WOzFest 5¼″ Recap

Well, WOzFest 5¼″ seems to have been a successful last hurrah for my Apple ][ events this year, and a great celebration of the 5¼″ floppy disk.

Including myself, we had 12 attendees, which I think is a good size for these gatherings. The Man Cave was not bursting at the seams the way it did for WOzFest ///.

Jeremy was our furthest flung attendee, driving up from Canberra again – he really does put in the hard yards (and many kilometres) to attend, and his enthusiasm is a great addition to the WOzFest vibe.

As a special treat, my son Cal (who has been brewing up a storm at home) provided 12 bottles of apple cider for the event. Low fizz, super-dry, and packing a punch (at 8-9% alcohol), it was a big hit with some attendees (and me, who got to test a few bottles beforehand [QA is very important to me]).

It wasn’t quite to some attendees’ taste, and others couldn’t indulge due to needing to drive home – but that just meant there were more bottles for those of us able to enjoy it! I made a special numbered label for them, check out the WOzFest 5¼″ Photo Galleries post for the pics.

Our three Skype hookups started with a 45 minute video chat with Apple ][ disk cracking legend, 4am. 4am’s cracks are “clean”, meaning they only defeat the copy protection scheme without affecting the operation (or contents) of the programs themselves (unlike pirated software “back in the day” which often had parts removed to allow multiple titles to fit on a single pirated disk, and also often included “crack screens” singing the praises of the pirates and dissing their rivals).

In only a few short years, 4am has not only cracked hundreds of copy-protected floppy disks, but he’s also released an automatic cracking tool called Passport which has programmed into it his knowledge of copy protection schemes. With this knowledge programmatically built in, anyone is able to use Passport to crack disks using schemes it knows about.

For example, Jeremy from Canberra has been sourcing and cracking (mostly local) educational titles which may share protection schemes with their American sibling titles, but would never have made the journey across the Pacific and be caught in 4am’s efforts to gather as many physical Apple ][ disks for cracking as possible.

This distributed preservation effort therefore gets us closer to the aim of capturing and preserving as close as possible to all the released Apple ][ 5¼″ software titles.

Another luminary in this field is Jason Scott, noted documentarian of digital history and Software Curator at the Internet Archive – we were lucky for Jason to be our second Skype video chat for the night, and he gave us over an hour of his late Friday night.

Jason’s and the Archive’s goal is to capture everything, and the archive has a truly impressive collection of digital media and website archives. Jason has been instrumental in having uploaded software titles run directly in Web browsers via a Javascript port of emulators. This allows people to discover (and re-discover) titles of old simply by following a link to a website.

We discussed with 4am and Jason the challenges they face in their quest for software preservation, and discussed their successes so far, as well as other issues and topics related to preservation in general and specifically of software.

I’m exceedingly grateful for the time these two gentlemen took out of their Friday evenings to chat with a bunch of Apple ][ enthusiasts half a world away – both 4am and Jason have attended and presented at KansasFest, and so for those of us who have been unable to attend KFest, it was great to hear their stories.

Before we ordered pizza in, I announced the big surprise for attendees: Hans Coster (author of Caverns of Mordia) had deprotected and updated the adventure game, and attendees received a limited edition physical disk and printed manual (see this post for more details).

Once we’d eaten, we had our third Skype video call with John Valdezco of Manila Gear – he and his business partner, Jon Co (who was in attendance), announced they are developing a new No Slot Clock product for the Apple ][ line of computers.

With easily replaceable batteries, suitability for both 24 and 28 pin ROM sockets (both active high and active low chip enable pins), and an interesting “skateboard” form factor (the batteries are mounted at each end – one or both can be snapped off the main board and a lead run from the now separate batteries to the board), I think this will fill a niche in the Apple ][ market. It can also be run with one or two batteries.

Jon is still working on the driver software, but Manila Gear is hoping to have the board available by December this year.

As always, attendees worked on their own projects – or the projects others brought along – throughout the event.

New WOzFest attendee Phil brought a malfunctioning Apple //e and a few other attendees helped to check what might be wrong with it. Jon worked on the keyboard to get several non-functioning keys up and running.

Jeremy got some imaging done, including an original Caverns of Mordia disk (EDD disk image and Passport crack), two DLM software titles (which Passport was able to crack), and “How about a game of Chess!” (EDD format for 4am to look at as Passport didn’t crack it).

Leslie, as is often the case, provided invaluable support for various projects, both on the knowledge and soldering fronts – I’d say I only invite him because he’s so handy at the soldering station, except I also happen to actually like the guy as well!

Andrew (who brought some apple cider, aged double Brie and crackers – thanks!) worked on his Transwarp GS using the scalable oscillator from Craig’s to determine its fastest stable speed. It topped out at 16.25MHz (thanks in part to recently installed high-speed GALs).

Speaking of Craig, he brought along two Cortland IIgs prototypes he’s trying to resurrect (and a pile of other gear). Although “all” that was achieved was to get the keyboards and power supplies working, it was great to see these early IIgs’s. Hopefully this ongoing project will reach fruition soon.

And speaking of early IIgs’s, Adrian ducked out at some point to grab his IIgs in a //e case (an upgrade of this form was offered in the early days of the IIgs). It seems odd to see the badge on an old-style case like that.

Adrian had already brought his Apple ///+, which isn’t operational, and when he picked up the IIgs in a //e case, he also picked up his working Apple /// to bring back and play with.

A big hit with attendees was the µ-Sci Havac clone (the “missing” picture on that page is a working link to another picture) which Michael from the RCR recently scored off eBay. He’s nicknamed it “Fuglie” (which is a really apt description) but I think everyone fell in love with this ugliest of ducklings. While Caverns of Mordia wouldn’t boot on it, I’m sure Hans will do whatever’s necessary to support this market of one!

Michael also brought his recently acquired Ultima V package (including “tea towel” map), which was a nice eBay score, and some Night Owl composite video mini-LCD monitors which work well with the Apple ][ (and the Havac!) for distribution to their new owners.

I’ve no doubt missed out on some stuff that was done on the day – it always seemed pretty hectic, and, from what I can tell, everyone had a great time. Attendees, feel free to add any other details in the Comments below.

I can’t wait for the next one – I still love organising and holding them. Look for the announcement next year!

8 thoughts on “WOzFest 5¼″ Recap

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