On Saturday KansasFest 2021 wrapped up and it was sad to see it end — what an amazing 48 hours it was! This was the second KFest I have attended (both virtual) and it was incredibly fun, just like last year. It is hard to believe I had never attended the event prior to the shutdown / need to go virtual, but my experiences during my virtual presence have certainly motivated me to soon show up in-person, and the hope is that next year everyone will be back at Rockhurst University and sharing in the event face-to-face.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the show for me was the Discord video chat that took place both Friday and Saturday evenings after the day’s sessions were done. I got to know many of the regulars a lot better during these fun group discussions where we chatted long into the night, sharing stories and showing off hardware, our pets (both organic and Commodore), and various other odds and ends. It was a late night and then off to sleep I went.
The following morning my daughter, who had preceded my wife and me downstairs to eat breakfast, asked me if I had been up all night chatting with my “Kansas people.” I told her that, indeed, it had been a fairly late but fun chat and I proceeded downstairs to make myself some coffee. I then saw, on the kitchen counter what had clued her in. Through the course of the previous evening’s conversation, I had run down into the “Byte Cellar” to grab a few things to show on camera as the conversation ranged in topic hither and yon. When I signed off, I had left everything where it was and gone straight to bed.
On the counter I had left my NEXTSTEP v3.2 Academic Bundle (install floppies and all); a Disk ][ controller card for the Apple II that I asked its creator, Steve Wozniak, to sign during MacWorld Expo 2009; an airbrushed, cut wood rendering of my name beside the rainbow Apple logo of olde; and various other more modern gear that I used to take part in the online chat (M1 MacBook Air, iPad Pro, AirPods Pro).
Amused at the display I had left behind, I snapped a photo and tweeted it, later posting it to r/Retrobattlestations. Some conversation about NEXTSTEP and the Woz-signed card arose, but there seemed to be more interest in the wooden cut-out of my name next to the rainbow Apple logo. The item in question holds pleasant memories for me and has been with me nearly 40 years, so instead of responding to inquiries on twitter and Reddit, I thought I would talk a little bit about it here on the blog.
I got my first Apple, an Apple //c, in the Spring of 1984 when I was 11. It was my second computer (my first was a TI-99/4A). I loved it and spent countless hours in front of it writing BASIC programs, gaming, maintaining a “Tech Specs” database of all of my Transformers action figures, and even doing a bit of schoolwork. Right away I read through several “Introducing the Apple II” books and subscribed to a couple of Apple II magazines — I was hooked.
So, one day I was at the nearby Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia (which is with us no longer), walking down towards the Radio Shack which had a great computer sales display they would setup on a cluster of tables in front of the store, out in the middle of the mall, during the summer. (I really liked the form factor of the TRS-80 Model III and 4 and loved playing around on them as well as the CoCos in that easy-access display setup.) As I approached the Radio Shack, I noticed a temporary kiosk where this fellow had a band-saw and was selling names and designs cut out of wood, airbrushed to your liking, setup just next to it. Most of the demo work he had on hand were things like: a girl’s name with a unicorn standing on it, a boy’s name with a race car under it, or maybe a big cloud with the sun peeking out the side — that kind of thing. Seeing all this, it took me about two seconds to realize that I had a FAR better use for his services… So, I showed my mother when she re-appeared, and we talked through what I wanted. Planning the design was made easier by the fact that I happened to be carrying an InCider magazine with me as I walked the mall that day, so I tore an Apple logo out of it and gave it to the guy as a reference. He told us to come back in a week and it would be ready. We did, and it was. It’s still on display with my Apple IIs after all these years, though it did survive a fall once, decades ago (with the help of a little Elmer’s glue).
Several have commented that the name with the logo rings a bell in their memory, partially reminds them of something they nearly recall. Perhaps I was not the only geeky kid who went all Apple with a wood and airbrush craftsman. Maybe things like this, complete with computer logos of the day, were made and advertised and sold as their own particular type of thing. I would love to hear, in the comments, the memories of any readers who may have encountered such a thing at some point in their past.
As for this unique item, one of the oldest artifacts in my computer collection, it will have a home on my shelf as long as I’m still kicking.