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[April 05, 2014]
Taking a look back at vintage computers [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: ]
(Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 05--Most people might see computers from the '60s, '70s, and '80s as useless relics from another time, dust collectors to be tossed out with scraps from the dinner table.
But Evan Koblentz and about 300 others from across the world attending the annual Vintage Computer Festival East see the collection of plastic, glass, and circuitry as art and history.
They revel in obsolete technology and will be in nerd nirvana during computer demonstrations to be held Saturday and Sunday at the InfoAge Science Center on the 2200 block of Marconi Road.
"Did you ever go to an antique car show?" asked Koblentz, who runs Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists, based in Wall, Monmouth County. "That's what this is -- only with computers.
"The antique cars had fins and lots of chrome," he said. "They had style. So did these early computers." The festival, which started Friday, has attracted visitors from Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and all four continental U.S. time zones. The event costs $15 per person; children under 17 are admitted free.
Historical lectures will be offered Saturday and Sunday, along with access to 35 exhibits displaying about 100 fully working computers from the '60s, '70s, and '80s.
Visitors will learn from experts about obsolete programming languages and the use an oscilloscope.
"If you go to a vintage car show, you wouldn't be able to touch the cars," said Koblentz, whose computer club focuses on machines going all the way back to the 1940s. "But these computers are for people to try out.
"We even have a UNIVAC mainframe from 1965 on display," he said. "That one won't be running . . . yet." UNIVAC, the Universal Automatic Computer, was a company formed by the inventors of ENIAC, a computer built by civilians at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s. The acronym stood for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.
UNIVAC started selling mainframes in 1950, Koblentz said. "Ours is called the UNIVAC 1219-B . . .
"It's about the size of a Chevy Suburban and was meant for weapons-systems control on a Navy ship," he said.
The festival also has a consignment room, and plans a book sale as well as tours of the Monmouth County museum.
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