be here, and the enthusiasm they have for the platform and community bring much to the KansasFest experience.

KansasFest 2010 unloading

By plane, train, or automobile, get yourself and your hardware to KansasFest 2010!

For better or worse, many of us are spending as much time working as we are socializing. The two dozen sessions on this year's schedule require much preparation for which we found little time on our pre-KFest lives. I was scheduled to give four sessions this year and offered to fill an empty slot with a silly fifth — all in addition to video-recording all other sessions, and emceeing the annual dinner banquet with an activity recommended to me by KFest committee member Andy Molloy. There's much material for me to prepare, memorize, and test.

But in the end, it's worth it. KansasFest comes but once a year and is every Apple II enthusiast's opportunity to recharge their retrocomputing batteries for another year. The more people who invest in KFest, the greater the return on the investment. With all the contributions to KFest 2010 from people on-site and off, I'm looking forward to this year's event keeping me going for awhile to come.

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