The Vintage Computing Festival Berlin 2015

After the success of the first VCFB in 2014, this year the VCFB took place the second time on October 3 and 4 and again attracted more than 1,000 visitors from all over the world. In addition to the already established elements such as exhibitions, soldering lab, game room and of cause the Chiptune party, the festival now also integrated a small congress "Time After Time" in celebration of the Dartmouth Time Sharing System from 1965. As a consequence, the available space within the Pergamon Palais itself had to be "time shared" for still offering rooms for the diverse activities. Please see for the official website (still all in German, sorry).

The special exhibition this year was organized under the theme "Analog Computers", which indeed played a very special role over a long period, however memory is slowly fading away in our strictly digital world today.

Of course also the 9845 setup again had been part of the exhibition. In contrast the the Vintage Computer Festivals (VCF) in the U.S. the VCFB has its focus on "computing" rather than "computers", comprising operating systems, software, programming languages, network technology and computing concepts in general. Which is the perfect stage for the 9845, which really had been a conceptual wonderpiece. Not as groundbreaking as the Alto in 1973, certainly, but from an engineering point of view exceptional with its integrated and unified approach, its user interface technologies and of course its graphics capabilities and performance.

HP9845 Setup

From Right to Left: HP 9114 Digitizer Tablet, HP 9845 Model 200,
HP 9872C Plotter, HP 9845C, HP 9895A Dual Disk Drive

The setup in general had been the same as last year, and I could happily again demonstrate a 9845C in action. New was that I could equip the 9872C with eight different colour pens, so that the famous "Birthday Plot" shined in rainbow colors. Again every visitor could take his or her own plot as souvenir. Also I used a real 9895A 8" dual disk drive in addition to a HPDrive station. Thanks to a separate power line circuit, we this time could successfully avoid breaking down the power for the whole exhibition as we exercised last year :-).

We could welcome many friends of old HP equipment, and special thanks go to Klaus Kaiser, who supported me through the whole exhibition from the buildup til the transport back to my home, and again my son who exhaustively helped me moving those heavy beats. Again it had been lots of fun, and we finally even had been successful with reviving the 9845B Model 200, which obviously disliked the transport to the exhibition court which it honoured by simply not starting up any more. However, in the end, it had been much fun and we had great talks.

The 9845 setup had been supplemented by a collection of milestones of the personal computers. This included a Commodore PET 2001 with floppy disk and tractor printer, an Apple II from 1977 (same year the first 9845 was introduced) with two Apple Disk II, and for comparison an original IBM PC Model 5150 with triple-head display (Hercules, CGA and NTSC video monitor), showing the brand new mindbreaking (and emulator-breaking) 8088MPH demo in addition to MS Windows 1.01 and many well-known standard applications. As a special I could demonstrate Space Invaders on all platforms in parallel.

PC Milestones

From Left to Right: CBM 3040 Dual Floppy Drive, Commodore PET 2001, Apple II with Apple Disk II and Apple Monitor,
IBM 5153 Color Monitor, Video Monitor, IBM 5150 with IBM 5151 Monochrome Monitor

I also had the opportunity to present a wrap-up of workstation history from the very beginning over the Alto up to the last examples today within a one-and-a-half hour lecture in German (see for a collection of live stream recordings).

Of course Colin Cantwell's famous 9845C demo also was part of the show:

Shuttle Demo

9845C Shuttle Demo

Gravity Game

Gravity Game

Some more impressions:

Plotter Demo

9872C Plotter in Action


Who Wants His/Her Personal Plot :-) ?

Personal Computer Milestones

Running the 8088mph Demo

Wall of Fame

Wall of Fame

Mate Lights

Mate Lights

Organization Buero

Organization Crew

Analog Computers

Analog Computers Special Exhibition (Source: Computerarchäologie)

PDP Front Panels

PDP Front Panels (Visitors Award #1)

PDP Front Panels

More PDP Front Panels

ct'86 Computer

ct' 86 Computer (Visitors Award #2)

Game Room

Game Room

The Vintage Computing Festival Berlin 2014

The famous Vintage Computing Festival this year took place the first time as VCFB in Berlin, Germany. After the last show in New Jersey early this year, again a representative collection of HP9845 was shown at the exhibition ground which was hosted this time at the Humboldt University of Berlin. During October 4 & 5, a large number of totally different vintage computers was offered to the public.

See for the official website (all in German, sorry).

A special sub-exhibition was dedicated to the Apple story, starting with the Apple II up to the latest models, all ordered in a continuous time line. The exhibition was accompanied by a congress track with lectures and presentations on several computing topics. A soldering laboratory offered especially for young visitors an introduction into the assemby of autonomous robots, the Pentabugs. A special games room offered hands-on experience on a large number of home computers and game consoles from the late 70s up to the late 80s. A late night party event utilized 8-bit computers for creating music for the dance floor. Each day more than 800 visitors came to the VCFB. Altogether it was lots of fun...

