KANSAS CITY, Mo – If you’re going to carry a torch for the Apple II computer, you better know how to control its heat and melt a little solder.
The Apple II will turn 40 next year. Many of these seminal machines will light up like new thanks to a community of people who have to be their own Genius Bar. So KansasFest is not just about love, but the labor of keeping that love alive.
KansasFest, now in its 28th year, always sets one night aside for an activity called SolderFest, where devotees learn how to solder RAM cards and power supply boards. To know how to solder means you can give your machine 21st-century computing powers, as many in the Apple II community have done.
“This is the last of the home-brew world right here,” says Anthony Martino, a Brooklyn, New Yorker who runs the Ultimate Apple II website and store. He helped facilitate the Thursday night solder session. “Back in the day, there used to be user groups where you would learn things like this. You can watch YouTube or (surf) the internet, but this is using a computer.”
Martino and his colleague, Henry Courbis, of Spring Hill, Fla., tended to their students, hunkered in a dormitory basement at Rockhurst University. Some were soldering for the first time, while others used the session to work on recently acquired machines.
Quinn Dunki, a Los Angeles-based programmer, drew a small crowd because of the machine she was working on — a Bulgarian model of the Apple II, which still had much of its Cold War-era dust inside.
She worked her soldering gun with ease, using its heated tip to draw in the wire of solder to create tiny, perfect drops.
Across the room, John Lane, of Sullivan, Ill., slowly melted beads of solder onto a RAM card. He expressed little confidence in his ability to soldering, but his wife, Rachele, sat at his side and assured him his work looked good.
She chose not to solder, opting instead to make pictures while her husband worked.
“I don’t mess with hot stuff,” Rachele Lane says. “It’s bad enough I have to use a hot stove.”
Despite the name SolderFest, there were no prizes. Knowing a little more about the care for the Apple II machines is the payoff.
SolderFest was running late and got interrupted by Happy Hour, which also included Krispy Kreme Donuts.
Like a responsible teacher, Martino had a parting message for the students heading upstairs for Happy Hour. “Remember, don’t drink and solder. Thank you.”