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The People's Computer Company and The Community Memory Project

The cover of the Peoples Computer Company tabloid; vol 4 number 6, May 1976

"Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny"
- this quote from the scifi novel Revolt in 2100 summarized the philosophy of Lee Felsenstein, Efrem Lipkin and the other founders of the Community Memory Project, according to the book Hackers by Steven Levy. The mission of Community Memory was to bring the power of computers to all citizens not just government officials and the "sanctioned users" in big companies with their IBM mainframes. Efrem and Lee took a donated XDS-940 computer "to the streets" by creating a community bulletin board system with remote terminals placed in community areas. Meetings of Community Memory were conducted in a small shopping center the California Bay Area. People could come to use the public computer terminals for whatever they wished making Community Memory host of one of the first public microcomputing centers, in a timesharing environment. Before the MITS Altair, computers used for microcomputing were available to very few persons and personal computers were almost unheard of.
Ted Nelson, author of Computer Lib and Dream Machines was a frequent visitor to meetings.

The Peoples Computer Company tabloid was started in 1972 by Bob Albrecht and others. Included in the PCC tabloid were pictures of events, program listings of BASIC programs and suggestions on buying computer parts. Lee Felsenstein occasionally wrote a hardware column for the PCC publication. As you might have guessed the Community Memory Project and The People's Computer Company were closely affiliated. The People's Computer Company was the birthplace of the Doctor Dobbs Journal.

Fortran Man - F-Man and Billy Basic?

Click for larger image

Fortran and IBM were symbols of authority-controlled mainframe computers, unavailable to the the public. Bob Albrecht, a founder of the People's Computer Company, considered FORTRAN a stifling and boring programming language. Bob undoubtedly influenced the opinions of the authors of Fortran Man.

F-Man's side-kick "Billy BASIC is a non-flattering reference to Bill Gates of Micro-soft. Gates was at the time criticized by the PCC leadership, the Homebrew Computer Club, Community Memory, and many old-school hardware hackers for discouraging distribution of the Micro-soft BASIC software unless the user paid for their copy. Up to this point, microcomputer software was not packaged for retail sale in large quantities and most software was shared freely. The controversy escalated when Bill Gates published his Open Letter to Hobbyists, followed by his - A Second and Final Letter to address the criticism generated by the first letter. The "Fortran Man" parody is full of technical double entendre reminiscent of the "Hi I'm a MAC / And I'm a PC" ads today. This comic gives us a glimpse of the California microcomputer hacker mentality regarding Bill Gates and his company Micro-Soft (later Microsoft) in the mid 1970's. Fortran Man and Billy BASIC cartoon 2 of 2

Selected scans from the People's Computer Company March-April and May issues

Core Memory for S-100?

I received a box containing an INFOREX Core Memory Controller from late 1970 / early 1971 and a DATARAM core memory cartridge / daughter card. The DATARAM core is 4K I believe, but I did not open it to check. The box also contained a document from 1978 about this type of 4K and 8K core memory, and some interesting pages about installing and using core memory with an S-100 data bus. I assume that this particular DATARAM core memory could be used in both the pictured below DEC-like controller and a homebrew S-100 controller. Given the condition of the card and memory, it's very possible that these components work. Now I just need a computer to put them in...hmmm.

Top view, DATARAM core memory. Click for larger image

Obverse view, DATARAM core memory. Click for larger image

INFOREX Core Memory Controller. Click for larger image

INFOREX Core Memory Controller with DATARAM installed. Click for larger image

For more pics and information click here.

History of Commodore Computers Poster $19.99
History of Commodore Computers Poster C64 C128 B128 Plus/4 PET KIM and more.

Past Issues:

On the Work Bench - Oct 2007

These are some of the computers and things that I am currently working on, or have recently picked up. Check my Vintage Computer Blog for updates, or post your questions.

