When the Amateur Computer Group of New Jersey launched the first Trenton Computer Festival, Gerald Ford was president and some of the most advanced computers were still reading punch cards. There were no stirrings of a ubiquitous home computer industry in 1976. There was not even a mouse.

Thirty-five years later the festival has gone from telling the world about computers to telling the world how far — and far-reaching — our machines have come. This year’s festival theme is open software, a term that describes free software available to anyone with Internet access. The founding father of the free software movement, Richard Stallman, will be the keynote speaker on Saturday, April 24, the second day of the three-day festival, which takes place at the College of New Jersey campus in Ewing. Visit www.tcf-nj.org.

TCF 2010 kicks off on Friday, April 23, at 8:30 a.m. with the IT Professional Conference. The conference features talks on application development and IT infrastructure, technology and IT management, and professional development. Cost is $135, which includes admission to Friday’s conference as well as Saturday and Sunday events. Admission to Saturday and Sunday only is $15.

On Saturday the festival opens at 9 a.m. with an outdoor flea market, followed by an indoor sale and exhibit area featuring digital art and a theremin concert by Kip Rosser, beginning at 10 a.m. At 10:15 a round of talks and forums covering everything from the Internet and digital media to hardware and new technologies begins. Stallman will give his presentation on open software at 2:30 p.m.

Stallman, founder of the Boston-based Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org), is considered the originator of the free software movement, which allows users to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software without restriction. In 1985 he published the GNU Manifesto, outlining a free operating system compatible with Unix and contributed most of the tools needed to create the operating system that eventually emerged as GNU/LINUX. His ideas and actions have greatly influenced the construction and dissemination of operating systems and software development tools and applications in GNU’s wake.

The flea market and workshop will continue throughout the day and will continue on the same schedule on Sunday.

Sunday, April 25, will be Apple/Mac Day, featuring Apple computer tech Dave Marra, who will speak throughout the day on the latest Mac technology. His first session, “iWork: Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations,” kicks off at 10:15 a.m. A senior systems engineer for Apple, Marra has conducted thousands of technology presentations, across the United States and Canada. His specialty areas include digital multimedia, Internet, and Mac/PC integration.

The Trenton Computer Festival was started in 1976 by Sol Libes, founder of the Amateur Computer Group of New Jersey, and Allen Katz, professor of electrical and computer engineering at TCNJ. The festival is sponsored by the ACG, the New York Amateur Computer Club, the Mount Airy VHF Radio Club, the Delaware Valley Radio Association, the IEEE, and the Princeton Joint ACM.

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