This spring, the Biltmore Estate added several new characters to the house. Mannequins sporting re-created costumes of actual clothing worn at Biltmore House are scattered throughout the rooms. They set the stage for a house party circa 1905. There is also a new audio tour to accompany the costumes. Your tour begins in the breakfast room and carries you throughout a typical day as you progress through the rooms. You pass mannequins dressed for a leisurely stroll on the grounds, dressed for a swim in the indoor pool, and servants dressed for the work they performed, finally emerging in the grand banquet hall just in time for a formal dinner complete with entertainment by a rising opera star.
Costume designers scoured old photographs of the Vanderbilts and their guests in order to re-create every detail of the period attire. They even brought in an Oscar winning costume designer, John Bright who worked on Downton Abbey, to consult. I was pretty impressed with the outfits. The exhibit runs for 2 and a half months (ending May 27), which surprised me as I meandered from room to room. They clearly spent a lot of time and money making these costumes and recording the new audio. It seems a shame to take them down and hide them in a storage room somewhere after just a couple of months. Maybe they will stay longer and the end date is just for show to generate interest now. I guess we’ll see.
We are in Roswell, Georgia today (northern suburb of Atlanta) for the Vintage Computer Festival. Rob was interested in seeing some old computers and showing me his vast knowledge of now useless technology. The festival is taking place in the Computing Museum of America, which is still under construction.
When we arrived, we were slightly disappointed to see only a few booths, several of which were still just setting up, half an hour after the festival was set to open. Rob suggested that we start in the computer museum while the rest of the vendors set up. The museum turned out to also still be setting up. They had a long hallway with several empty rooms along one side and a massive paper timeline on the other side. Guests were supposed to write their favorite computing technology or hero on a sticky note and stick it on the timeline. Rob contributed 3: the introduction of BBSs, the introduction of Linux, and Quantum Link the precursor to AOL.
Some of the first computers we encountered had the case open so we could see the wiring inside. These were “mini-computers but still as big as a fridge. There were so many wires, like a bird’s nest. Rob explained how this was where the term “bug” in the program came from. The wires connected various pins. If a bug or other object landed on tow or more pins it would short out the system and create a “bug” in the system.
There was a room with lots of 1960s and 70s data processors. Some had pretty colored input keys (not a traditional keyboard like we have now). Another room had massive supercomputers from the late 1970s, 80s and 90s, mostly Cray brand (I called them cray-cray machines). Some of these came in cases with fun colors or had what looked like benches around the outside. The Cray T3E supercomputer from 1995 had massive liquid cooling hoses – blue for cold water going in, red for hot water coming out. Most of the computers didn’t yet have information plaques explaining what they did, which was a little disappointing, but I had Rob to help me along.
Back at the vendor section, most were set up. Rob did more talking and explaining than any of the vendors did. He is amazingly knowledgeable about this stuff. Most of the vendors didn’t seem very chatty at all. At one point I had to dig some water out of my bag for Rob because his throat was getting dry from telling me all about the various old machines we passed. He played a few old games, including Lemmings on the Amiga 2000. He managed to get me to play a little bit of Spectre on a pair of networked Macs using Apple Talk.
In the end, we spent about an hour and half there. We think the Computing Museum of America will be pretty cool when they finally open. We might have to come back some time to check it out.
Rob and I have been doing a lot of traveling in the last few years. I started sending daily journal entries of our adventures to select family and friends. They seemed to enjoy hearing about the places and people we encountered, so I figured maybe it was time to share our adventures with the wider world through our blog.