Q: What is a VCF?
A: A vintage computer festival is a gathering of collectors, hobbyists and curious observers who enjoy tinkering with the computers of decades past. No one can agree upon what constitutes "vintage," but a general rule is anything made before 1990 - but of course there are exceptions for obscurity and novelty. You may find early home computers like the Commodore, Apple and Atari, as well as once inaccessible business and scientific systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars in their day. At VCF Midwest, we welcome a wide variety of exhibits, with emphasis on the creative and obscure.

The original Vintage Computer Festival was founded way back in 1997 by Sellam Ismail. VCF Midwest was formed in 2005 by Patrick Finnegan and ran at Purdue University for four years. After taking a gap year to find our footing and discover ourselves, the show resumed in the Chicago suburbs, guided by the firm but loving hands of the current crew.

Q: Is the show really free? Even if I'm selling a U-Haul full of hardware?
A: VCFMW is made possible via the generosity of the local vintage computing community through donations before and during the show as well as our fabulous auction fundraiser. It is a tradition we have managed to maintain for nineteen years now - the spirit of a casual gathering of hobbyists and friends. Due to greatly increased costs in 2024 and beyond (if we stay as big as we are!), we will be charging a per-table fee for exhibitors and vendors. But there will still be no admission charged for attendees. You will continue to get at least your money's worth at VCFMW. It's our guarantee.

Q: I want to say "thanks" for organizing the event!
A: Helping to fund the show would be great! Otherwise, buy us pizza, donate to and bid in the auction, give us cool stuff, let us have first look at your U-Haul, etc.

Q: I really do have an entire truck full of things to sell and trade. Can you accomodate me?
A: We'll certainly try. In the past, we've fit large-scale vendors and late-comers in the hallways outside the main display area, which worked out well for them. As of 2024, we have a much larger venue, which "should" allow us to accomodate everyone who'd like a spot. As the show date gets closer, we'll be crunching the numbers and doing our best to fit you in.

Q: I'm selling/showing/want to buy a shirt early/want to meet everyone - when should I arrive?
A: Show staff arrive Thursday evening to secure the rooms and bug the convention center staff to let us in. Infrastructure setup occurs Friday morning and load-in begins only when all Infrastructure is in place. This should mean load-in will run begin around Noon on Friday and extend well into the evening. We strongly recommend arriving on Friday if you are an exhibitors or vendor. Loadin in on Saturday morning setup will leave you at the mercy of the crowd!

How much are the shirts? What sizes will you have?
A: Shirts are available for a donation of $25, all sizes. This year we will be ordering varying quantities of sizes Small through 5XL, plus a handful of Youth and "Ladies" fit sizes as well. Some sizes sell out earlier than others - claim yours early!

How many people attend the show?
Since we don't charge admission or otherwise track attendance, it is difficult to tell. Based on badges taken, shirt sales and educated guestimates, we figure that we've topped 2000 attendees in recent years.

I plan on spending the entire weekend at the show. I need to eat! What's the deal with food?
A: The hotel houses a full restaurant, a cafe and a lounge. The local area has a full array of fast-food outlets as well as world class Chicago eateries in and around the Woodfield Shopping Mall. Check our main page soon for link to a curated list of local attractions.

Q: Will there be Internet access at the show?
The hotel has courtesy internet service for guests but the convention center's Internet services are only available for-hire (and we're not hiring.) If you expect to need Internet access for your personal devices or those on display, please plan on providing your own hotspot or tethering arrangement.

Q: I heard something about telephones?
A: Ohhh yeah, telephone networks are still networks, and we're into those big time. Depending on how things shake out at the new venue, you might be able to request a POTS line (or possibly even something fancier) at your table. Keep an eye out as the table booking process evolves.

I want to display my classic computer/project/stuff for sale at VCFMW - how large are the tables? How many may I have?
A: Most tables are 30" deep and either 6' or 8' wide. We make do with what's on-hand and usually use every last table they can give us. Tables are apportioned on a first-emailed, first-allocated basis, with consideration given toward making sure we can welcome as many different exhibitors as possible. VCFMW staff reserve the right to reduce table allocation and move table assignments as they see fit (but we will certainly try our best not to!) At this time, our venue will not permit guests to bring their own tables.

Q: I want to bring something BIG. How large an item can you fit?
While we've upgraded our floor space quite a bit vs 2023, power may be the limiting factor for large displays. That said, our engineers are working on devious and clever methods of powering BIG IRON - but you may have to pay for it. Stay tuned...

Q: What's this I hear about a FREE PILE?
A: One of the most honored traditions going back before VCFMW to the SWRAP and ECCC shows is the Free Pile. This is where you can try to unload your unloadables, donate your donatables and maybe find the other half of the thing you found there last year. There is only one rule for the Free Pile: if you brought it and it's still there on Sunday afternoon, you take it away! The venue staff do not want to haul your electronics scrap (and it's not in our contract.) Please help us keep our costs low, get welcomed back next year and not upset our hosts! Oh yes, there's a second semi-rule for the Free Pile: no "lame" printers! It's not really a rule...but printers are really hard to give away. Just be prepared to take it back home with you.

If you have something that's maybe a little too nice for the Free Pile, consider donating it to our non-profit parent organization, Chicago Classic Computing. All revenue taken in by CCC goes to fund VCF Midwest.

Q: I want to help get the word out! What can I do?
A: Post about our show on your favorite (on-topic) mailing list, web forum, or newsgroup. We'll have a flyer sometime soon that you can pass out at user group meetings, coffee shops or wherever geeks hang out. If you'd like to volunteer to help with the show setup, drop us a reply here.

Last Update: 4/2/2024