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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:07 am

Last year I attended a new retro-computing event called PaCommEx 2017 (Pacific Commodore Expo NW) at the Living Computers Museum in Seattle, WA. It was a fun little event run by legendary Commodore fan Robert Bernardo of the Fresno Commodore User Group.

When I met Robert at last years Expo I noticed the vast majority of machines on display were 8-bit flavors (there was one Vampire-powered A1000 that I remember seeing). I offered to bring in a collection of Amiga machines in 2018 if he thought there’d be any interest. Robert and I exchanged some contact info and I essentially forgot about it. About three weeks ago, however, I received a message from Robert asking if I was still wanting to set up a table at this year’s PaCommExpo. I was completely unprepared, unfortunately, as this year’s event wasn’t even on my radar.

The 2018 Expo also happened to fall on the same weekend as my son’s 9th birthday party.

But I was wanting to contribute in some form or fashion, so I suggested a 1-hour talk about two different Amiga 1000 related topics. While the Amiga 2000 is my do-everything work horse, I just LOVE using the Amiga 1000.

Topic one , I offered, could be an historical walk-through of the Rejuvenator board for the A1000 as well as a complete status update on how I hope to bring the board back to market.

The second topic and live demonstration could be be what I call Amiga 1000 “Boot Up Magic”. Where a lot of folks see the A1000’s floppy-based Kickstart a negative, I hoped to show how this could be perceived as a positive in some cases. I’ve collected a lot of fancy software where, through the use of a single disk, I could boot my machine into various Amiga OSes and even a non-Amiga OS.

Robert agreed these sounded both informative as well as fun so we settled on a date and time. I had about one full week to prepare (technically two, but I had previous commitments). I was set to start at 2pm on June 13, 2018. And I needed to leave by 4pm that afternoon to attend a graduation dinner for a member of my wife’s family.

We arrived at the Living Computer Museum about an hour before I was to give my talks in order to lug the 50ish pounds of machinery into the museum and set things up in a lecture room. That really is one of the downsides of retro-computing: if you ever need to move it from point A to point B, it can be really heavy and bulky. Watch that back! And don’t forget all of the cables! (Do you have the RGB XYZ? Oh shit!) Not to mention all of my gear is in my downstairs basement at home and has to be carried upstairs to get it out of the house. Small price to pay, though. It’s all totally worth it.

I was very happy to see Matt Martin (mattsoft) also in attendance and he was nice enough to help me lug things inside. My family helped as well. Gotta put those kids to work! “Here Graham, take this monitor. Careful now, it’s heavy. I’ll get this mouse. You OK?”

After getting things all set up and ready to go, I ran a few test demos to ensure everything actually worked. I had a sinking feeling that my Microbotics Starboard2 might act up on me during the second talk; annoyingly I’ve since learned how to always make it completely rock solid. But that’s how it goes sometimes. It takes an event like this to learn those tricks after the fact, unfortunately. I rolled the dice and hoped for the best.

My wife recorded the videos above for me. It became quickly apparent that I need an attachment for my tripod to allow for smooth real-time rotations. And as it’s so long I’ve broken it up into two videos - one for each topic. The video quality isn’t ideal as the lighting was dimmed so the audience could see my overheard projector slides. But the audio is good enough (although I wasn’t using a mic so there is a bit of background noise, too). Sorry about all of that, folks.

In any case, before the talk began the Living Computers museum did a very nice job of promoting things by putting a large banner above the PaCommEx display tables out in the foyer. They also, to my surprise and slight anxiety, announced my talks to the folks in attendance at the museum at large that day. To hear my name being announced over the intercoms twice definitely raised my excitement level. To be honest I wasn’t really nervous - I was completely thrilled to get to talk to a group of folks about my favorite topic - the Amiga!

And right before I got started to took a moment to look around and see that nearly every chair in the room was filled with a person staring back at me. There had to be somewhere between 30-40 people.

I was so honored to have the time and attention to talk about this passion of mine. I can’t thank Robert enough. 

