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The Mac at 30: Tales from the Berkeley Mac Users Group

Dan Miller,Christopher Breen | Jan. 27, 2014
Before the Genius Bar and before Apple's own online forums, when the Mac was young and its users needed help, there were user groups

Before the Genius Bar and before Apple's own online forums, when the Mac was young and its users needed help, there were user groups: Part social clubs and part volunteer tech-support staffs, they disseminated tips, troubleshooting advice, news, and arguments about the Mac. They distributed loads of early Mac shareware and became important stops for vendors promoting new Mac products (including one Steve Jobs when he was trying to get Next Computer off the ground).

And in that early Mac age, no user group was bigger or more important than the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, known to all as BMUG. Founded in 1986 and lasting for 14 contentious years, it at one point reportedly boasted more than 13,000 users, with satellite groups in Boston and Japan. While the original group formally dissolved in 2000, a smaller group (BMUGWest) still meets. And so, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Mac, Macworld joined the group for dinner after one of its meetings and asked a few of the more senior members to look back over their three decades with the Mac.

How they got started with the Mac

Raines Cohen(1984: Student, UC Berkeley; 2014: Regional organizer, Cohousing California): I had been using an Apple II since 1979. I saw my first Mac at the Boston Computer Society meeting in January 1984, the week after Apple's announcement. I got my first Mac — a 128K original — while working for a developer that summer. I helped start the BCS Mac group before going off to school.

I came out to Cal [the University of California, Berkeley] in the fall of 1984, and I went to the Access Computer Store in Berkeley, which had just started selling the Mac. And I mentioned I'd been doing user groups back in the Boston area before, and they told me about some other guys who'd had the same idea, and so in the fall of '84, the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group got started.

It was life changing. After dropping out of Cal to help run BMUG, I reenrolled as a geography major, but dropped out again. I ended up working at MacWeek magazine and then editing NetProfessional magazine.

David Morgenstern(1984: Student, San Francisco State College; 2014: Blogger, ZDNet; cantorial soloist): When I went to university in the 1970s, I was a music major, studying to be a classical singer. But I never became the singer I wanted to be. At the same time, I got married, had a child, so I got a job in the acquisitions department of an academic library. It was in the library that I started using computers. That's what I was doing during my BMUG years.


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