The Fifth Vintage Computing Festival Berlin

The fifth Vintage Computing Festival Berlin (VCFB) last weekend attracted more than 2,600 visitors to the German Museum of Technology. One of the focal points was the topic “50 Years of the GUI” , to which a special exhibition was dedicated. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the “Mother of all Demos” , the organizers chose the special theme GUI this year. Interested parties were able to try out the GEOS and Final Cartridge III C64 GUIs, a NeXT workstation, an Apple IIGS, the Magic Cap PDA system, the Sinclair File Browser Vision and the Plan 9 operating system.

When trying out first noticed that the self-evident standards for file operations such as saving, loading and copying or in the operation of text and graphics programs are missing – each manufacturer has cooked his own earlier soup. Also due to lack of standardization, the transfer of files from one computer to another on classic platforms can sometimes develop into a rocket science endeavor.

In addition, it was noted that some systems were far ahead of their time and some interesting approaches may have been wrongly forgotten. The Apple IIGS under the system Apple GS / OS and the NeXTcube under the system NeXTSTEP feel surprisingly modern. NeXTSTEP particularly liked the hierarchical, context-based list menu.

From 1990, General Magic had developed the object-oriented PDA operating system Magic Cap. Magic Cap was licensed by Motorola and Sony and used on handhelds like the Sony PIC-1000 and the Motorola Envoy 100. Among other things, these devices provided e-mail functions, address and notebook, calendar, spreadsheet and telephone calls. The Icras DataRover 840 handheld even had a web browser on board.

Magic Cap’s visual interface follows a “room metaphor” where system functions and applications are distributed across rooms such as “desk” (for personal data), “hallway” for local applications, and “downtown” for external services.

The developers of General Magic knit on a separate, mobile agent-based programming language for distributed applications under the name Telescript. This language has never found its way into commercial application. The exhibitor Fritz Hohl also presented the innovative concept from today’s perspective in a lecture in English.

The exhibitor Angelo Papenhoff had the UNIX graphics terminal Blit and the operating systems Smalltalk 76 and Plan 9 as an emulation in the luggage and presented them as well . Above all, Plan 9 and the accompanying editor Acme, which was inspired by Niklaus Wirths Oberon, are convincing to try. One of the special things about this system is that (compared to UNIX) the graphical user interface and the network are not added later but are an integral part of the design. Each process has its own namespace in Plan 9 and can compile a file tree as needed.

This pushes the UNIX philosophy of “everything is a file” to the extreme. The window system rio has a directory for each window, which makes content (text and image), properties (position and title) as well as associated input and output channels (analogous to UNIXs / dev / tty) available as files. The VCFB has been working on the 9front Raspberry Pi Port, a 9 Fork plan. An image of Bell Labs Plan 9 for all Raspberry Pis is already available for download.

The C64 Group was represented at the VCFB with two exhibitors. Martin Sauter presented a running GEOS from Berkeley Softworks. Apart from the (in the Vice Emulator well experienced) low working speed, the graphical text editor GEOWRITE also seems quite useful from today’s perspective. The C64 Club Berlin presented, among other things, the operating system Final Cartridge III and the image editing software Digison. The opportunity to take a portrait photo with a digital camera, C64, Digison and dot matrix printer has been widely used.

Also on the C64 front is busily working. Under the direction of the developer Gregory Nacu, a modern graphical operating system is being developed under the name C64 OS . The development of current software for classic platforms is therefore not limited to the demoscene. The exhibitor Sebastian Bach also showed new games for classic computers and consoles at the VCFB.

At the VCFB, hobbyists, technicians, collectors, scientists, gamers and other computer-minded people got their money’s worth. The historical development of IT and of graphical user interfaces turns out to be a manifold branching search movement in which a lot of things are tried, picked up and rejected. At the VCFB, this genesis of IT standards can be traced back to the living object (that is, on the running computer). With gigahertz-fast multi-core processors and terabyte storage volumes in mind, the VCFB is reminding that you can do a lot even with less lavishly equipped machines.