Originally called The Apple II Summer Conference, KansasFest is a 5 day conference for Apple II computers that has been happening in Kansas City, Mo since 1989 and it has been the best week I’ve spent anywhere in recent memory.
KansasFest is an experience that I had been hoping to attend. I had made a commitment early in the year to be able to attend. Making an early reservation proved to be the anchor I needed to schedule my life around these most important dates and finally make it happen.
I had been following KansasFest online and reading the mailing list. I had seen the schedule and the schedules of past years in my research. That research had found me immersed in what I could find online about the events, but even then, I still didn’t feel that I had a good grasp on what it would be like as an experience. I have been a traveler in one way or another for my entire life. and by now I can pack for a week just about anywhere in the world and never fill a carry on bag, but this occasion was different. I planned to bring an Apple IIgs with me and I needed a sound strategy. I decided I need a suitcase, in part, so that I would have room if I wanted to bring something back that I found a KansasFest but it would also give me the opportunity to bring some iron to KansasFest. I thought that I would like to have a machine with me, because I did not know what the wee hours would be like in the dorms with so many Apple II enthusiasts running amok. In my mind’s eye, if there were to be late night cracking sessions, or disk copying sessions, or even some sort of telecommunication exercises, I was not going to be caught off guard.
So, my plan was this: I packed a sleeping bag, so that I would have something to sleep on, aside from the prisoner bedding that was supplied by Rockhurst University, but it also worked for me another way as well. By spreading a sleeping bag out in my suitcase, it would act as the packing material for my Apple IIgs. I wasn’t sure how this would work out in the end. I had removed the boards and secured them in ESD preventive packaging and storing them inside a Pelican dry box. By carefully packing objects strategically around the inside walls of the suitcase, I soon created an environment that I thought would be safe to fly with. I also packed this suitcase with cabling and with other gear but I did not want to carry with me through TSA security. The only questionable gear that made it into my carry on bag where the disk drives, a 3.5″ and a 5.25″ and I can say that the TSA were not threatened by them in the least. I’m also glad to report that this rig survive successfully through my multi-flight trip to Kansas and also arrived safely back to Boston Logan International.
The exercise of packing for Kansas fast is also very beneficial to me in other ways. Having decided to bring the IIgs to KansasFest, it forced me to address so gaps in my knowledge about organizing a IIgs hard drive. In coming up with a quick configuration that wouldn’t embarrass me too much should someone take a look at it, I found that by using CiderPress, DropBox and my CFFA 3000 card with my Windows system. I was able to easily configured the hard drive to the manner that I wanted relatively easy and changes I would make to it virtually could easily be updated physically. (As a side note, a KansasFest presentation by Eric Shepherd regarding Sweet 16 has made me doubt that I should ever use a Windows system again.)
I think I should touch on how I came to know about KansasFest to begin with. In 2008 I found myself with a little spare time on my hands and I began researching Apple II’s as I wanted to build the finest example I could thing of to satisfy some sort of itch I was having. Popular media, I think, would call it a mid-life crisis, maybe. It never felt like a crisis to me. When I think of a mid-life crisis it’s always in a worst case scenario, some kind of Pyrrhic victory wherein someone sacrifices family, friends, values, careers on a Ponce de Leon style quest that really ends up leaving you in far worse shape than if you had just conceded that actions in life have consequences, both benefits and drawbacks. It maybe that the mid-life crisis that presents itself in different ways, a new wife, a new car, a new profession. In my case, it was an old computer, and I think it was a way of reaching out across the years and touching something that profoundly shaped my personality, just as it probably is in the aforementioned examples for others. The act of reaching into the past and embracing some kind of anchor, for me, reinforced who I am in my present. It let me remember and the consequences within my living framework, benign. My gateway back to the Apple II computer started with Carrington Vanston’s podcast “1MHz”, a hitchhiker’s reference to the Apple II CPU speed. I found it looking for that exact tidbit of information. It opened my eyes to Apple II possibilities and that there were new things happening in the Apple II community.
In no time after “1MHz” my mid life crisis arrived via USPS in a poorly packaged cardboard box: An Apple IIe Platinum, DuoDisk, and Monitor from Mississippi. $18.00 well spent. I immediately set out to make the Apple IIe of my teenage dreams, but that was going to require a little research. It was the research that made KansasFest such a powerful experience for me. Reaching out and searching the internet, one by one I found the landmarks that would guide me in the quest to re-establish myself with a significant part of my past. At first Ryan Suenaga’s “A2 Unplugged” podcast, A2Central, the #a2c.chat irc hangout, KansasFest, Juiced.GS, the Apple II Twitter presence that was so strong. All of these waypoints were critical to helping me do what I wanted to do with my Apple II. Over the years, I devoured the KansasFest information that came out, photos, topics, etc. in a quest to learn more about it. I knew that one day I would attend, yet year after year the event became submerged in the events of my life.
When the conditions are right at KansasFest, Woz will take the time to talk about the Apple I
So there I was, somewhere after my 5th year of KansasFest observance that I made the commitment to attend. I purchased my tickets as soon as early registration was announced. Soon thereafter I bought my airline tickets, my really cheap and really crappy, multi-flight, exit row, back-breaking, knee crushing tickets. This is one aspect I need to re-think next time. I arrived around noon on Tuesday and was immediately greeted by 2 people who I have only known online. This was the beginning of the most unusual feeling that would last for the next 12 hours. As I registered, found my room and my bearings and unpacked, I would again come into something like a lucid dream state as I met person after person I knew strictly by their online presence or by the websites that they administered. My cyberspace and my meatspace had found unity and it was the most unusual feeling, one I can only liken to a type of temporal displacement. Time had shown itself to be relative and strictly speaking a man-made metric susceptible to manipulation by the current relative experience. In this unique cloud chamber of sorts, I can remember in full detail the events and functions that I attended, but a precise reckoning of time is impossible from my mental records. I am sure the thing to remember concerning time and the KansasFest event is that there will never be enough of it.
Randy Wigginton and Steve Wozniak pose for the KansasFest paparazzi.
I have to say, between the presentations, the people and the ideas that I encountered at KansasFest, I feel really refreshed and encouraged to pursue some Apple II projects in the upcoming year. My mind is awash in new concepts that are connected by the some of the achievements presented at KansasFest. My mind was blown over and over again during the event, and not just by the technical presentations; the experience also reinforced my belief that Apple II people, generally speaking, are one of a kind and willing to nourish ideas in any way they can and it’s that spirit that makes me glad to have been a part of it. That spirit was everywhere, from the documentaries being shot, the pod casts being recorded, the surprise appearance of Steve Wozniak, it was in the very words of Randy Wigginton’s keynote address. For one week Rockhurst University was saturated in the Apple II atmosphere and there wasn’t anyone who did not benefit from it.
I am still digesting the experience, and want to write more in-depth about small slices of the experience that were profound to me. It seems that although the presentations were world-class, the subjects that they broach are going to cause me to do some research so I can process them and hopefully make some practical applications of the knowledge that was hinted at. I know so many hours were dedicated to some of the topics being presented and to distill that into about around an hour time slot for presentation means I am going to have to expand some of it on my own terms a bit. Hopefully I can share some of my thoughts of these topics with you in the upcoming weeks.