Bonus: after the talk was over, I was approached by several people who wanted to know more about the Seattle Commodore Computer Club, and a few of them attended the 2nd meeting we held on June 13.

Note: Robert also videoed the event and used a far superior camera than I, which he should be uploading to YouTube at some point in the near future in case you’d like to see my gray hairs in high definition.

Rejuvenator Project Update TL;DR

We have a bare Rejuvenator board AND a fully populated one. A BOM (Bill of Materials) is being compiled by mattsoft as I write this and is nearing completion. Once that is done, we should be able to create a goal for a GoFundMe campaign. IF that campaign is successful, we will hire TASC to create the schematics and board layouts with the funds we collected. We will also build a test board, and see if it will actually work. If it does work we can then build actual boards and sell them to the community at cost. High-level guess is these boards - assembled - will cost in the neighborhood of $400 or so. That’s an educated guess.

The next major hurdle, which is fast approaching, will be the GoFundMe campaign. This will be a get-nothing-in-return charity campaign. This is where we’ll see if there is enough of an appetite by the community to create this board again or not.

And if we do, and all of the boards are sold, the plan is to release all of the files to the community via open source tools so that they can continue to be refined, improved and expanded over the years. I have no desire to own this product beyond this first push. I really want to make more of them, then release these birds back into the wild and see where the winds take them.

Amiga 1000 Boot-up Magic TL;DR

I demonstrate booting up the Amiga 1000 in various novel ways.
  • Kickwork: Booting up Kickstart and Workbench 1.3 off a single disk, legally.
  • TwinKick: Booting up off a single floppy to a Workbench selector screen which allows you to choose 1.3 or 3.1
  • Kickwork 3.1: Booting up to Workbench 3.1 off a single disk
  • KickTOS: Booting up to Atari TOS off a single disk
  • Booting up off a Zip Disk (100MB) like a SCSI hard drive (future post and video on this soon)
  • Booting up a Phoenix off a SCSI2SD card into OS 1.3 or 2.0 in mere seconds
Below are some photos taken at PaCommEx 2018 of some of the awesome machines on display as well as a few shots taken from the lecture room.
I made sure to get my proper attire ready for the presentation. I was feeling calm, so I opted out on my beloved Don't Panic button, but ran with the rest.

Hefting CRTs and boxes of stuff is one of the only downsides of "going mobile" with retro gear. But I had help.

The museum did a really nice job of promoting the talks. They even announced it over the intercom a couple of times before we got started. I was stunned at how many folks filled the seats.

The other exhibits for PaCommEx were really innovative and interesting. They weren't just machines for folks to play old software. Most of them offered something unique for even grizzled Commodore fans like myself.

My son discovered an SX-64 with a mind-blowing Guitar Hero hack. The game itself was crazy hard, but the concept was cool to be sure.

My beautiful wife adorned with a VR64 headset while playing a C64-powered synth. In the headset, the on-screen notes appeared to float in 3D space before your eyes.

This is a shot of the room as I began my Amiga talks. This was about 1/2 of the attendees.

In-between topics, Robert Bernardo held a raffle where one lucky attendee won a complete C64 system. Very cool stuff.

After the talks were over a lot of interested folks approached wanting to learn more about SEA-CCC. I was thrilled!

Eric Hill and Robert Bernardo. I was so honored to be invited by Robert and have the opportunity to shake his hand. He's the real deal.

Christopher Stich shows me his incredible GBA1000 that was functional and 90% complete. Over 50 hours of work to get it to this stage! Amazing.

My main man Matt Martin. Matt is the freaking BEST. I love this guy.

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New Jersey, USA

Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:48 am

Gotta watch your talks later! Looks like an awesome time was had all around!

Thanks a ton for all of the wonderful stuff you do for the community! :D

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Posted Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:49 pm

Awesome talk, Eric - loved every minute of it.

I second LambdaCalculus - thanks for everything you’re doing!

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