Berkeley Macintosh Users Group

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Original BMUG members Stephen Howard and Raines Cohen on the show floor of MacWorld Expo San Francisco, in January 1990. Raines holds a Macintosh Portable prototype loaned to BMUG by Steve Jobs to assist with Loma Prieta earthquake disaster recovery.

The Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, or more commonly "BMUG", was the largest Macintosh User Group. It was founded in September 1984 by a group of UC Berkeley students including Reese Jones[1] and Raines Cohen[2] as a focal-point for the nascent Apple Macintosh user community. With more than 13,000 members, or "BMUGgers" at its peak in 1993, the group was the largest,[3] and generally understood to be the most important,[4] Macintosh users group. A few of the notable members include John "Captain Crunch" Draper, the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, notorious murderer Enrique Zambrano,[5][6] early hacker-chaser Cliff Stoll, Inktomi founder Eric Brewer, and may prominent computing journalists like John Dvorak,[7] Ilene Hoffman, Leo Laporte and Adam Engst. An example of the group's omnipresent blue-floppy-disk lapel pin is held in the Smithsonian Institution's American History collection.[8] BMUG's history and activities were closely linked with the MacWorld Expo meetings, traditionally held in San Francisco each January and Boston each August.


Day-to-day management of the organization was balanced between the senior full-time staff: business manager Harry Critchfield, technical manager Steve Costa, and support manager Randy Simon.


BMUG business manager Harry Critchfield and volunteer Herb Dang, staffing the BMUG booth at MacWorld Expo San Francisco in January 1989.
BMUG staffer Alisa Shulman surveys disk order forms in the BMUG booth at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 1989.

BMUG's finances and business operations were managed by Harry Critchfield and Alisa Schulman, better known for her role as a DJ at KALX.[9] In 1995 Anne Wrixon replaced Harry Critchfield,[10] and in 1997, Wrixon was replaced by Hal Gibson, who remained until the end.[11]


BMUG technical manager Steve Costa shakes hands with BMUG member and MacUser editor Gil Davis. MacWorld Expo San Francisco 1989. Herb Dang in the background.
Electrical engineer and BMUG volunteer Chuck Meyer, 1989. Shown here wearing a Farallon pin on his collar.

One of BMUG's principal operations was collaborative Macintosh repair and maintenance. A benefit of BMUG membership was hardware repair (and often recovery of lost documents from floppy and hard disks). The technical operations were managed by Steve Costa. Electrical engineer Chuck Meyer conducted many of the trickier repairs. Herb Dang was a fixture in BMUG's technical services, and his son Frank continued that tradition into a second generation.[12]


BMUG support manager Randy Simon, at a BMUG party in the Frank Lloyd Wright Circle Gallery building, San Francisco, January 1989.
BMUG volunteers Phil Reese and Bill Woodcock at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 1990.

BMUG maintained a Macintosh support call-center, which helped users around the world by answering questions and helping them resolve technical problems with their computers. The support operation was managed by Randy Simon, and staffed by volunteers.[13] While much of the support operation dealt with assisting users whose computers had crashed, a significant portion of it dealt with the specific "vertical market" of desktop publishing and prepress issues, which was then in its infancy and was one of the Macintosh's primary markets. Randy Simon also coordinated the production and publications of BMUG's massive biannual newsletters, sometimes totaling more than a thousand pages per year, initially with the assistance of BMUG volunteers Carolyn Sagami, Zig Zichterman,[14] Robert Lettieri and Bill Woodcock, and later Hans Hansen. A collaboration between BMUG members, Programming SIG chair Greg Dow (now at Adobe) and networking and prepress expert Bill Woodcock (now at Packet Clearing House) resulted in the first example of "database publishing," a 1989 encyclopedia of Macintosh software, for which plates were produced directly from a FileMaker database without intervening processing.[15][16]


The BMUG T-shirt, created by Bill Woodcock, became a staple of Berkeley Macintosh Users Group booth sales through the 1980s. Each was individually hand tie-died by Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue artisans, before being screen-printed Apple-traditional Garamond Condensed black text.
The BMUG T-shirt, for sale in the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group booth, MacWorld Expo Boston 1988, Raines Cohen in the foreground.

BMUG was initially located in suite 3B, 2150 Kittredge Street, in downtown Berkeley, directly adjoining the southwest corner of the UC Berkeley campus. This building also housed Farallon Computing until Farallon outgrew the space and moved five blocks south-east to Dwight Way. After six years, BMUG moved to a larger space with street frontage at 2055 Center Street, a block and a half west of campus and directly across from the downtown Berkeley BART station.


Shareware disk duplication[edit]

BMUG volunteer Art Lau working the BMUG booth at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 1989.
BMUG volunteer Gerald Raddatz at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 23, 1989.

