Kickstarter brainstorming at KansasFest

July 23rd, 2012 9:54 AM
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Filed under Happenings, Musings;
7 comments.

On Saturday, July 21, I gave a presentation at KansasFest 2012 about Kickstarter. I reviewed what the crowdfunding site is and how it works before presenting and analyzing examples of various campaigns. After reviewing successful projects (Double Fine, Leisure Suit Larry, Diaspora, TikTok, Pebble) and some unsuccessful or poorly designed ones (Rolling High, What's Where in the Apple, MULE), I identified three qualities that lend themselves to meeting one's crowdfunding goal: the fame, reputation, or track record of the artist (Jason Scott, Penny Arcade, Andrew Plotkin); a convincing pitch video (Huck Finn, Nataly Dawn) that doesn't necessarily need to be expensive to produce; and attractive rewards (Pebble; Joulies).

Kickstarter logo

Due to both the previous session and my own running long, after we watched Kickstarter pitch videos and dissected their strengths and weaknesses, I didn't have as much time as I'd like for my presentation's interactive component: brainstorming Apple II projects to launch on Kickstarter. I started by asking the audience what products we'd like to see that would require a financial investment, then who in the community has the reputation to attract a funding audience, followed by what the reward levels for such a Kickstarter campaign would be. As with all brainstorming sessions, I wrote down every idea regardless of feasibility. We then conducted an informal poll to narrow the choices to those bolded in the below table.

ProjectsSponsorsRewardsDonation level
VGA cardKen GagneContributor credit on Web site$10
Bluetooth / Wi-Fi cardVince BrielAccess to contributor-only blog$25
Accelerator cardRich DreherUSB adapter$50
Ethernet cardTony DiazUSB adapter & name in manual$75
Magazine PDF archiveJames LittlejohnTwo USB adapters$90
Buy rights and inventory from ReactiveMicroWozLimited-edition model$150
System 7.0Apple II t-shirt$250
USB input device adapter10 adapters$450
Buy the copyright to somethingSilkscreen greet on the board$500
Spectrum Internet Suite (SIS) updateLunch with the designer$1000
Full-color Juiced.GS
Ad-free RCR
Open Apple merchandise
Retrocomputing video podcast
Mark Twain clone
KansasFest scholarship
Open-source programming language
Woz action figure (with 9 points of articulation)
KansasFest FOREVER

Note that the first two columns do not line up with each other or the other two columns, but the third and fourth columns line up with each other. Also, some reward levels (access to contributor-only blog) include the previous rewards, whereas others (two USB keyboard adapters) do not.

Of all the bolded projects, we deemed the USB adapter the most affordable and thus the most likely to be funded. The proposed adapter would not only work with keyboards, joysticks, and mice, but it would adapt them to multiple platforms: Apple II, Commodore 64, and more. As the Battle Chess Kickstarter campaign demonstrated, limiting your product to only one audience (in that case, Windows) diminishes your chances of getting funded: more potential customers equals more money, as evidenced by the success of many old franchises that are being revived for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

A wide audience requires a creator with exposure and recognition beyond the Apple II community, for which reason I nominate Vince Briel. The inventory of Briel Computers, from the Replica 1 to the Micro-KIM to the ALTAIR 8800micro, appeal to retrocomputing hobbyists of many ages and interests, and Briel's track record as a businessman, from shipping products to offering customer support, is unparalleled. Briel has the reputation that could get a Kickstarter project funded.

Briel was in the audience for this brainstorming session but did not actually drive this proposal. But if he were to accept it, I would be first in line to give him my money.

For more advice on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, check out Nelson De Witt's A Kickstarter's Guide free e-book and Tyler York's "How to succeed on Kickstarter" blog post.

UPDATE (Oct 21, 2015):: Courtesy Kevin Savetz, here is a video of my KansasFest session.

Vince Briel talks with Racketboy

November 29th, 2010 1:17 PM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
1 comment.

Since the Apple-1 has been making headlines lately, it seems timely to hear from the man who's helped revitalize interest in this historic machine. Vince Briel is the creator of the Replica I, a fully functional Apple-1 clone authorized by Steve Wozniak himself. The unit sells as a kit of 88 unassembled parts for $149, or as an assembled, ready-to-use circuit board for $199. Both options make it a significantly more affordable alternative than buying one at Christie's auction house.

