July 24, 2010:
Having made only three trips through Mojave and Barstow and across
the desert since February, it seemed only
logical that I should do it again. For the sake of variation, this
time I bypassed the I-40 exit in Barstow and continued up I-15 to
Las Vegas for the annual Commodore Las Vegas Expo at the Plaza
Hotel and Casino, an 823 mile round trip. Since it's been in the low 100s in Fresno, a visit
to the Nevada desert, with temperatures forecast to be around 110,
should make our home weather seem cool in comparison.
You can click the links
to read about the background of this event and my earlier trips in
2006 and 2008, so I won't repeat that information, other than to
state that the event is sponsored by the Fresno Commodore User Group
(FCUG) and the Clark County Commodore Computer Club (CCCCC) of Las
Despite the apparent
organizational power behind the event, the driving force is FCUG
president Robert Bernardo, ably assisted by Larry Anderson of San
with minor help from me and significant help in the form of
equipment loaned by Al Jackson of CCCCC. (A sidebar: Al is an older
gentleman who gets around Vegas on a bike. One member of CCCCC said
that they have a saying - when the apocalypse comes, the only thing
left will be cockroaches, Cher, and Al Jackson.)
home a little before
8 a.m. Friday, July 23, and arrived a little after four.
avoided a lengthy lunch stop by bringing a sandwich, veggies and a
soda. Instead of
my usual 75 MPH on the desert, I held it to 70 most of the way, and
arrived with at least an 8th of a tank of gas; usually I need to
fill up at the California-Nevada border. Although there was a lot of traffic, it
was moving fast, and there was only one brief slowdown where two
cars had been in a fender bender and were off to the side of the road.
Traffic through Las Vegas was the quickest I have ever seen on a
Friday afternoon (maybe because the economic downturn has hit
this area fairly hard).
Once I got checked in and
settled into my room, I helped Robert and Larry with the set-up. At
first glance the job looks hopeless, with computers, cables, power
supplies and countless other items scattered all over the tables,
chairs and floor. But by the official start time of 11 a.m. on
Saturday, the mess had been reduced to simple organized
Knowing that Robert will
not stop until the room is completely ready (or until he collapses),
Larry and I left to have dinner around 8, eating at the hotel's
buffet. We went back and did a little more work, but by ten p.m. I
could no longer function and went up to my room for the night.
Although the official
start time on Saturday is 11 a.m., people start drifting in by 9 or
so, and if the past is any indication, the true enthusiasts will
return after dinner to talk and play with the computers till late
As in the past, my job is
that of registrar, collector of admission, seller of raffle tickets,
and keeper of the accounts. By 11 a.m., we had a small but enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of about a
dozen, with several more known to be coming later.
Robert opened the event
by welcoming attendees to the sixth annual CommVEx, and pointed out the
raffle prizes and door prizes. The former included the ever-popular
SX64, which is a complete system (computer, disk drive and monitor)
in one box. Although it was called "portable" by the
manufacturer, most owners referred to it as
"luggable." I owned one for a while, but sold it some
years ago; inexplicably I bought raffle tickets to try and win this
one (I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment when my name was
By mid-afternoon we had a
paid attendance of 25, good success with the raffle sales, and had
covered our costs with a good amount of seed money for next year.
The day featured a number
of demonstrations, which are described in detail in the Commodore
version of this report.
When the day's official
program ended, about 15 of us walked a block down the street and
enjoyed the buffet at Main Street Station (far better than the Plaza's buffet). Now
at 8:15 I'm heading for my room, Robert is crashed out across a row
of chairs, and a hard core group of ten are just getting started for
the unofficial evening version of CommVEx.
July 25:Many folks
stayed up late last night, so Robert didn't open the room till about
10 a.m., and even then, people didn't start drifting in till just
official start time of 11. Although I got to bed by 11 p.m. and got
up just before 8, I was suddenly tired and in need of a nap, just as
I went on duty.
I made it through the day
without my nap, and with a slightly lighter workload. We had only
two additional persons sign in, although most of Saturday's
attendees returned (the admission price covers both days).
We did collect a fair
amount in additional raffle ticket sales, finishing up with the most
successful raffle ever. We
seemed to have some people who had the gambler's attitude, "if
I just buy three more tickets on this item, I will win it." My
informal study showed that in one raffle, a person with three
tickets won over several people who had deposited only one. But in
another raffle, the winner had a single ticket, and beat out several
entrants who had each deposited three tickets.
We had more demos,
including my own presentation on Big Blue Reader. This program from about 1990
converts Commodore text files for use on a Windows PC (and vice
In addition to the demos,
visitors had the opportunity to see and sometimes use various
vintage Commodore computers, including Robert's Educator
64, a rare machine
from 1982. And Tim Waite set up a table covered with hardware,
software and other items for sale.
During the early
afternoon I slipped out and got a BLT sandwich at the hotel's cafe,
which offers above average food. That evening we walked down Fremont
Street, the famous brightly lit pedestrian walkway that highlights
old downtown Vegas, to the Fremont Casino's Second Street Grill. Here I had the very
worst entree I have ever experienced in a restaurant - Korean style
short ribs. It consisted of nearly uncuttable and totally unchewable
fat and gristle. I gave up after three bites, but was able to fill
up on a good baked potato, vegetables, and bread. All the other
entrees were fine - I just made a bad choice.
Robert will only play a
slot machine if it has a Star Trek theme, so after dinner Larry led
us across the street to a casino with the appropriate machine. First
he put in a dollar, and won $4; Robert followed suite and won $5.
going to dinner we got everything packed up and moved either to our
cars or to Robert's room. On Monday morning I was up and ready to go
by a little after 8, and made it home in good time, with a stop for
lunch in Barstow.
great seeing some familiar faces, as well as meeting a number of new
Commodore friends, who will hopefully become CommVEx regulars. My
personal thanks to Al Jackson, who brought me lunch on Saturday when
I was too busy to leave the registration table.
addition to this more personal report, here is here
is a version aimed at those with a strong interest in
Estel, August 2010