We’re not in Kansas anymore: Apple II fest gets geeky online (and you’re invited)

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KansasFest soldering 1
A past KansasFest during less socially distanced times.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Being a fan of the Apple II is a lonely hobby. While being an Apple lover in 2020 is more mainstream than ever, being an enthusiast for Apple’s first mass market computer — launched way back in 1977 — is significantly less common.

Unless it’s July 24-26, that is. Kicking off today, and running through the weekend, KansasFest is a conference dedicated to all things Apple II. And like every other conference this year, in 2020 it’s gone online only.

“This year, obviously, everything is completely different,” Steven Weyhrich, one of the organizers, told Cult of Mac. “We had gotten to the point where we pretty much knew how to run the event, how to handle sound and video — we’ve been streaming the event to YouTube for the past couple of years, as well as later posting videos of the various talks to YouTube — and our primary difficulty was finding a way to [accommodate] the increasing numbers.”

Then COVID-19 hit and it became obvious that a physical conference wasn’t going to happen. As a result, the yearly Apple II event which started way back in 1989 (at a time when the Apple II was already nearing the end of its natural life) will, for the first time, take place via Zoom and YouTube.

 

KansasFest 2020: A room Zoom full of Apple II fans

“We have a number of interesting talks, including a very esoteric talk about a bug in a single game that has been present for over 35 years — and was only discovered because it would not run properly in one of the Apple II emulators,” Weyhrich said. “One of the authors of that emulator, AppleWin, found the problem, and in doing so came across an odd behavior in one opcode in the 6502 processor, one that would only cause a problem when used in the particular way this game used. He was able to re-write his emulator to emulate that bug, and so now the game runs correctly.”

Sound niche? That’s a given. But if you’re an Apple II fan — and a whole lot of people are — you’ll be in geek heaven. There are 29 Zoom sessions in total at KansasFest 2020, each lasting 15-30 minutes. Other topics include everything from the creation of a new Apple II emulator to discussions about gaming on the various Apple II models. Attendees can ask questions via chat. In total, there are expected to be upward of 510 virtual attendees. (And there’s always the chance of a famous name or two dropping in). The list of talks can be seen here.

“Coming to a physical KFest is [usually] a significant commitment: a week off work, travel expenses, and then the cost of the event itself,” Weyhrich said. |So we have a lot of people this year who I suspect have wanted to come but simply could not afford it.”

If you’d like to be among them, visit the website — or check the above YouTube link — to get involved.