2007 Chicago Faire

The 2007 Chicago TI International World Faire

by Hal Shanafield

The 25th Annual Chicago TI International World Faire is now history, but for those of us who were there, it will linger in our memories. By all accounts, it was successful, and all those who attended signified their intention to come back next year.

The Faire officially began with the Thursday arrival of Berry Harmsen, the official ambassador from our European brethren. This year, he was joined by Jens-Eike Hartwig, from Flensburg, Germany. They made it an official "international" event. Several other European TI'ers wanted to make the trip, but were prevented from doing so by various last-minute reasons.

Walid Maalouli joined Berry, my wife Almut, my son John, and me for a little pre-Faire party at the new Evanston bar, "Bat 17," where we discovered inexpensive Belgian and Czech beer and lots of curious coeds. What they were curious about was the fact that we had three laptops open on the bar. The middle one was running a streaming video program called "Ustream," and it allowed us to share the party with lots of our TI friends around the world. A chat room was included as part of the service, so those who were watching and listening, could ask questions and comment on said curious coeds. While it is not unusual to find free WiFi in a café these days, it was a bit of a surprise to do so in a bar. But then, finding a bar in Evanston, still the home of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, is a surprise to many of our older residents!

The survivors of the party, together with some new recruits, assembled for breakfast the next day at a local Burger King. We gathered ourselves and our gear and repaired to this year's new venue, American Legion Post 42, for the Faire. The move from the usual location, the Evanston Public Library, was necessitated by a construction program there. Unfortunately, there was no Internet access available at the Post, so we were unable to stream the day's proceedings, but we did tape all the seminars, and they will be available from Bruce Maret if the quality of the tape is good enough.

The seminars this year were particularly interesting. They were provided by Berry, Walid, Charlie Good, Gregg Lemke, and Tim Tesch. Berry began with an overview of TI events and developments in Europe. He told us about the restarting of SNUG, the German group headed by Michael Becker and Harald Glaab, who had produced the large variety of magnificent expansion cards. Berry introduced the latest product, the replacement board for the video processer for the connection to the SNUG and Digit 80-column cards. He showed the new hardware and how to install it. These products will be available through Richard Bell. Berry also announced, on behalf Michael Becker, the production of a new series of BwG disk controllers, compatible with the existing Myarc and CorComp controllers.

Berry then presented the demonstration created by Richard Twyning, and first shown at this year's European TI Treff, held in Hilversum, The Netherlands. Richard has discovered a method to use Bluetooth technology to connect a TI to a Linux server and thus to the Internet. The configuration consists of parallel to Bluetooth adaptor, the actual Bluetooth device, and the Linux server. The complete information on this method will be available of the website of the TI user group of the UK.

Walid introduced his brand-new assembly program, "Skychart," which calculates and displays the positions of hundreds of celestial objects, including stars, planets, and Messier items. The program allows one to enter the time, date and coordinates desired and displays the sky in all directions. Placing the cursor on any object displays data about that object. Walid distributed free copies of his handiwork. After changing equipment, Walid demonstrated a CP/M card which he built from a kit, and which resides in the PE box. This kit, called a P112, is a complete CP/M computer, but unlike the Morningstar card, it does not utilize the TI's drives or memory, instead using up to four 3.5 HD floppies or an IDE or Compact Flash card for storage. Walid said it allowed him to use Wordstar for word processing. He also said that he uses ZT4 or Term 80 for display and keyboard input.

Gregg , of Emkel Software, gave a short presentation of a new screensaver and explained his output of new software has been hampered by some health problems this past year, and said that he would have some new product for next year's Faire.

Charlie presented a method for transferring TI disks to PC99 disks. His method involved using a parallel cable between the PE box and his laptop, using Windows 98 or 95. He also said that it was possible to convert PC99 programs to V9T9 format using Fred Kaal's program, TIDir. On the TI side, Charlie used the read and write sector applications that are a part of PC99, the emulator that is the commercial product from CaDD Electronics. Charlie showed us the variety of PC programs he uses for the file transfer. He announced that he has uploaded all of the disks from the Lima User Group to Don O'Neill's Western Horizon Technology FTP site. All the disks were transferred using this procedure. Charlie has generously offered to bring his equipment to the 2008 Chicago Faire to allow anyone to transfer disks to the PC99 format.

Tim was next up, began by introducing a brand-new game written by Marc Hull, "TI99 Clickety." This was a very interesting program that challenges the player to delete blocks of identical colors. The game featured the ability to move up to levels of greater and greater difficulty. The program is 100 percent assembly and can be run in EA3. Tim noted that this game can be quite addictive. He then passed out disks to all the attendees as a gift from Marc.