BMUG's primary revenue-generating activity was the sneakernet distribution of Macintosh shareware software from its comprehensive library on 400k and 800k 3.5" floppy disks.[17][18] BMUG's shareware disk duplication and distribution program was run by Art Lau and Gerald Raddatz, supplemented by the efforts of many of the other volunteers.


Farallon PhoneNET and Apple LocalTalk transceivers. Both connected computing devices (like Macintoshes and LaserWriter printers) with Apple Desktop Bus ports to LocalTalk local area networks. The Farallon transceiver did so over ANSI/TIA-568 standard structured cabling plants, while the Apple transceiver used a short-range proprietary daisy chain.

One of the early successes for the group was BMUGNet, a variant of Apple's LocalTalk system which used standard telephone wires to connect Macintosh computers together in a local area network.[19] Wiring plans were initially published in the Fall 1985 BMUG Newsletter, but members could purchase adapters assembled by the group. Co-founder Reese Jones branched the production off as the commercial business Farallon Computing in 1986, renaming the product PhoneNet.[20] The group invented other subsequent low-cost hardware kits as well... the 1991 introduction of the low-cost Mac LC prompted BMUG to begin offering a $12 VGA monitor adapter.[21] MacRecorder, the first audio input device for the Macintosh, was also first released in 1985 as a BMUG kit, before being productized by Farallon and then Macromedia.[22]

Weekly meetings[edit]

BMUG was famous for lively meetings, "We are in the business of giving away information" motto, "BMUG Awards", its great MacWorld Expo get-togethers, CD and book publishing, 400+ page biannual "newsletters" akin to the Whole Earth Catalog, and one of the largest shareware collections for Macintosh Public domain software sold to members and customers on floppy disks. These meetings are often cited by tech notables as their introduction to technology.[23]

BMUG hosted an enthusiastic weekly Thursday night meeting with questions and answers, and software demonstrations by vendors, followed at the end by a raffle. Notable speakers included: Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki, Ted Nelson, Heidi Roizen, Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Jean-Louis Gassée, Marc Benioff, Melinda Ann French (Gates) and Bill Gates.

Special Interest Groups[edit]

BMUG Programmers Special Interest Group chair Greg Dow, at a BMUG party in the Frank Lloyd Wright Circle Gallery building, San Francisco, January 1989.

It also held Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on Basic Mac, Troubleshooting, ClarisWorks (integrated word processing, drawing, painting, spreadsheet, database and telecommunications), FileMakerPro relational databases, graphics, video, music, the Internet, programming and mathematics. Branch groups held general meetings in outlying areas, including San Francisco, Cupertino and Tokyo.

Biannual Newsletter[edit]

The newsletter was originally edited by volunteers Carolyn Sagami and Zig Zichterman, until Randy Simon was hired as staff, and given the responsibility. The newsletter was published punctually twice each year, and each issue routinely exceeded 300 pages in length.[24]

Bulletin Board System[edit]

BMUG BBS administrator Bernard Aboba, at a BMUG party in the Frank Lloyd Wright Circle Gallery building, San Francisco, January 1989.

BMUG's Bulletin board system or "BBS" was managed by Bernard Aboba (then in graduate school at Stanford and UC Berkeley, subsequently at Microsoft) with the assistance of Bill Woodcock. It was an early FidoNet node, and from 1986 through 1993, the home of the FidoNet MacNetAdmin "echo," which spawned the AppleTalk Network Managers Association (which in turn begat the AppleTalk Networking Forum), the inaptly-named A/UX Users Group, and numerous other real-world periodic meet-ups. The BMUG BBS also served as a nexus for the interoperability testing of email gateways between FidoNet, UUCP, SMTP, and a number of proprietary AppleTalk, NetWare, and Internet Protocol electronic mail systems, including CE Software's QuickMail,[25] SoftArc's FirstClass,[26] those from Information Electronics[27] and AppleLink Personal Edition, which went on to become America Online. When the BBS host system in Berkeley was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Aboba set up a temporary stand-in using a solid-state industrial PLC and multi-line serial controller, which was able to keep up with the heavy call volume by answering, presenting an ASCII banner explaining the situation, and immediately disconnecting. Aboba also authored The BMUG Guide to Bulletin Boards and Beyond.[28][29] The BBS eventually ran on hardware in Berkeley, Palo Alto, Boston, and Tokyo.


Rivalry with the Boston Computer Society[edit]

BMUG was certainly the largest Macintosh users group,[30] but the Boston Computer Society was the largest computer users group. BCS-Mac, the Macintosh special interest group of the Boston Computer Society, was the second largest Macintosh users group. A good-humored rivalry obtained between the two groups throughout their mutual existence, but they were ultimately supportive of each other.[31] BMUG's first foray onto BCS-Mac's Boston home turf, at MacWorld Expo on August 11–13 of 1987 was commemorated with a new T-shirt, featuring an inscription "BMUG in Boston" which Bill Woodcock, who designed BMUG's T-shirts, intended to look like graffiti, using a rattle-can to write the original text in black paint on white paper, which was then photographed, scanned, and converted to PostScript in Adobe illustrator, before being silkscreened in red on black shirts. The red-on-black effect, however, was said by startled BCS-Mac members to more resemble dripping blood than spray-paint.

