About 36 people attended the ZFEST that was held in a different location this year. As the Schafhaus in Gueglingen is currently undergoing some construction and due to other circumstances not reviewed here, a decision had to be made on where and how to situate this year's meeting. It was only logical to look for a location in the virtual middle of Germany, thus making it possible for many new people to reach the ZFEST.
Of course, there are always some people that won't travel far, and some no longer could be expected. This also applies to several people from the Heilbronn area, that would just be occasional drop-bys.
So what was new?
Speaking of Fuldatal-Knickhagen, imagine driving a bit off the Autobahn (Highway) to find yourself in the middle of a fairy-tale forest area. Not by chance it is here, where the brothers Grimm had lived, and many locations here claim to be the original locations of their tales. The actual forest is called "Reinhardswald" and was supposed to be the one were Hansel and Gretel had got lost.
Nevertheless, the location was quite easily found by everyone, as all of Fuldatal-Knickhagen could probably fit into the hotel area of Trenton, N.J. The Parish House (Gemeindehaus) is right in the middle. The building itself could well be pictured somewhere in New England, with its wooden fassade and the tiny fire-bell tower. When Gaby and I called by cell-phone about 11:30 AM, we were told that 15 people were already there, with 6 of them having waited outside before the actual opening time 10:00 AM !
It soon turned out that the initial table layout would not be sufficient to cover the needs, so we had to rearrange the meeting hall with more tables. It turned out we used almost all of their resources! There was a nice canteen-like kitchenette, that allowed for food being prepared and we were pleased to notice a gigantic coffee machine of the size of a typical Bavarian beer barrel! Ulla Bernotat, Alexander's mother, seemlessly stepped into the role of a perfect hostess, although obviously a bit worried by the chaotic responses from the rest of the family members.
By 3:00 PM, things started to settle, most of the equipment was up and running, nerves cooling down, the network on Fritz Chwolka's LINUX server was doing the job as expected and so the technical details could be left aside. This was when people found time to chat a little, "hooray!"-welcome Andy Kisslinger and Joerg Linder, and to have several liters of coffee (for free ...).
I had found a beautiful red Neon-Z on a flea-market and sent it to Alexander two months before. Now, we found him still fighting to get the Z to light up. He sure was the target of a lot of laughter, when one resistor after the other went up in smoke!
When it was time for the usual "Prizes", the Z was no longer lit, but, alas, it would still look pretty good. This year's awards went to Tilmann Reh for his continuos and valuable support of the Z80 community with a "Zettificate" and a fake "Hitchhiker's G.I.D.E. to the Industry Standard" book, that had been home-built by Gaby Chaudry on one of the evenings before the ZFEST. Unknown to Gaby, I myself had secretly arranged a second prize to her for her neverending devotion for CP/M and her most excellent work on the web on this matter. She received a spider model built by Joerg Linder (I could have never done this without her noticing it, as we live together). This went along with a neat document, rewarding her work as the "CP/M Web-Spider of the Year".
The audience was quite amused, especially, when I topped this session with revealing an older but never released idea of myself, a rework of the Zilog propaganda for the e-Z80, now showing Tilmann Reh as "Zilman", quoted in his typical "Czerman Enklish". All these documents and many more pictures may be seen at www.zfest.de.
In the evening we took a hike on the country side ( .. only a few yards ...) to a sport restaurant at the edge of Fuldatal-Knickhagen through soaking rain and muddy roads. Nevertheless, the atmosphere kept up and the meal was excellent.
After our return, activities were cooking high, and so, when we finally left for the hotels, it was way past 11:00 PM!
Returning next morning by 9:15 (!), people already started gathering around the several sleeping-bag visitors, that had spent the night at the hall. When the Bernotats arrived to present fresh coffee, the appreciative noise in the room could not be ignored. We noticed a lot of network traffic (rumours of 40 GBs of MP3s on Fritz's server were heating things up), but also a lot of repair activity. Ancient equipment was being revived, Paul Lenz from Hannover had brought his fully-automatted egg-handling machine to everybody's amusement and his antique Siemens Teletype that functioned as a papertape punch, rose some interest among the younger ones. I hope this was not only due to the monstrous sound output from that device!
There was quite some East German equipment there, too, and two variants of the home-brew Z1013 single-board GDR computer were quite nice to test and to look at, one in a nice wooden box, the other well hidden in an all-in-one plastic housing, connected to a video display, showing a green-only version of a Windows 95 mock-up. Also, several Robotron business machines were there and even a development computer system was present.
A real beauty, a complete WANG 2200 system, had been brought by Georg from Cologne. Although there were some thermal problems that forced the machine to be powered down eventually, it was nice to see one of the few really functional ones in action, together with a line-printer!
One of the most fascinating items though, was the SAM computer presented by Dirk Berghoefer. This Z80 machine was built into C128 housing by Dirk and had been fully equipped with the available peripherals. An IDE harddrive and a 36x(!) CD-ROM were operating from a Z80-code based operating system by the irritating name of B-DOS. No, no CP/M involved! I was thrilled by the speed of its CD-operation. The initial load was done in about 6 seconds including boot-up! Try that with a Windows-based computer :-) Also, track-to-track operations were as fast as on typcial Hi-Fi equipment. What amazed me most, was the details on the CD that could be displayed. You would get an in-depth display of the exact catalog format (Red-Book, ISO 9660, Joliet and so on in detail!). This was only one of the multiple features, as it turned out. The computer was capable of doing a 100% emulation of a Sinclair Spectrum computer with all its ROMs and Games.
I had called out to owners of CPU280 to bring their Z280 based singleboard ECB-Bus computers along. Having 6 CPU280s there (Tilmann Reh, Helmut Jungkunz, Fritz Chwolka, Alexander Bernotat, Joerg Linder, Andreas Kisslinger), this was also the ZFEST with the most CPU280s around! Andy Kisslinger's CPU280 had been sitting idle for quite some time and so some of the settings had to be reworked. Tilmann and Andy could be seen digging into bit-level of serial communication. Andy's CPU280 received an upgrade to the latest EPROM-version and also got the date entered for his IDE-harddisk. Alexander fought with an ill-mannered ADM3A terminal and a faulty static RAM-disk (he got it to work after the ZFEST). Fritz presented "open architecture" on his CPU280, whereas the rest of the machines seemed to work in "normal mode", i.e. closed up, ready-to-use.
Professor Karl Kleine and myself produced lots of CD-ROMs of the former ZFESTs and of multimedia files, whereas Mrs. "Ulla" Bernotat produced one cake after the other. One of the tiny highlights was also an excellent alphabet-soup, which of course resulted in a short competition to find the letter "Z". Where Gaby and I barely found a decent-looking "Z", Paul Lenz came up with the ultimate: "Z-80" clearly spelled in "soup characters". All this has been documented with pictures.
Pictures. Ah yes! I think, this year's ZFEST has produced the largest flood of pictures of any ZFEST so far. Altogether, theere are more than 30MBs of data, where most of the pictures have already been reduced in size or cropped to use.
It would take too much time to describe all the gear on display, but the range was truly quite impressive, at the lower end early Sinclair Timex and GDR Z1013 computers, at the upper end our CPU280s, not taking in account the modern Pentium-based computers that were used for communication, network transfers and the like. (Even now, I am writing on a Pentium II 266 Thinkpad 600). One thing is for sure, though, there will be another ZFEST next year, and perhaps even more visitors are expected!
Until then, keep connected!