Mar 20th

KansasFest After Dark .. A Look back to the Beginnings

For me, half the fun of KFest has always been getting to and from Kansas City. The other half is KFest itself, and the other half is what goes on after the day’s sessions and presentations are over with. Wait, that’s three halves! There can’t be three halves you say? Must be Reaganomics. Anyhow as for getting there,  just hopping on a commercial flight to get there just has never appealed to me. On the other hand, flying myself there, now that’s a different adventure, for another installment. Stay tuned for the upcoming A2-Airlines aviation related blog ..

Otherwise, getting to KFest and having access to transportation of your own while on site just makes things all the more interesting. There’s always some form of late night/early morning runs going on. Be it Denny’s, Wal*Mart, Steak ‘n Shake .. but it wasn’t always like that. In the early years of the A2 Central Summer Developers Conference, when the outings were inbuilt by the event planners, which usually included a visit to Oceans of Fun or a Royal’s home game, a core group of us usually had other ideas … that usually resulted in just us hanging around back at the Halls of Avila and sharing stories. Stories A2 related antics of the 80’s, and such. Like the era of War Dialing to find things to dial into with the modem, or when I was looking for the dial in to the DEC mainframe at my high school because I thought it would be great to be able to do my homework … completely from home 🙂

Thus began another part of the KFest rituals, the sessions in the Halls, the roaming of rooms, and gatherings on the floors and couches in the commons that would last well into the evening, the night, and the wee hours of the morning. Thus began the Great Experience of Sleep Deprivation. Back then vs. now, things were really different in the area. Like how here in California, even in the 80’s, there were ATM’s all over the place. However one day, one of the Apple IIgs System Software engineers attending KansasFest expressed a desire to get some cash from an ATM to buy some hardware and I said, “sure, I can take you … to the mall, where there just has to be an ATM.” We hopped in the car and went a looking, and the first place was over to Bannister Mall only to come up empty, and driving around, the few ATMs we did find didn’t share the same ATM network. We visited two malls that day, the other being Blue Ridge Mall, both of which now are long gone. But all was not lost, eventually a bank was spotted along Holmes Rd at Red Bridge, and we decided to go to the Sun Fresh market that was nearby and on the way in I spotted the typical racks of free periodicals, community newspapers, and such. One in particular caught my interest ..

Applied Engineering, the long time, fairly popular Apple II peripheral manufacturer had long matured and in the process of branching out to the Macintosh and Amiga markets to supplement their business, as in 1991 it was fairly obvious that the Apple II marketplace was diminishing, it was not as strong as it used to be just even a year earlier. Applied Engineering was a trend setter, and had been around nearly as long as the Apple II, going on 12 years. Very early AE catalogs and advertisements made it known that they were available to take orders ANYTIME. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They wanted to be sure they caught all those impulse sales opportunities. Something that you wouldn’t see even in the booming x86 and Macintosh markets for years to come. Later on AE settled on 7AM to 11PM, 7 days a week for ordering. Tech support was always available just during the week. AE positioned itself as a staunch Apple II supporter, going so far as to include letters of protest in their products urging Apple II users to boycott AppleFest, and inCider Magazine because they started including Macintosh coverage.

Some people thought there was a bit of irony there because AE themselves marketed Macintosh and Amiga peripherals. But in their open letter to Apple, they clarified that they advertised the Macintosh products in Macintosh venues, Amiga products in Amiga venues and thought that the Apple II’s being pushed aside at regional and national events like AppleFest was not in the best interest to the Apple II platform. Imagine the surprise when AE took the Apple II community by storm when they migrated Apple II tech support to a 900 pay-per-minute service, even for products under warranty as they really made no effort to differentiate. Macintosh and Amiga users could continue to call the same standard 214 area code number. Of course, this was long distance, but at an average of 1/8th of the price. For a company so dedicated to the Apple II, this certainly was a strange move.

Back to the store visit, and KansasFest, so on the way into the store, the publication that caught my eye was a local singles newspaper entitled AE Singles. The part of it that was amusing was how the cover had ‘AE’ using the same Alpha Epsilon Latin diphthong logo as Applied Engineering, and it was even in purple. So I was like… huh, what the heck is something computer doing in the entry of the grocery store? But upon closer examination it wasn’t computer at all. 🙂

You see, when AE went to the 900 line, 900 lines were popular with, and widely associated with phone sex services. So of course, there were rumors afoot that AE was running a phone sex service after hours on their 900 service. Of course you’d have thought that we could just figure it out by calling it, right? D’oh! But no one wanted to call it and give them any satisfaction of getting any money. So .. the rumors just lived on, and on .. and on.. Besides, it was more fun that way. Just think of the logistics though, someone calling for RAMWorks support .. at a few minutes after and talking about RAM .. um, NOT that kind of RAM.

On the way out of the store I grabbed a thick stack of them. Figured they’d be fun items back at the Halls of Avila. Various KFest 1991 Related Paper items, publications, etc.I wanted to see if the purple AE that dominated the front above the fold would catch anyone else like it did me.. They got passed around for a few hours, every once in a while a new “group” would discover some sitting on the tables in the common area, some thought they were Applied Engineering sales propaganda sitting around. After several hours of that, the group now fairly laid back and relaxed decided to have a little fun at the suggestion of someone from GS+ that thought it would be a fun photo opportunity. As you can see, it certainly was. It ended up on the cover of the next issue with KFest coverage, with a description of “On the Cover – A group of KansasFest attendees take a look at the latest offerings from AE. From left to right they are: Joe Wankerl, Brian Winn, Nory (in the background), Chris McKinsey, Nate Trost (kneeling), Derek Young, Jim Maricondo, Bill Heineman, and Jason Coleman.” .

..and of course, right here in the General Files section is a scan of the front page from that issue of [wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=131 linktext=’AE Singles’/], you can make your very own if you wish.. and as promised, when I’ve added a few other things to the General Files section, since we’re talking about Applied Engineering, I’ve added an [wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=133 linktext=’AE catalog from 1983′ /], that has some inserts of early 1984, that quotes the 24/7 ordering ability on several pages, with a Dallas, TX PO Box address, which is different than a similar catalog that only has ordering until 11PM and a Carrollton, TX PO box address. In their first glossy print catalog offered in 1985 is where the familiar 214/241-6060 phone number was cited, though the address was the same PO Box. Another AE document is a [wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=132 linktext=’Dealer Price List’ /] from July 1986

Until next time …

…end Of phile…


Comments are closed.