[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!]
One KansasFest alumni who couldn’t be present at the 2010 event is Steve Weyhrich, a physician whose visage adorns roadside billboards throughout Omaha, advertising the local hospital. Like Melissa Barron and unlike Mark Simonsen, "Dr. Steve" has made the Apple II a complement to, not the focus of, his career. Thirty years ago, he found himself a student at a medical school that used an IV labeling utility for the Apple II that was no longer being supported by the program’s developer. Weyhrich taught himself enough programming to rewrite the software to accommodate the school’s evolving needs. He earned enough from that side job to buy his own Apple II.
Since then, it has been his mission to document the history of the Apple II. His Web site, Apple2History.org, is an exhaustive chronology of the software, hardware, publications, people, and stories to which the Apple II has given rise. Even nearly twenty years after the last Apple II rolled off the production line, Weyhrich finds more preservation work to be done, whether it’s scanning out-of-print magazines, restoring lost text files, or interviewing former Apple II luminaries. "I keep wanting to search out the pieces that I didn’t already know, and fit them in," said Weyhrich. "[It’s] like completing a jigsaw puzzle, to get the full pictures."
Though Weyhrich can’t attend KansasFest 2010 in person, he had a video chat with attendees Saturday afternoon during a session reserved for product announcements. He came on camera wearing a Bill Gates mask, parodying the 1997 Macworld expo in which the Microsoft founder appeared via satellite to announce a $150 million investment in Apple Computer Inc. "We’re committed to writing Microsoft Office for the Apple II," Weyhrich joked. "All we ask in exchange is that you get a million of your friends to buy a Zune and promise to buy Windows Phone 7 when it comes out."
After the laughter subsided, Weyhrich made his real announcement: the unveiling of a remodeled Apple II History site. The site, whose content has evolved considerably from its roots as a 1991 series of newsletter articles, had nonetheless sported the same aesthetics and functionality since 2001. Weyhrich revealed to the audience a project that for months, he’d been importing the site’s many articles, interviews, and assets into WordPress, a modern Web site content management system that offers improved reading, sharing, navigation and multimedia features. The Apple II History site is now a more comprehensive and accessible resource than ever before.
Never satisfied with a static Web site — the equivalent of a musty history book — Weyhrich’s attitude toward the Apple II is similar to his desire to stretch his capabilities, learning whatever tools are needed for the job, whether as a med school student or an amateur historian. "There’s always something new to learn," said Weyhrich. "Like Mark Simonsen’s story in his keynote. It just feels like there is more to the story to preserve, to give credit to those outside of Apple who worked to make the Apple II the great machine it was."