Jeri Ellsworth of Tilt Five

October 14th, 2019 8:51 AM
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Sometimes, Apple II users have ambitions bigger than their humble retrocomputers. Steve Chiang went to work at Zynga and Warner Bros. Richard Garriott flew into space.

And now, Jeri Ellsworth is setting out to redefine reality with Tilt Five.

Jeri's mixed reality rig is impressive in its own right. But it's all the cooler due to Jeri being an Apple II rockstar, too… Well, maybe more Commodore 64.

But she was a cover story for Juiced.GS, too!

Jeri Ellsworth on cover of Juiced.GS

Doug Cuff's interview with Jeri opens:

She's a self-confessed hardware nerd, and she has a mission. She wants to rebuild one of the most popular and beloved microcomputers of the 1980s: the Commodore 64.

On the way, she's going to be a big help to the Apple II. But even if she wasn't, you would still want to pay homage to Jeri Ellsworth.

When she was 16, Jeri Ellsworth was playing with her Commodore 64, and she wanted it to have more colors. (Just as with the Apple II, people mentally dismissed the C-64 long before production stopped. The last C-64 rolled off the production line in 1992.)

By the time she had explored the idea of improving on the C-64's hardware, Jeri wanted to create a C-64 on a single chip. She liked the idea of a C-64 palmtop. And she was still being driven by forces that most of us can understand: she wanted to play all her old games, and at the same time, she wanted them to have better graphics.

Jeri is also an alumna of KansasFest, Vintage Computer Festival East, and the JoCoCruise, at all of which our paths have crossed.

Tilt Five's Kickstarter was the latest opportunity for me to intersect with Jeri, as her project was a perfect fit for my monthly gaming podcast, Polygamer. Our hour-long chat (with a few opening and closing remarks about the Apple II) aired last week.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Jeri. It was also completely unsurprising to discovery she is as much an ambitious yet humble geek as ever. I didn't feel like I was talking to someone who had outgrown the Apple II; rather, it was two old friends picking up right where we left off.

Jeri asked that I not air the video of us singing karaoke. In truth, no such video exists —  but there is video of her beating me badly at arm wrestling. So really, even if I did have any dirt on Jeri, I'd be highly incentivized to keep it to myself!

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.