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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A computer history museum returns to Boston

September 2nd, 2013 6:41 PM
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Eight years ago, I took Ryan Suenaga to the Boston Museum of Science, whose "ComputerPlace" exhibit featured an Apple II with a copy of VisiCalc. Although exciting to see, this one display was the extent of Boston's preservation of computer history. The Computer History Museum, now a Silicon Valley landmark, had its humble beginnings in Boston, where it lived for 15 years. Upon its relocation to Mountain View, California, no similar establishment remained in Boston.

Northeastern University lecturer Mary Hopper aims to rectify that. As the Boston Globe reports, when the Computer History Museum left Boston, Hopper started collecting computer artifacts (including an Apple II Plus), waiting for the day she could donate them to whatever local institution took the CHM's place. With that not having happened, she's now setting out to establish her own computer museum: the Digital Den. To do so, she's turned to crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise $25,000 by September 23. She's presently at 6% of her goal.

How this project got so far under the radar baffles me. I asked local representatives of @party, the Artisan's Asylum, and KansasFest, and nobody had heard of this endeavor. I'm also concerned about how vast an enterprise Hopper is undertaking — there's more to starting a museum than having an inventory. However, a visit to the Den by local retrocomputing enthusiast Dave Ross resulted in an encouraging report:

Mary is every bit as impressive as her bio makes her out to be. She's done some impressive work and has been involved with making sure her work and the work of those around her were preserved well before they could be considered "history".

She's also been talking to lawyers and other museums to get a sense of what she can legally do for fundraising and what kind of donations she can accept. It's refreshing to see that kind of due diligence.

If Hopper can accomplish what no one else has tried in more than a decade, then I will do what I can to support her — and already have, thanks to Indiegogo. I look forward to visiting the Den for myself!

All Apple II roads lead to Boston

April 4th, 2011 12:47 PM
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With the apparent demise of the user group, there are no geographically oriented pockets of Apple II users anymore. But I have the good fortune of living in Central Massachusetts, which has somehow become a destination for many Apple II users over the years.

Juiced.GS associate editor Andy Molloy has regularly made the trip from New York to enjoy the retrocomputing goodness my area has to offer, from Funspot to PAX. The same site where we recently attended PAX also once hosted Steve Weyhrich, who took time out of his professional development in the medical field to share a dinner with me. Even other continents send representatives to Boston, where Australian programmer Peter Watson and I went to the pub that inspired the television sitcom Cheers.

The Watsons in Boston

Carol, Andre, Lynne, Peter, Kahm, and Ken — Apple II users forever!

This weekend alone, I visited with multiple Apple II users. Thomas Compter, who once hosted me and Kelvin Sherlock for a Lord of the Rings marathon, was in town to attend the annual Havoc game convention. His and his wife Jeannie's availability coincided with a local vegan pop-up restaurant's monthly offering. I enjoyed spending an evening with these two KansasFest alumni, talking about everything but the Apple II, from WordPress to to dice towers to living in Germany.

Thomas and Jeannie moved a few years ago from Oklahoma to Vermont and then to Western Massachusetts, but the Panhandle State still has its share of Apple II users. Fewer than 24 hours later, I picked one up from the airport: KansasFest committee member, logo designer, and former HackFest winner Peter Neubauer. Peter's diverse Apple II résumé was recently expanded by his interview of Alan Floeter for Juiced.GS, which landed in subscriber mailboxes just last week. In contrast to the previous evening, the Apple II was practically all we talked about. We caught up on reactions to Juiced.GS and plans for KansasFest 2011 before getting on the horn with Mike Maginnis for another few hours.

I consider myself very lucky to live somewhere through which so many esteemed Apple II users pass, and I appreciate them making time to connect with a member of their community. It's like a series of mini-KFests to keep us going until the big one!