Homebrew Computer Club
The Homebrew Computer Club was an early computer hobbyist users' group in Silicon Valley, which met (under that name) from March 5, 1975, to December 1986. Several very high-profile hackers and IT entrepreneurs emerged from its ranks, including the founders of Apple Inc. The short-lived newsletter they published was instrumental in creating the technological culture of Silicon Valley. The influence of the club was depicted in the made-for-television movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.
The Homebrew Computer Club was an informal group of electronic enthusiasts and technically minded hobbyists who gathered to trade parts, circuits, and information pertaining to DIY construction of computing devices. It was started by Gordon French and Fred Moore who met at the Community Computer Center in Menlo Park. They both were interested in maintaining a regular, open forum for people to get together to work on making computers more accessible to everyone.
The first meeting was held in March 1975 in French's garage in Menlo Park, San Mateo County, California, on the occasion of the arrival in the area of the first MITS Altair microcomputer, a unit sent for review by People's Computer Company. Steve Wozniak credits that first meeting with inspiring him to design the Apple I. Subsequent meetings were held at an auditorium at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
After the more-or-less "formal" meetings the participants often reconvened at The Oasis , a bar and grill on El Camino Real in nearby Menlo Park, recalled years later by a member as "Homebrew's other staging area".
The 1999 made-for-television movie Pirates of Silicon Valley (and the book on which it is based, Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer) describes the role the Homebrew Computer Club played in creating the first personal computers, although the movie took the liberty of placing the meeting in Berkeley and misrepresented the meeting process.
Many of the original members of the Homebrew Computer Club continue to meet (as of 2009[update]), having formed the 6800 Club, named after the Motorola (now Freescale) 6800 microprocessor. Occasionally and variously renamed after the release of the 6800, 6809, and other microprocessors, the group continues to meet monthly in Cupertino, California.
Though the Homebrew members were hobbyists, most of them had an electronic engineering or computer programming background. They came to the meetings to talk about the Altair 8800 and other technical topics and to exchange schematics and programming tips.
From the ranks of this club came the founders of many microcomputer companies, including Steve Wozniak (Apple Computer), Harry Garland and Roger Melen (Cromemco), George Morrow (Morrow Designs), Adam Osborne (Osborne Computer), and Bob Marsh (Processor Technology). John Draper was also a member of the club, as was Jerry Lawson, creator of the first cartridge-based video game system, and Li-Chen Wang, developer of Palo Alto Tiny Basic and graphics software for the Cromemco Dazzler. Ron Jones (Crashed Platter Products and other small businesses) and Jerry Lawson were the only African-American members of the club. Lee Felsenstein was moderator of the club meetings.
The Homebrew Computer Club's newsletter was one of the most influential forces in the formation of the culture of Silicon Valley. Created and edited by its members, it initiated the idea of the Personal Computer, and helped its members build the original kit computers, like the Altair. One such influential event was the publication of Bill Gates's Open Letter to Hobbyists, which lambasted the early hackers of the time for pirating commercial software programs.
The first issue of the newsletter was published on March 15, 1975, and continued through several designs, ending after 21 issues in December 1977. The newsletter was published from a variety of addresses in the early days, but later submissions went to a P.O. box address in Mountain View, California.
See also 
- MITS Altair 8800
- Apple I
- Apple Inc.
- BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh User Group)
- Boston Computer Society
- Chaos Computer Club, a large and influential German club
- Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California
- Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, a 1984 book by Steven Levy has more information about the Homebrew Computer Club and the companies that sprang from it. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are legends today from what they started and introduced to the Club.
- Hobby Computer Club, 180 thousand member strong Netherlands group
- Pirates of Silicon Valley, a 1999 made-for-television movie, primarily about Apple Computer and Microsoft, with mention of their roots in the Homebrew Computer Club
- Kilobaud Microcomputing was a magazine dedicated to the homebrew computer hobbyists with knowledge of electronics.
- Triumph of the Nerds, 1996, Robert X. Cringely, Oregon Public Broadcasting.
- What the Dormouse Said, a 2005 account of the whole movement, including the club.
- Dr. Dobb's Journal
- West Coast Computer Faire
- Homebrew And How The Apple Came To Be
- John Markoff, What the Dormouse Said (ISBN 0-670-03382-0)
- Wozniak, Steve (2006). iWoz. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-393-33043-4. "After my first meeting, I started designing the computer that would later be known as the Apple I. It was that inspiring."
- Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine
- Balin, Fred. "Homebrew's 26th Birthday Commemoration." Email dated March 20, 2001
- Lash, Bob. "Memoir of a Homebrew Computer Club Member". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
- "Interview: Jerry Lawson, Black Video Game Pioneer". Vintage Computing and Gaming, February 24, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Homebrew Computer Club|
- Stephen Wozniak, "Homebrew and How the Apple Came to Be" in Steve Ditlea, ed., Digital Deli, 1984.
- Steve Wozniak's home page
- Memoir of a Homebrew Computer Club Member
- The Netherlands Home Computer Club website (in Dutch)
- Homebrew Computer Club Newsletters
- Life Outside the Mainframe: Remembering Fred Moore
- In Search of the Valley A 2006 documentary on Silicon Valley which includes a section on the homebrew computer club and interviews with Lee Felsenstein and Steve Wozniak.
- Homebrew Computer Club on Jolitz Heritage site
- Lee Felsenstein and the Homebrew Computer Club, A History of Free Hardware Design
- The Beginning of the Apple Corps of Dallas (January 1978) Thru the Eyes of a Founding Member