MARCH frequently asked questions -- updated Feb. 27, 2012
MARCH is a user group for people who enjoy collecting,
restoring, using, and exhibiting antique/vintage computers. Our name is an
acronym for Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists. Our club's legal name has an
"Inc." on the end because we're incorporated as a non-profit in New Jersey.
However we do not yet have 501(c)3 tax status.
2. Cool, I have some
old-school Pentium IIs, and even a 486!
Sorry, but that's not what we do.
By "antique/vintage" we mean things that are far more historic. We start (with
some exceptions) at the mid-1980s early GUI systems, go into
early-1980s/late-1970s 8-bit microcomputers, back into mid-1970s homebrew kits
and single-board computers, then find our way into 1970s/1960s minicomputers
when "mini" meant as big as a desk or refrigerator. Finally, we're into
mainframes of the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, we also focus on all sorts of
books/magazines, cultural artifacts, I/O devices (teletypes, terminals)
peripherals, software, storage hardware (keypunches, magnetic/paper tape, etc.),
and everything from this realm. Not counting mathematical tools such as a slide
rule, our oldest computer artifact is an IBM 082 punch card sorter, from
3. I'm a nerd and live somewhere between Connecticut and Virginia,
yet I never heard of you before.
Andy Meyer reiterated his idea for a
regional user group in the second half of 2004. Evan Koblentz started the Yahoo
discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/midatlanticretro/)
in the beginning of 2005. MARCH became a legal entity later that year. Our
expertise is technical, but we're not so good at marketing. Please
4. So I have to live in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S. to
Nope. That description just conveys where most of our members and
activities are concentrated -- in the scalene triangle between Hartford,
Pittsburgh, and D.C. -- but people from beyond these areas are certainly welcome
to join us.
5. What does MARCH actually do?
In addition to the
busy discussion list at our Yahoo group (more than 20,000 messages over six
years and virtually no spam!), we also operate a bricks-and-mortar computer
museum on the New Jersey shore. Currently our museum occupies almost 1,500 sq.
ft. in a wing of the InfoAge Science Center, located in Wall Township, New
6. InfoAge Science Center? What's that?
7. InfoAge is a
relatively new museum and 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Its construction
began in the late 1990s and it opened in a "beta" mode in the mid-2000s. Its
facility is a whole campus, not just one building. There is a very rich history
here. The campus was built by the Marconi America Wireless Telegraphy Co. as a
receiving station in 1912, was used as a communications laboratory by the U.S.
Navy during WWI, and then was in private hands. It became a U.S. Army Signal
Corps R&D lab just before WWII and remained so until
the 1990s. Congress
decided to close the lab and sell the land. Instead, local historians recognized
its history and formed InfoAge. Now the campus is on the National Parks
Service's National Register of Historic Places. InfoAge is also a Black History
Site and had several other federal designations related to its service before,
during, and after WWII. Public hours are Sunday from 1pm to 5pm and other times
by appointment. For more about the museum and campus history please visit
8. Okay, so back to this computer museum of yours.
Our museum has five exhibits: Mainframes, minicomputers,
homebrew-era computers, business microcomputers, and consumer microcomputers. We
have many ideas for more exhibits, and we plan to implement those ideas just as
soon as we move from our current space on campus into a larger building next
door. That could happen in another year or so.
9. Do the computers just
sit there or can I use them?
We strive to restore our systems to
operational condition. Some computers, especially the microcomputers, are
relatively easy to restore and easy to replace if necessary. Others, such as our
minicomputers, require a more serious effort. We make every effort to have these
computers available for our members' use and to demonstrate them for
10. Can I help restore the computers?
Yes! Join our
group, get to know us, and volunteer to help out.
11. What else does
Lots of fun stuff. In addition to our discussion list and our
museum, we also host special events. Our flagship event is the Vintage Computer
Festival East. Our first edition of this hobbyist convention was VCF East 3.0,
in 2006, because the first two editions were run by a different organization.
VCF East 4.0 was in June 2007; VCF East 5.0 was in Sept. 2008, VCF East 6.0 was
in Sept. 2009, and VCF East 7.0 was in May 2011. The next edition, VCF East 8.0,
is scheduled for May 5-6, 2012 -- details are frequently updated at http://www.vintage.org/2012/east/
and at http://wwww.facebook.com/vcfeast8.
also produce smaller exhibits at other events such HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth
conference), NJ Science & Engineering Festival, Philadelphia Science
Carnival, Trenton Computer Festival, and World Maker Faire. In addition, we have
social events, tech days, museum days, a winter party, etc.
12. I still
don't get it. Where can I learn more about what's antique/vintage?
places. Pick up a copy of the book "Collectible Microcomputers" by Michael
Nadeau. Or for non-micro aspects, go online. Heck, go online anyway. Check out
the classiccmp.org mailing lists; vintage-computer.com/vcforum,
old-computers.com; and many, many, many others. (If you're interested in
specific machines, just post your question to our discussion list and we can
refer you to the best sites.)
13. What's behind the scenes of this wacky
We have some de facto officers; an official set of bylaws and
all that boring stuff is being worked on... we're just so busy having fun that
we keep procrastinating. The officers are myself (Evan Koblentz - prez), Bill
Degnan and Andy Meyer (VPs), and Justin Jernigan (treasurer).
Members? Is it like just you and two buddies?
We're much bigger than
that! We have dozens of members, and around 300 people in our Yahoo group. Our
youngest member is an 18-year-old college freshman who was valedictorian of his
high school and received a major university scholarship to study computer
science. Our oldest member is in his 80s and remains active in robot hacking and
15. What's it cost to join?
membership is free (as in beer).
16. So how do you fund the
Our primary fundraiser is the Vintage Computer Festival East,
during which we sell tickets, exhibit space, and various items. We also have an
annual donation drive. Sometimes we also rent artifacts for use at
17. Can I make a donation of artifacts or
Yes! Contact us first, and we'll make arrangements. Info is in the
very next question of this FAQ.
17. I have a question.
out to us! Do so by posting to our message boards or pinging me (mailto:evan%40snarc.net / phone:
646-546-9999) ... ask us anything, we're not shy! (And moreover, unlike some
computer clubs, we're not cliquey. All are welcome here!)
18. What else
should I know before diving in to MARCH?
If you're a nerd who thinks
really old computers and their related technologies were cool, then give MARCH a
chance. You'll be glad you did. Also, if you were wondering, we're NOT a bunch
of old farts who sit around and whine about how much better things used to be.
Quite the contrary: we're a bunch of young and mid-life farts who ... ooooh
maybe we said too much. :)
19. What is your web site?
20. Why does your web site suck?
simplicity is by design.