1995-1997 Budget Crisis[edit]

By 1995, BMUG had accumulated a debt of $250,000, which forced a two-year period of restructuring and the layoff of some of the staff, but which was weathered successfully.[32][33]


MacWEEK editor and BMUG volunteer David Morgenstern, at a BMUG party in the Frank Lloyd Wright Circle Gallery building, San Francisco, January 1989.
BMUG volunteers Herb Dang, Bernt Wahl,[34] and Jennifer Hom, at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, 1988.
BMUG volunteers Robert Lettieri and David Schwartz at MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 1990.
BMUG member and volunteer Alex Rosenberg, at a BMUG party in the Frank Lloyd Wright Circle Gallery building, San Francisco, January 1989.
BMUG members Steve Francine and Chuck Farnham (author of the first commercial HyperCard stack) at the Macintosh IIfx announcement, MacWorld Expo San Francisco, January 1990.

While BMUG the not-for-profit corporation declared bankruptcy in 2000, its members continue to collaborate and meet.[35][36][37][38] Branch groups of the organisation have continued on their own:

  • the San Francisco branch continues as BMUGWest[39]
  • the South Bay group continues as Silicon Valley MUG[40]
  • Members purchased the group's online presence (the BMUG BBS) and have kept it running as PlanetMUG,[41] in conjunction with The BostonBBS[42] (formerly the Boston Computer Society's Mac BBS).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Strategic News Service - Future in Review 2008 Participants". Archived from the original on 2008-10-19. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  2. ^ "2005 SF Mac Expo (Photo story) - Brian Thomas".
  3. ^ Nakamura, Lisa (2002). Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. Routledge. p. 190.
  4. ^ Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim (14 July 2000). "User Groups and the Macintosh". Making the Macintosh: Technology and Culture in Silicon Valley. Stanford University. The most important Macintosh user group in the area, and arguably within the entire user group movement, was BMUG. Started in 1984 by Berkeley students Reese Jones, Raines Cohen, Tom Chavez, and others, BMUG's members went on to found numerous businesses, most notably the networking companies Farallon and Netopia; develop software and hardware for the Macintosh; write for Macintosh industry magazines; and serve as some of the machine's staunchest advocates.
  5. ^ "Enrique Zambrano". USA Death Row 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  6. ^ McCullagh, Declan (10 August 2007). "Death row inmate's fate turns on the word 'hacker'". clnet. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Dvorak's Inside Track to the Mac". Centre for Computing History. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  8. ^ "Advertising Button, Berkeley Macintosh Users Group (BMUG)". National Museum of American History. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 30 November 2021. This square button, designed to look like a 3½" floppy diskette, has a blue background. At the top, in a yellow rectangle, is a blue image of a clock tower and blue text that reads: 'BMUG Disk / BMUG / 1442A Walnut St. #62 / Berkeley, CA 94709 / (415) 849 9114.' On the reverse is a black card with a metal pin.
  9. ^ Schulman, Alisa. "Set List". KALX. UC Berkeley. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  10. ^ Richtel, Matt (30 May 1998). "User Group Stands by Its Mac". New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  11. ^ Hu, Jim (7 November 1997). "BMUG plans a comeback". clnet. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  12. ^ "Frank Dang Biography". Educause. Educause. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  13. ^ Breen, Christopher (30 January 2014). "The Mac at 30: Tales from the Berkeley Mac Users Group". MacWorld. Retrieved 30 November 2021. 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.
  14. ^ "Producing a User Group Newsletter". BMUG. 1988.
  15. ^ Dow, Gregory H.; Woodcock, Bill (1989). BMUG Disk Catalog 1989. Berkeley: BMUG, Inc. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  16. ^ Rowe, Jonathan (25 August 1989). "Business Suits, Briefcases Invade Macintosh Mecca". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 30 November 2021. Consumer groups are trying to fill the void. The Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, BMUG, has 10,000 members, about half in California. Weekly meetings in the Bay Area attract several hundred people. The BMUG booth had an unvarnished hackers' quality that seemed a throwback to Apple's early days. 'We provide technical support to end users that Apple doesn't provide any more,' said Bill Woodcock, a volunteer, who works at Farallon Computing and volunteers two to three hours a day. Dealing with Apple is hard, he says. 'We don't buy thousands of machines every year, and we don't make millions of dollars.'
