[Over the course of a few weeks, this blog is presenting written profiles and vignettes from KansasFest 2010, written from that year’s perspective. These excerpts compose a larger feature story written for a general audience looking to be introduced to the Apple II and KansasFest, while also offering community members and alumni a memorable retrospective of the event. Enjoy!]
Ivan Drucker, who Melissa Barron‘s session so impressed, is also concerned with bridging the gap between eras. He’s something of an anachronism himself: whereas KansasFest marks an initiation to the Apple II for Barron, for Drucker, it is a return.
"My Apple IIe had been in storage for 15 years … and it was finally this year that we made friends again," says Drucker. It’s the latest blip in Drucker’s long list of hobbies; he previously played in a New York City band named Dimestore Scenario. "I get passionate about things and then give them a rest for a while and then come back to them again."
Dusting off his Apple II was his way of swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction in which Apple Inc. has taken it. The overwhelming sales of the iPhone and iPad have popularized the concept of a closed system, in which every program must have Apple’s seal of approval before being made available for mass consumption. It’s a grand departure from the open architecture of the Apple II, whose plastic case has no screws or glue to keep it shut — with the press of a tab, its innards are revealed. There, creator Steve Wozniak had laid the groundwork for infinite possibilities: seven expansion slots into which additional hardware could be plugged, giving the computer capabilities that hadn’t even been invented yet in 1977.
On Thursday morning at KansasFest, Drucker is one of three panelists in a session entitled "Apple’s Growing Divide Between Users and Programmers". Along with a network administrator from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and a publishing services architect from the California Digital Library, Drucker is debating Apple’s gradual transition from open to closed systems, and the consequences these design philosophies have had on not just their products, but also their customers. Among the topics are whether open platforms encourage creativity and customization; if closed platforms, or "curated computing", are more digestible by the mass market; and whether there can be any compromise between the two.
When the panel’s over, Drucker hurriedly excuses himself and returns to his room. His next session is Saturday morning, and he’s not yet done writing the Apple II software that he’ll be demonstrating and distributing on floppy disks to interested attendees.
Given Drucker’s flighty track record, one might expect the demands of KansasFest to exhaust his interest in the Apple II, sending him once again to another hobby. But he doesn’t see his Apple II going into storage this time — not because of the computer, but the people. "What’s a bit different for me now is that there’s actually a community to be part of," he says. "[There are] people who not only have the same passion for this obsolete computer, but are actually cool and fun."
When Drucker gets home from KansasFest, he begins writing the next version of his new program.