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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

My first Mac? I do remember watching the Super Bowl ad, but the first one I got was the "Fat Mac" — the 512K Mac. I first went to a BMUG meeting in 1985, and I joined the group. There were weekly meetings back then. I worked as the librarian of the group, then I joined the organizing committee, and then I became chairman of the board in 1990.

Anyone who used MacPaint and MacWrite had their minds blown. The Mac GUI was so direct and understandable, it made a joke of the PC and Apple II platforms.

I still remember the thrill I felt when I saw the first demo of HyperCard. I spent $1000 on a 512K memory-upgrade card just so I could run HyperCard; that was a huge amount of money for me.

Ron Hipschman(1984: Exhibit developer, Exploratorium, San Francisco; 2014: Staff scientist, Exploratorium, San Francisco): I was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club, the original computer club, along with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. They were pretty quiet in the meetings, I have to say. Jobs never said anything, but Wozniak participated a little bit here and there.

There was that one night where [Wozniak] held up his Radio Shack prototype board with a 6502 [8-bit microprocessor] and said, "Hey, I just built this. Anyone want the schematics? Oh, and here is the source-code listing for the BASIC that I wrote for it as well." I wish I still had those.

We met at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center auditorium (which I think has since been torn down — a real crime). People did demos out in the lobby. If you wanted to buy something, you would have to go down to the gas station; Stanford wouldn't let us buy or sell anything on campus, so we'd go down to the Sharon Park 76 station and do our deals there.

My first Mac was a Mac Plus. That wasn't my first computer. I had a CompuPro, running CP/M, before then. I waited until the Mac got a SCSI interface, so I could have a hard disk. My first hard disk was a 60MB drive, which was pretty big back then. You could not possibly fill a 60MB hard drive. I probably paid $500 or $600 for it.

Since then I've had a Mac Plus, a Mac IIcx, a [Quadra] 840AV, a G4 tower, and eventually a Mac Pro.

I went to original BMUG meetings in Berkeley, but since I lived in San Francisco, I was getting tired of going over to Berkeley. So some of us decided that we should have a meeting in San Francisco, since I worked at the Exploratorium; we called the group BMUGWest. We had a nice venue there at the time, called the McBean Theater, in the Exploratorium's original location at the Palace of Fine Arts. So we started meeting there around February of 1989. And we've been meeting there since then.


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