Assembling IMSAI 8080 #2 (With Thinker Toys Wunderbuss motherboard)

The front panel cover removed. Click Image for larger version

The seldom seen rear view of the front panel cover. Click Image for larger version

Motherboard and front panel removed. Click Image for larger version

Assembling an IMSAI 8080 is not a walk in the park because of the complicated front panel riser/separators. Regardless this task was necessary to get to the IMSAI's Thinkertoys motherboard. I had reported in blog article 64 that I needed to replace the 2.2 mfd capacitor in position C-16 (View Schematic) that had been blown out by the previous owner. Having completed the repair (view pic) I was ready to try again. Unfortunately another 2.2 mfd capacitor blew almost immediately (view pic), and I will next replace all of the 4 capacitors in positions C-15, C17, 18 just to be sure I get it right this time. More pics of motherboard
In the meantime, the system remains disassembled. project blog and pics.

IMSAI 8080 #1 (With Processor Tech Cutter)
Fresh from youtube.com. Click to watch the video.

A demonstration of a working IMSAI 8080 with the Processor Technologies Cutter monitor program

The video starts out with a view of a running IMSAI 8080. With a background sound of the computer fan and occasional keyboard clicks, the system connections and the Processor Technologies Cutter program are demonstrated. Included in this system are Processor Technologies S-100 bus cards CUTS (cassette) 3P+S (keyboard control), VDM-1 (video). Various cutter commands are demonstrated including DUMP, ENTER, and EXECUTE. Also shown is the cassette tape commands page from the Cutter / Solos manual.


A working and un-yellowed original Macintosh. The chassis cover is removed. Click Image for larger version.

Note renamed "bootdisk" folder. Click Image for larger version

Most early Macintosh computers have not aged well. It's rare to find an original Macintosh (MAC 128K) that has not yellowed over time. Fortunately this system was stored in the original tan Macintosh travel bag and all of the system accessories and original software were stored in a closet.

The motherboard had two bad RAM chips and the system would not boot. I was able to purchase a replacement board and install it without incident.

Rear view of Macintosh with cover removed. Click Image for larger version

For more details: project blog and more pics.

Classic Computing Items for Sale:

CBM Commodore B Series Software
(B-128 / CBM 700)
Superscript II Word Processor$29.99
Superbase Database Manager$29.99
Commodore Advanced Business Systems (CABS) Acccounting Suite: Accounts Payable, Order Entry, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger (4 binders)$29.99
More CBM Commodore Items
Commodore B-128/700 Programmer's Reference Guide - Protecto - Everything you need to know about the B line!SOLD OUT
B Series Commodore Users Guide - View Image$39.99
Commodore Users Guide Series 8000$39.99
Commodore BASIC Users Refence Manual Version 4.0SOLD OUT
Commodore CBM Expansion Memory Board 64K Expansion Kit for PET 8032 (NOS)SOLD OUT
Commodore PET Keyboard (NOS) for 2001 -N, 3000, 4000 SeriesSOLD OUT
Other Commodore CBM Power supplies, software, parts, etc.Contact Me
Tandy Items
Aeoromp Double Density Controller for TRS 80 Model 1 Expansion Unit (NOS)- detailsSOLD OUT
Model III / Model 4 (non-gate array only) RS-232 KITS detailsSOLD OUT
Model III / Model 4 (non-gate array only) RS-232 boards onlySOLD OUT
Model III Aerocomp Diskdrive controller$39.99 (free US Ship)
Looking for Something Else?
Please check here first with special requests for Commodore, IBM, Tandy, Atari, TI, Apple computers, parts, components, and software. I have systems plus zounds of miscellaneous items for sale or trade.

For more information about the C Prompt found at the top of each page, click here.
All photography on this web site is © VintageComputer.net/Bill Degnan and cannot be reproduced without permission.

This web site has two purposes.

For years I have been making research notes while in the process of restoring classic computer systems, and I also like to record tidbits of information that I think might be useful in the future. This web site is a way to share this information for research purposes. I will also post restoration project reports, project summaries, users guides, tutorials, and items wanted. I invite anyone who wishes to contribute their comments to the VC Blog to do so. My goal is to publish new content in the field of classic computing.

The second purpose of this web site is to sell off my duplicate items. Unless otherwise stated, all items for sale are in working order. If you wish to post items for sale on the VC Blog, please indicate clearly the operational status of the item(s).

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