  17. ^ Potts, Mark (25 October 1993). "Sharing Shareware's Secrets". Washington Post. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  18. ^ Hill, Michael (22 January 1996). "Mac Heads Respond to Article About Buying an Apple". SFGate. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  19. ^ Hanss, Ted (14 July 1986). "The University of Michigan Computing News". 1 (1): 15. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "Recalling the Loma Prieta earthquake and Mac advantages". ZDNet.
  21. ^ Quinlan, Tom (8 April 1991). "Kit and Connector open LC to VGA". Macintosh News. For Mac LC owners to want to take advantage of the machine's capability to hook up to a VGA monitor, the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group (BMUG) is shipping an adapter that lets users do just that. Users can purchase the adapter as a parts kit from BMUG for $12 or fully assembled for $39.95.
  22. ^ Sebelumnya. "SoundEdit". Retrieved 30 November 2021. SoundEdit was the first popular GUI-based audio editor for digitized audio. It was not only one of the first important audio applications for Macintosh, but one of the first significant audio applications for personal computers in general. SoundEdit was one of three audio applications created during a sabbatical by Steve Capps during 1986. The Macintosh had no built-in sound input, so the MacRecorder audio digitizer was invented for this purpose in 1985 by Michael Lamoureux, a mathematics student at the University of California, Berkeley. The MacRecorder hardware and software was publicly released through the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group as a kit in late 1985. SoundEdit first shipped in January 1988, as part of a hardware product called MacRecorder Sound System, by a company called Farallon Computing (which eventually became Netopia). One of the major drivers for SoundEdit was Apple's HyperCard. With MacRecorder Sound System, stack makers could finally create alternatives to HyperCard's two built-in sounds.
  23. ^ "The Tech Class of 2011: Meet the Emerging Leaders" (PDF). Politico. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  24. ^ Leonard, Peter (21 May 2016). "The first BMUG newsletter". The Goggles Do Nothing.
  25. ^ Engst, Adam (16 September 1991). "CE Ships QuickMail". TidBITS. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  26. ^ Anbinder, Mark (14 November 1994). "TCP/IP FirstClass Ships". TidBITS. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  27. ^ Anbinder, Mark (6 July 1992). "A New Direction for IE". TidBITS. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  28. ^ Aboba, Bernard (1992). The BMUG Guide to Bulletin Boards and Beyond. Berkeley, California: BMUG, Inc. p. 541. ISBN 9781879791039.
  29. ^ Branscum, Deborah (April 1993). "Swap Tips around the World". MacWorld. An excellent, more general guide to Internet, FidoNet, and much more is The BMUG Guide to Bulletin Boards and Beyond by Bernard Aboba, a BMUG sysop and knowledgeable denizen of the online world. (The second edition will be out in March. It should be available from Quantum Books [617/494-5042] in Cambridge, Massachusetts.)
  30. ^ Saigh, Robert (1998). The International Dictionary of Data Communications. Chicago: Glenlake Publishing Company. p. 409. ISBN 1-888998-28-8. BMUG, the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, is the world's largest advocacy group for Macintosh computer users.
  31. ^ Hamblen, Matt (23 September 1996). "Help pouring in for BCS". ComputerWorld. Retrieved 30 November 2021. BMUG is offering BCS members access to its Internet help at both its Berkeley and Boston offices, as well as the biannual 300-page newsletter and help guide, among other services. BCS Interim Executive Director Frank Smith said potentially 7,000 BCS-Mac SIG members will be interested in the BMUG offer.
  32. ^ "World's Largest Mac User Group: We'll Survive". WIRED. 5 November 1997. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  33. ^ Abate, Tom (November 4, 1997). "$150,000 Debt Could Kill Berkeley Mac Users Group". Business. San Francisco Chronicle. pp. C3. Retrieved 16 December 2008.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ Abbott, Katy (3 November 2016). "Mayoral candidate Bernt Wahl hopes to bring technological solutions to Berkeley". The Daily Californian. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  35. ^ clnet Staff (1 September 2009). "BMUG: the end of an era". clnet. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  36. ^ Laporte, Leo (26 January 2009). "BMUG Reunion".
  37. ^ Benner, Katie (8 September 2015). "Mac User Groups Fade in Number and Influence, but Devotees Press On". New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  38. ^ Cohen, Peter (26 June 2015). "In praise of Mac User Groups". iMore.
  39. ^ Breen, Christopher. "Tales from the Berkeley Mac Users Group". Macworld. Retrieved 2023-03-28.
  40. ^ "The Silicon Valley Macintosh User Group - General Information". Retrieved 2022-06-16.
  41. ^ "Planet Mug – Come for the tech support, stay for the Community". Retrieved 2022-06-16.
  42. ^ "Welcome to Virtual Harbor". Retrieved 2022-06-16.

External links[edit]