You are hereAbout Me

About Me


Timmy Taylor Ram Tam at Peel HarbourHi, my name is Mark Wickens and I am the 'organiser' of this event (I use the term losely)

Maybe a bit of background will help explain why I decided to embark down this (crazy) path -

I've worked on and off with DEC kit since upper school - my first encounter being 15 sat at an ASR-33 teletype connected to the local College with a 300 baud acoustic coupler (it took some considerably pleading to give us an hour on it now and again!). Although I was also a child of the home-computer era (ZX81, Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga) my more 'professional' engagements - throughout college, my first job, my PhD, and subsequent contracting career have always seemed to bring me into contact with DEC gear.

My first job was on the porting team of a 4GL to VAX/VMS and this gave me time to appreciate the 'engineering' that went into a VAX and its operating system - right down to the excellent documentation. This was in comparison to the (well it seemed to me anyway) 'new kid on the block' Unix which was making great headway but seemed to involve a great deal of disparity between vendors and a generally slightly un-polished feel.

My interest in owning DEC Kit started about six years ago when (for some reason lost in time) I bought a VAXstation 4000/90 from a guy in Germany. From that point on my interest was captured and I've bought and sold various pieces of DEC related equipment and software since. About three years ago I was fortunate enough to 're-aquire' the DEC 3000/600 AXP machine that was bought for me to do a PhD in 1994. At the time it was a £10,000 box - the 24 bit plane graphics card was a £2,500 option! Looking at the internals of such a machine I was immediately impressed how well engineered it was - there were virtually no cables in the case - everything simply 'plugged' into everything else. I've used a VAX for a winter warmup and summer 2009 entry to the retrochallenge competition.

I now run the Retrochallenge Competition which takes place over the months of January and July. Retrochallenge is a very informal competition focussing on the use of legacy hardware and software for recreation.