Actually I got notice of the event quite late, however I immediately decided to bring at least a basic collection of HP 9845 to the show (in addition to the contribution of my Apple II). The setup included a 9111A digitizer tablet, a 9872C eight-color plotter, an HP 9845B model 200, and - as a highlight - a working HP 9845C model 200. But - believe me - since the preparation time was short, it was quite a challenge to get the 9845C into a working condition in time (whoever owns such a beast knows what I am talking about).

But at Friday everything was ready for transport to the exhibition. Fortunately the VCFB organized the transfer, so I could use the afternoon for installation and preperations. See the following photograph for the resulting setup.

Click to enlarge

HP 9845 Demo Setup on the Vintage Computing Festival in Berlin

Instead a floppy or hard disk drive I decided to use a PC basd solution with HPDrive. Not as authentic as the real hardware, but much more flexible. The show included François Lanciault's self-programmed 98780A demo, several digitizer & plotter demos, and - of course - HP's own great HP 9845C demo. The facilities were not really prepared for so much power consumption, and we had several power-fails during the exhibition. Which fortunately always could be quickly recovered. Because of power requirements, just one of the two HP systems could be run at the same time, so I had to switch between both. See the power-meter on the floor for checks on the power consumption of the setup.

Click to enlarge

Workstation Power

For the 9845C the forced breaks finally showed to be a good thing for cooling down the system from time to time, especially the 9770A power supply transistors are running extremely hot during continuous operation (probably due to some current leakage), so it was much better for the system to recover eventually. Both HP 9845 systems are equipped with two cartridge tape drives each plus internal printer. The HP 9845B is a model 200 with bit slice processor and 512 kByte RAM, the 9845C also is a model 200 with bit slice processor but full 1.5 MByte RAM, the maximum configuration (!).

Click to enlarge

François Lanciault's Self-Programmed Demo

François Lanciault from Canada created a mind-blowing space ship demo which takes advantage of any of the features of the 98780A accelerated graphics monitor. It runs as a continuous display as it might be installed within a space ship, monitoring navigation and ship status. The role of the HP9845 as a movie star was demonstrated with reference to the Star Wars and the War Games movies.

Click to enlarge

HP 9845C Space Shuttle Demo - The Original

Of course the space shuttle demo was a must. It impressively demonstrates the line generation and dithering speed of the 98770A graphcs system in first drawing the shuttle slowly and then at full speed. With a single press on one of the monitor's softkeys (at the bottom of the screen) the integrated printer produced a hardcopy on thermal paper for any visitor as takeaway. In direct comparison to all the other systems on the exhibition, the high quality and precise color graphics still outperform anything else from that time.

Click to enlarge

The 9845C Light Pen in Action

One of the most interesting learnings for the visitors was how at the time different concepts for human interfacing were implemented. It was not yet clear at the time, which type of human interface is best suited for computer interaction. Of course the digitizer tablet was used for the digitizing as well as for cursor movement. And for certain applications, it still has advantages over the computer mouse, since it is more precise and not affected by different angles when holding a mouse. A more intuitive way was to combine menue labels on the screen with softkeys installed at the bottom of the screen. But most appealing still is the precision light pen which once had been delevoped for the 9845C, here demonstrated by my son in combination with the Gravity game.

Click to enlarge

Plot Demo (Here: Birthday Plot)

This is what kids liked most: a plotter fastly drawing a personalized sketch in multiple colors. In today's computer world, nothing is moving any more than just the items on the screen. So watching a plotter in action still is something exciting. Of course the visitor could take his personal plot with him or her.

Click to enlarge

The HP9845 as a TV Star

Germany's ARD broadcasting institution sent a camera team for taking pictures for a documentation on programming which shall be broadcasted this December. Of course they could not ignore the HP 9845...

Click to enlarge^

The Ancestors

The higlight however was that not just the HP9845 series was shown, but also a couple of ancestors were part of the exhibition, presented by Thomas Falk. See the fabulous 9100A calculator, a 9810A calculator and a 7210A flatbed plotter.

Click to enlarge

Forth Benchmark with My Apple II

The VCFB also initiated a benchmark competition with the Forth computing language. Here my Apple II (the original one with Woz' Integer BASIC, no Plus or Europlus) is used by one of the Forth experts (no, it's not me, just my computer :-)). And believe it or not, the Apple II won the award.

Floor Plan

Floor Plan

I'd like to thank my son for assistance during the demos and for the transport of the heavy-weights, and also Henry for helping with the transport back from the exhibition, as well as the organising team, they all did a great job and I am looking forward to the VCFB next year, where I for sure will participate again with some of the first commercial workstations ever.


Vintage Computing Festival East 9.1 2014

Our fellow François Lanciault showed a great 9845 setup at the VCF East this year in New Jersey. Here is a photograph from the exhibition:

Click to enlarge

François Lanciault's 9845 Display at the VCF New Jersey 2014 (Courtesy of François)