The Trenton Computer Festival: Then and Now

The Trenton Computer festival is the longest continuously running personal computer show in the world (To quote Wikipedia) and was started in 1976.  Although they’ve moved around from place to place the show has always been a great place to find affordable computers & electronics as well as a great place to meet friends and vendors from years past. It’s a place you can get together and geek out as well, sharing stories and memories about past shows and experiences with others. The show consists of  keynotes, tutorials and talks. There are also the vendors, inside vendors and outside vendors at the Flea Market area. The Flea Market area is my favorite, the vendors are friendly, knowledgeable and usually willing to give you a good price. The inside vendors are okay, but usually they stray a bit away from computers, you’ll find things like dental tools and cleaning products, odd really. Their prices inside are also a bit high, but they’re more commercial and even charge tax.

My friends and I started going around 2003 or so to the show. At this time I was in High School and I learned about the show from my Friends Gabe and Todd. I couldn’t drive yet, but he drove me there. I remember picking up a Graphite iMac DV for $40, it was a steal at the time. I had it working and running for years until I sold it on Craigslist for around what I originaly paid for it. I remember it needed an external hard drive power cable, but it ran fine despite being a bit warm or hot. I also remember coming in 2005 and buying a ’30th Anniversary TCF’ shirt. Last year in 2010 I picked up a purple 1998 TCF hat, that was a fun freebie. You can read more about the 2010 show from my post last year.

My first experience with the show was amazing. I’ve always loved flea markets, but this time it was a flea market JUST for computers, games and electronics. I was in geek heaven. I believe it was 2003 or so when I got a Macintosh Color Classic for $40 with a spare LC 575 board, I think that’s where I also got my Newton 2000 for $20. I saw a black Macintosh TV there, the guy wanted $50 for it, I passed however. Then I remember in 2004 getting an old Apple Scanner for a dollar. Some Clone Mac towers cheap and even a few odds and ends, and of course cables (you can never have enough!). Oh and I got Unreal Tournament 2004! It had just came out a few months before and I think I paid $35 for it which was a steal at the time. My friend told me not to get it, saying he could just copy his version so we could all play, but that never worked out so I’m glad I had my copy.

Being a Mac guy I was more interested and knowledgeable about Mac items than PC items. Finding Macintosh things at the show was hard to say the least, they even had a sign at the inside part of the show with a drawing of a Mac with a slash through it, explaining that most of the software and hardware was geared towards PCs. That didn’t stop me from picking up an original 802.11b AirPort card for $19. It was an absolute steal at that time too.

Maybe it’s due to the rise of the internet, but the shows don’t seem as big as they used to. Last year there was a good amount of vendors, but this year it seemed smaller. It could be other shows, some vendors go to others, and the date of the show this year was on April 2nd, compared to the late April / Early May shows of years past. On Saturday the show was still thriving, but on Sunday it was pretty vacant.

At least it beat Sunday last year, it was pouring outside and by the time I made it to the show there was only 1 person at the flea market, I did get a D-Link router off him for $4. Either way inside was still good, I got an AirPort 802.11b card for $13, beating my previous record. This time at the show I saw one for $20 – people still think they’re super rare, well I guess they’re uncommon, but the people who still need them are most likely Apple collectors looking for some wireless connectivity, I don’t think there’s much value in them like before. I remember when they were going for over $100 on eBay when Apple first discontinued them. Now that was the time to sell them.

Back to the 2011 show, it was good. I finally stayed after the show until almost 4:30pm and talked to the Mac guys I always shop at,  Doug and George. They’ve been coming to the Trenton Festival since 1984 and they try to come every year, I can only recall one year when they did not make it. From the first show I’ve been to I was always drawn to these guys. Why? Because they are Mac guys, they have a ton of Apple stuff, old and some new, and have very good prices. Usually at the very end of the show they’ll dump their unwanted items or give out some freebies. They’re really nice people. I stayed after to help them clean up and pack up their tables. It was the least I could do for all that they did for me.

I was happy to go to the show this year, but a bit saddened. Something seemed like it was missing. The weather was bitter cold and windy, and while there were a lot of vendors there weren’t as many tables as there were last year. I really hope it doesn’t die off. That would be a terrible shame.  I’ve met some great people and I’ve heard some awesome stories and shared some fun moments. It would be a shame for it go away. But I think as long as there are people interested and the vendors think it’s worth their time people will come. Because if the vendors stop coming, the attendees will stop coming. It may help for them to move the dates closer to May, the weather is usually nicer, which would bring more people out. Let’s hope the fun geeky times never end!