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.

Preparing for the CFFA3000

July 9th, 2012 9:21 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
4 comments.

The July episode of the Open Apple podcast debuted yesterday (a Sunday! Unprecedented!), featuring an interview with Rich Dreher, one of the Apple II community's foremost hardware developers. After having long been an admirer of his work, I met Rich at KansasFest 2011 — yet despite all that, I've never actually owned a product of his company, R&D Automation, LLC. By the time I'd dusted off my physical IIGS to complement my decade-long exclusivity with emulation, the second model of CFFA had already sold out, and the mythical CFFA3000, promising both CompactFlash and USB interfaces for the Apple II, was on the horizon. As I've reported before, I didn't buy one of the first batch — not even when presented with the opportunity to buy it directly from the dealer at KansasFest — because I spent last summer geographically removed from my Apple II and didn't want a card I could not immediately use. Foolish me! The first batch sold out faster than anyone expected, and the second was another year off.

Finally, the second run is now available and is shipping at the rate of fifty per week. I am invoice #3410, order sequence #134 — whatever that means. Regardless of when my particular order ships, I am looking forward to putting it in my Apple.

… but then what? I've heard folks say that the CFFA3000 revolutionized storage on their machines, eliminating the need for any other drive from floppy to hard. I don't see that happening in my case: I still have my 5.25" disks that need to be imaged, so floppy drives will always have a place in my daisy chain. But the CFFA will certainly make the imaging process faster and easier, eliminating the need to transfer files across a serial or Ethernet cable via the excellent ADTPro.

I'll have my own experiences to report soon, but in the meantime, I'd like to hear from other users of this device. Did you immediately grok the CFFA3000's potential and start using it to the fullest? Or was there a learning curve as you slowly transitioned from 30-year-old technology to this new hardware? Did the card live up to the hype in your experience?

A USB keyboard for the Apple II? Not quite…

June 9th, 2011 11:08 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
1 comment.

There have been many attempts over the years to bring the USB interface to the Apple II. Most, such as the iDisk and even Vince Briel's upcoming A2MP3 card, focus on the storage possibilities of the interface. But what about the variety of other peripherals modern computers have access to via USB? Even something as basic as a keyboard has eluded Apple II users.

Ironically, Andrew Filer's approach goes in the completely opposite direction, turning the Apple II into a USB peripheral. His hack turns the Apple II Plus into a keyboard for a MacBook Pro. This hack is made possible by Keyduino, an application of the open-source electronics prototyping platform Arduino.

Apple II Plus as a USB keyboardAn Apple II Plus as a USB keyboard? Sacrilege!

Filer says it was "surprisingly easy", but his brief blog post on the subject addresses few of the technical concerns he must've addressed to accomplish this feat. For example, KansasFest alumnus Rob, who first pointed me to this hack, asks, "How does he handle shift keys? Does he properly implement the game port shift key modifier?"

Regardless, it's neat to see the variety of modern uses that are still to be found in classic hardware — even (or especially) if it's not what we expected.

(Hat tip to Brian Benchoff)