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Mactoberfest Meetup Recap

The first ever Mactoberfest Meetup was a success! Everybody seemed to have a great time, and there were no serious hiccups. In a hobby that tends to be pretty insular, it was nice to spend a day with other people who share the same enthusiasm for old Apple computer stuff.

A huge thank you to the many kind and generous people who helped with setup, and later with clean-up at end of the day. I was chatting with somebody and looked up to see an assembly line of people helping stack up tables and folding chairs, without any involvement from me. Thank you to the person who helped carry many loads of trash and paper recycling to the dumpster. And especially thank you to the person who volunteered to take ALL of the remaining e-waste to a disposal facility.

It seemed that we had exactly the right amount of space for computer displays, but I didn’t notice if some latecomers weren’t able to show all the computers they wanted to due to space limitations. Most people brought a couple of computers, but a few people had more like… 8?

About two-thirds of the computer displays were in one room, with the rest divided among two other rooms and two outdoor patios. The energy level in those other rooms seemed a bit lower, which was unfortunate but couldn’t really be helped given the venue layout. It was a very busy day.

The freebies section was well-stocked, and the for sale section filled 10 tables or more. At first it seemed that there were more sellers than buyers. Very few of my own items sold during the first couple of hours, but the pace eventually picked up. For me it was more important to clean out the closets than to make a lot of money, so at 3:00 pm I took all my remaining for sale items and moved them to the freebies table. I ended up giving away several hundred dollars worth of stuff, but it all went to people who were excited to get it, and I feel good about it (except for the video card that I sold and then realized I still needed).

The workshop / repair section wasn’t especially busy, and I’m not sure what happened to those 35 broken machines that were listed in the RSVPs. But there was a dedicated group of about 5 people at the workshop all day. One group tried valiantly to get a broken Lisa system running again, with some partial success. And I saw somebody new to the classic Mac hobby replace a Mac 512K’s analog board to get his one-and-only Mac working for the first time, and he was super excited.

My ATX to Mac 10-pin PSU adapter kits were not very popular… I think people didn’t realize they were out there. A few people assembled a kit, but most of them came home with me again.

We had no problems at all with fuses or the building power, except for one breaker that repeatedly tripped whenever my soldering iron was plugged in. We eventually traced this problem to a damaged extension cord.

The Tetris Max competition was won in dramatic fashion, with the high-scoring game coming in the final moments of the contest. The winning score was 18832 and the winner took home a Performa 460 system as his prize. I will admit the level of Tetris Max competition wasn’t quite up to the level that I’d hoped and most people who competed were spectacularly bad at the game! There were a shocking number of people who had never played tetris before. But it was all good fun.

The day was chock-full of interesting people and interesting stuff. We did get at least one of the original Macintosh developers in attendance. And the variety of computer displays was staggering. I regret that I didn’t have time to see everything or talk to everyone, but some of the highlights were:

  • a PC sidecar for compact Macs, with dual 5.25 inch drives
  • an enormous Daystar Genesis MP Quad-604e system
  • an extensive collection of Dog Cow items
  • a set of tiny displays with integrated microcontrollers that directly run After Dark screensaver code resources
  • an RP2040 digitizer-upscaler-VGA converter for compact Mac video output
  • a Mac SE logic board in a very nice custom display case, with modern power and video
  • Yamaha audio card for Apple II, and a custom-made stand alone audio synth
  • a newly-made Hypercard disk zine
  • a collection of Colby Macs
  • tons more stuff that I’m too tired to describe

A personal highlight for me was reconnecting with an old friend with whom I’d worked on a piece of commercial Mac software released way back in 1997. Here we are posing with a copy – still in the original shrink wrap!

Throughout Mactoberfest, what really struck me was how much the hobby of “Macintosh collecting” has changed since I first got involved about 12 years ago. Back then, it seemed that Macintosh collecting was just exactly that – collecting machines, fixing broken ones, and playing with software. But over the years collecting has merged with the DIY / maker community, so there’s now this explosion of NEW hardware and accessories for these old computers. A huge number of people at the Meetup were using modern gadgets, not just my Floppy Emu but also SCSI emulatiors, video digitizers, power supply replacements, CPU replacements, microcontrollers and Raspberry Pis spilling out of every open computer port. There are just so many exciting new hardware development projects going on.

The only part of Mactoberfest Meetup that wasn’t great was the hard split between interactive computer displays and the for-sale section of the meetup. This was forced by the building layout and the relative scarcity of electric outlets, because there simply wasn’t enough space adjacent to electricity for both at once. But it created a weird dynamic where the flea market had interested buyers who couldn’t easily find the sellers to ask questions or to buy stuff. I’m sure this led to fewer sales overall.

There was also a strange dichotomy between people who brought computers to show off and people who showed up empty-handed to look around. During the advance planning I sometimes felt like I had to twist people’s arms into agreeing to bring their computers, and most people would have preferred to simply look around, in which case we would have had 100 lookers and nothing to look at.

Overall it was a great day and there was lots of talk about “next year” and offers to help. I’ll take some time before giving any thought to what might happen in 2024, but it’s clear there’s plenty of local enthusiasm and interest for something like this to be a regular event. I’ve only been to one VCF show, so I’m not a great person to compare them, but I would say that Mactoberfest had a less organized, less formal vibe. It was just people hauling out whatever machines were in their closets to share their hobby with other folks, mess around, and have some fun.

So will there be a next year? Aside from the financial cost and all the work that went into planning, my biggest concern is liability. It’s nice to think that “everybody here is cool, nothing bad will happen” but that’s head-in-the-sand mentality. Imagine if somebody had fallen on the slippery steps while carrying in a heavy computer, or a miswired electrical outlet had fried somebody’s $10000 Lisa system, or somebody walked out the front door with a stolen computer that wasn’t noticed until later, or a kid burned himself with the soldering iron, or the hot air tool got knocked on the floor and set the drapes on fire. I wouldn’t want to lead Mactoberfest again by myself, but maybe we could put together a team of people to research insurance options and planning requirements, and make something happen next year.

Thank you to everyone who attended, it was great to meet you all!

Read 5 comments and join the conversation 

5 Comments so far

  1. Dimitri - October 23rd, 2023 2:15 am

    >a newly-made Hypercard disk zine

    Would love to hear more about this …

  2. Steve - October 23rd, 2023 6:54 am

    It’s called NEUROBLAST. There have been a few issues put out already.

  3. Dimitri - October 23rd, 2023 6:57 am

    Excellent, thanks!

  4. MBG - January 5th, 2024 7:12 pm

    Our local club expo solved the liability by purchasing event insurance. It was about $300 (as long as we didn’t have a cattle drive???) and was perfect for us. If you do this again, I recommend you look into it. And please get help to plan and run your event, it is much too much work, even for a small event, to tackle by yourself. Hope this helps and I hope you do it again in 2024!

  5. Peter Wagner - January 19th, 2024 2:13 pm

    Seems like it was an awesome day/event.

    I still have an old black and white Mac Classic that hasn’t worked in decades. Still turns on but I get a question mark (I dont have start-up floppies for it any mmore). One of these days I have to pick up a mouse and keyboard for it (along with some startup floppies) on eBay — I’d love to goof around with it.

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