Tim then demo'ed the programs he has been devoting a large amount of his spare time to complete. All these programs are strictly for the Geneve, but can run on the MESS emulator, which is how he chose to show them. The disk manager he showed allows one to instantly show graphics files, such as TI Artist and MyArt , without having to load another program. It allows the extracting of archived files as well. Tim made the programs available to the attendees.

Berry was once again the last presenter, and stated that there was a lot of free software available, if one knows how to get it and put it back into a form that is usable on a real TI99/4a. He then proceeded to show a number of ways to achieve this. He showed four different processes to reach the same goal. The first was the use of Paolo Bagnaresi's "TI-PC." This method requires the use of a suitable PC, usually an older model with the proper chipset. A list of the appropriate motherboards is included in the text files of the program itself. The second method used two programs, Mike Dodd's "PC Transfer" and Wofgang Bertsch's "Disk-Backup." This requires a DSDD controller. The third approach uses an RS232 cable. It can be done with a program like "Magic File Manipulator." The fourth solution makes use of a PIO cable. This method is described and available at Thierry Nouspikel's website. Lastly, Berry showed version 4 and version 5 of Fred Kaal's "TIDir," with which one can transfer arc files and PC99 files to V9T9 format. The latest version supports the CF7+ peripheral device, created by Jaime Malilong.

The weather was kind to us this year, producing a bright, warm day, probably due to the change in the date of the Faire from its usual mid-November time. However, some things never change: Tom Clayton arrived in the last five minutes of the event, as he has for the last 20 years! We also had the traditional banquet, and, just as traditionally happens, despite verbal and written directions and even maps, some folks got lost on the way to the restaurant.

We held the banquet this year at a "Panera" restaurant which features free WiFi and a large, quiet back room. After everyone had finished dinner, the most enjoyable part of the evening, for me, began. That was the presentation of the John Birdwell Award. Each year the Birdwell Trustees select the person they deem to have made the most significant contribution to the TI community, and then the Chicago TI User Group is asked to present the award, in the form of a beautiful plaque. The recipient this year was Richard Bell, who needs no introduction here. His support of TI'ers is legendary.

The last order of official Faire business was the selection of the best website dedicated to the TI, the Rob Tempelmans Plat Award. This is a joint undertaking of the Dutch TI User Group and the Chicago TI User Group. As always, a long list of sites is winnowed down by an international committee to six finalists, who are then judged by three panels of judges, nine in all, on the basis of the importance of information on the site, the ease of use of the site, and the general "look and feel" of the site, including graphics and colors. The winner this year was Walid Maalouli, who was sent out of the room during the judging. Berry announced the balloting was very close, indicative of the quality of all the TI sites in the contest.

We were able to stream video and audio from the banquet site, and many TI'ers were able to watch and even write to us during the banquet, which was a very nice addition to the Faire this year. Naturally, we would have preferred that everyone watching actually join us in Evanston, but this was the next best thing.

With all the heavy work of the Faire at an end, it was time for the hearty few souls who remained to party down. Eight of us repaired to the "Bat 17" for some refreshment. Once again we went back to streaming video. While we enjoyed a few amber beverages, requests poured in from the Net for a better look at all the coeds in the place. The low-level lighting prevented us from showing all the ladies who were at one point lined up to meet the TI'ers around the world. On Friday night, John had attracted most of the interest from the fair sex, but tonight Berry was the babe magnet. A cute little waitress changed clothes after her shift, and snuggled up next to Berry for the rest of the night. (Rumor has it that the Dutchman had told her he was Santa Claus on vacation from the North Pole!) Eventually, we were able to drag him out of there and back to his hotel. ;-)

Plans are already in progress for next year's Faire, and to make it a bigger and hopefully even better event, and we are hoping that even more of those of you who have put off coming will decide to join us here in Evanston. See you then.

Pictures by Berry Harmsen

Laptop in Pub

Getting Ready

Jens-Eike and Irv

Charlie and Hal


Demo Charlie

Demo Walid

Walid talking CP-M

Video from Hal

Demo Tim Tesch

Tim Talking about MESS

Norman and Jeff

Ekmel Software

Berry and Jens-Eike

Norman Rokke

Berry and Irv

Speech by Hal

Presentation Award

Richard gets JBA

Nice TI site

Jury at work

Announcement winner RTPA

Video Stream