Vince is no stranger to the pages of magazine Juiced.GS, where he was interviewed by Doug Cuff in 2004, with Andy Molloy's review of the Apple-1 replica following four years later — a topic I myself then tackled for Computerworld.com in 2009. Vince was also part of a five-person roundtable in what remains one of my most memorable Juiced.GS issues to date.

Briel's latest interview, however, is not in print, but in podcast, and not even in one of the many aimed at an Apple II audience. Instead, Vince was a guest of Racketboy.com, "an independent video game site that caters to the old-school console gamer and their unique gaming lifestyles." The show's guests were decided by reader vote, with Vince being of sufficient reputation to make the cut. The interview was published this past January and is an entertaining listen, revealing details about the creation of the Replica I, Vince's interactions with Woz, the product's timeless popularity, and upcoming products, including an MP3 card.

Although the podcast is available via iTunes, this particular episode is not, so you'll have to download the MP3 manually to add it to your audio collection. It's worth this simple effort to hear from one of the Apple II community's leading hardware developers.

FS: Apple-1, via Christie's of London

November 15th, 2010 10:20 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods, Happenings;
2 comments.

It's not often that retrocomputing news spreads quickly, but by the time I write this blog, it's already old news: on Nov. 23, Christie's auction house in London will auction an Apple-1 computer. The estimated value is $160,300–$240,450.

I first heard the news via Sean Fahey's Twitter, which linked to the Daily Mail Reporter's story. I figured the number of people who even knew what an Apple-1 was would end the story there — but within 24 hours, it was making homepage headlines on everything from Computerworld to CNN. A Google News search shows nearly 300 news stories covering the story.

All this attention is a bit mystifying, as although only a quarter of the original 200 Apple-1 units are known to exist, their appearance on the auction lot is not that unusual. There was one on eBay just two months ago, which sold for just under $23K. That one came with a caveat: "I have not applied electricity to the motherboard in well over ten years, and do not intend to for this auction. Thus, you should assume this is an auction for a museum quality historical artifact, not a working computer." Similarly, the Christie's lot does not describe their unit's working state. Why theirs is going for so much, other than the prestige of the Christie's name, I cannot discern.

Some of the marvel being heaped upon this ancient technology is also both baffling and irritating. "Song storage capacity: Zero", indicates the Daily Mail Reporter; "Its minuscule amount of memory — eight kilobytes — wouldn't even be enough to store a single iTunes song", wrote PC Magazine. If you mean MP3 files, then sure — not even Maxster would run on this machine. The MP3 codec was not developed until the 1990s, well after the Apple-1's debut in 1976. But to consider "song" and "MP3" to be analogous is narrow-minded. I bet the Apple-1 could beep a mean rendition of "Turkey in the Straw". Other functions within its ability are also being misgauged; "this setup 'could barely power a game of Pong'", quoted CNN. I didn't realize Pong required more than 8K of RAM? But both comparisons miss the point. To say that the modern consequence of the Apple-1 is a digital Walkman casts Steve Wozniak's invention as more of a quaint novelty than the technological revolution it was.

For my money, I'd rather buy a Replica I. This Apple-1 clone comes as either a kit ($149) or preassembled ($199) from Vince Briel, expert hardware developer. As related in the documentary Welcome to Macintosh, Briel created the clone with a unique look and even some additional features, so that it would not be confused for (or passed off as) an original Apple-1 (though Mike Willegal seems to be working on a more authentic replica). I built my own Replica I at KansasFest 2009 and had a blast, though my manufacture was not without its flaws (which some Computerworld readers have accused me of staging!). Due to the lack of a monitor, I've not used the Apple-1 in the 16 months since I built it, which I feel better about for having paid $149 than $240,450.

It's unfortunate that all this attention has been focused more on the Apple-1 has a historical artifact than on the vibrant and modern retrocomputing scene. Nonetheless, it'll be interesting to see where the Apple-1 goes. There's already one in the Smithsonian Institute, but another museum might benefit from its own. Does the Computer History Museum have one? How about the Louvre? Surely we can all agree the Apple-1 is a work of art!

Watch this blog for the exciting conclusion to this fast-breaking news story.